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Youth Opinion: Debunking the myths of Gunn sports

Original post made by Worth a read, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2010


In Palo Alto, the Bay Area or even the nation, Henry M. Gunn High School is known for high-achieving academic students and a plethora of admissions into prestigious colleges. With so many academic accolades, it manifests the notion that Gunn lacks a strong athletic program and leads to the creation of outlandish myths.
The first myth is that Gunn lacks athletic stars. Graduates from earlier in the decade have gone on to accomplish incredible feats. The 6-foot, 11-inch "beast," Arjan Ligtenberg, after winning a league championship his senior year and being named De Anza League MVP, went on to play water polo at the University of Southern California, where he became captain his senior season as the primary two-meter defender and won two national championships. Gunn graduate and soccer player Andrew Jacobson was named Central Coast Section (CCS) Player of the Year in 2003 and went on to star at Cal-Berkeley, earning Pac-10 Co-player of the Year honors in 2007. He has now gone on to play professionally.
Even looking at current students and more recent graduates, star athletes shine. Class of 2009 graduate Jasmine Evans has gone on to play basketball at Harvard University. In addition, current senior Sunny Margerum has decided to take her spectacular hurdling and long-jumping skills to Cal. Paul Summers has committed to Stanford for cross country next year. Gunn also has talent that has hit the international stage. Current sophomore Maria Recinto

just won the Philippines National Rhythmic Gymnastic championship and potentially will compete in the World Championships or 2012 Olympics.
The second big myth is that Gunn is constantly dominated by neighboring schools such as archrival Palo Alto High and other schools in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL). This is not only false, but leads to disrespect toward Gunn. The average person needs to realize that Gunn, in total CCS championships, is ranked fifth, right behind Los Gatos High and two slots higher than Palo Alto High. In fact, lady Titans are ranked third in total CCS championships while Los Gatos and Palo Alto High are ranked seventh and eighth respectively. People should also realize that CCS is one of the premier sections in California and even in the country, making success in CCS an enormous feat. One may argue that Gunn does well in none of the "main" sports, as in football or basketball. However, Gunn basketball has had great success in recent years, with a CCS playoff birth this season. In addition, Gunn basketball has fared well against league rivals in recent years as well, as witnessed with the 42-18 rout of Palo Alto High in 2009. Gunn football has also shown monumental improvement after the enhanced facilities, winning the league last season and earning a CCS playoff birth.
The facts mentioned should not detract from Palo Alto High or any other schools in SCVAL. Palo Alto High has an incredible athletic program with incredible alumni. Numerous stars and great coaches have made Palo Alto High one of the best athletic programs in the Bay Area. However, the public should realize that Gunn also has a high-caliber athletic program led by athletic director Chris Horpel, a former wrestling coach/all-American wrestler at Stanford, which favorably matches up with Palo Alto High and other neighboring schools. There is no doubt that neighboring rival schools, such as Palo Alto High, command and deserve respect. However, what needs to come to the attention of the public is that Gunn athletics should not be disrespected or looked upon as inferior to neighboring schools.
Kevin Zhang is a junior at Gunn High School.

Comments (11)

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm

thanks for posting, interesting, and like to hear directly from students

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Posted by One Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Thank you Kevin for a thoughtful informative read. I want to add that often, when Gunn is beaten by crosstown rival Paly, this is covered in the local newspapers, while when Gunn beats Paly, nothing is mentioned. Last fall, Gunn's water polo teams dominated Paly's, but it received no mention in local papers, while the defeats of Gunn's football team were all over the news. Who is responsible for the one sided coverage? With its new athletic facilities, and more to come, Gunn is on the way to being a fine site for hosting all kinds of athletic events. Chris Horpel has also invested considerable effort in bringing in excellent coaches for many Gunn sports. Watch for growth in Gunn's athletic success in the years to come.

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Posted by Vy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:08 am

One Parent,

While that may be true, I don't think we can necessarily say that the lack of coverage of Gunn's awesome water polo teams is due to a pro-Paly bias. Isn't it simply possible that football coverage is a higher priority or that more readers care about the football results, rather than some of the less mainstream sports?

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Posted by worth a read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm

To Vy,

One could say that if the only sport impacted was water polo.

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Posted by hmmm
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Shoulder, meet chip.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Overall, there has been too much high school sports coverage. Youth do a LOT of other things, other accomplishments, that we never hear of in local news coverage! I could care less about football.

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Posted by One Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:19 am

I agree that the young people around here do many newsworthy things that don't get much coverage. Also, I don't see football as a sport that merits much coverage since it results in long term damage to the brains and bodies of many players. Football should be downplayed rather than glamorized, however it gets a lot of coverage. Paly, however, gets more positive press coverage by the local papers. When Paly beats Gunn it tends to be in the papers. When Gunn beats Paly it does not. Water Polo is a healthy sport requiring more conditioning than any other and resulting in fewer injuries per athlete than many other sports. It should be encouraged by the media. Gunn sports should be supported by the media rather than downplayed in order to compensate Paly for the Gunn student's disproportionate academic achievements.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:44 am

While I am all in favor of Gunn coverage, the media (or in this case, the Weekly) should just report what it thinks readers want to read about. I don't want them figuring out what I "should" read, which sports have intrinsic merit, or which schools need a "boost." Just figure out what people are interested in and write about the news.

FWIW, my Gunn kid's varsity sport was not getting covered well, so we connected with sports editor Keith Peters, who gave us the drill of what and how to provide him with game results, and we now have coverage comparable to Paly and Casti. So some of it is just the parents/coaches realizing that reporting doesn't happen by itself and doing their part in the process. My guess is that Paly parents are more experienced at that, particularly with the more visible sports - but we can all learn ;-)

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Posted by One Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:57 am

I don't agree that the paper should only print what people want to read about. Journalism carries a responsibility with it to cover what is relevant to the community. Promoting football is promoting an activity that is dangerous, destructive, sexist, and extremely violent. Its endless glorification is bad for our children and for our community. Also, it is true that the parents are often the ones promoting the sport their children are playing. Otherwise it doesn't get covered. A good example of the local news abdicating responsibility to the most pushy parents.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Well OP, sounds like you should start your own paper (or blog) and cover what you think should be covered. And if you find a readership, that's fine. Welcome to the marketplace of ideas.

But it is kind of funny that you complain about the paper responding to the "pushy parents," but then urge the paper to adopt your preferences instead. Et tu, One Parent? ;-)

Like this comment
Posted by One Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Dear Me Too, Actually, since we have local papers, it's really their responsibility to cover local news. That's what I'm pointing out. As I said before, there are many young people in our community who are doing relevant interesting newsworthy things. Rather than cover this, the papers cover things like Paly football. They also cover what pushy parents urge them to cover. My comments are not about what I might write in a blog, they are about what journalism is traditionally meant to do, which is cover, not only juicy crime stories, accidents and scandals, which I think they do admirably here, but also relevant goings on in the community, such as what the young people are up to. To cover more on one school than another, or one sport, especially such a crummy one, than others, or to leave the coverage to folks with a personal agenda is feeble journalism. A blog is generally someone's personal agenda. My comments are about something other than mine. You seem unable to see that. I hope your football player keeps from being injured.

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