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STATE OF JOHN GLENN HIGH ATHLETICS: Happy to be in the 605 League

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter • May 28, 2020

This is the fourth in a series of stories on the athletic programs of the area high schools from the past 15-20 years and the immediate future of most of those sports. Each story will have comments from that school’s athletic director, or one of the co-athletic directors on most, if not, all the sports that school competes in.
Next up is John Glenn High, in which every major sport has been at least 67 games under .500 in league competition over the past 20 years and only two programs have averaged over 20 wins a seasons in that same time. Co-athletic director David Cruz attributes much of problems in a lot of the programs to the lack of the multi-sport athlete or the abundance of walk-on coaches who have come and gone.

One of the bright spots recently has been the move to the 605 League and getting away from the powerhouse schools like Bellflower High, La Mirada High and Mayfair High. Cruz calls moving to the new league a ‘blessing’ and he added that it has leveled the playing field for schools like Glenn.

“Granted, it’s going to be up to coaching,” Cruz said. “But as far as the quality of the athlete, across the board, we’re about the same. I don’t look at Artesia and see the monsters anymore. I don’t see that at Cerritos. Now, you’re going to see better functioning teams, maybe a higher level-thinking team than some other schools. But we’re not having to beat the quality athletes that we were in the Suburban League. I think that gives us a better chance. That’s all you can ask for.”

FOOTBALL

Glenn had finished either in sixth place or last place in the Suburban League a combined 10 times since 2000. But since moving to the 605 League, it has gone 12-10, won the league last season and advanced to the playoffs twice. Before that, the last time the Eagles had played a postseason game was in 2002. The last two seasons have also produced the lone winning seasons the program has seen in over 20 years.

“We’ve worked hard in bringing in a few coaches and we really believed some of those coaches would stick around and move our program forward,” Cruz said. “It just didn’t work out that way. Coaches would see themselves getting a head coaching job at another school before they were interested to continue being the head coach at our school. They all used it as a stepping stone for another school, and that hurt our program.”

When the new season begins, Cruz will become the ninth coach the program has seen in the past 20 years. Two of the previous coaches lasted one season each. But the program was beginning to become more respectable under the leadership of Vince Lobendahn, whom Cruz is replacing. Lobendahn was Glenn’s head coach for the past six seasons and won 21 games. To put that into comparison, the program had won 23 games from 2004-2013 under five different head coaches.

“Switching leagues, I think, brought our football program back from the dead,” Cruz said. “Vince did a good job bringing our school talent in. The last couple of years, the league really helped. I really thought we were going to go far [in the playoffs] this past year.

“Even though we were league champs this [past] year, it didn’t feel like a big success,” he continued. “The kids were excited they were league champs, but it still felt like we didn’t go over that hump until we win a playoff game. This is my 20thseason here and we have yet to win a playoff game in football.”

Glenn is 3-8 lifetime in playoff games with all three wins coming in the 1970 season when it fell to Temple City High 14-7 in the CIF-Southern Section Division AA championship game. Cruz says the trouble with the program over the years was keeping the players around to stay at Glenn for more than a year or two.

Numbers-wise, Cruz calls the situation at Glenn “slim pickings” and says the school has a low enrollment compared to other schools, and to find the athletes inside those numbers is difficult. As for the immediate future, Cruz says the upcoming freshmen class is a ‘tight-knit group’ with a committed 15 players that he thinks will be very successful by the time they become seniors.

“They have talent,” he says. “Even though they weren’t really successful in their freshmen season this past year, they do have a lot of talent and we were enthused about approaching this upcoming season. But those guys are just going to be 10thgraders and we’re going to depend on a lot of them. They’re going to have a year to grow and by the time they’re juniors and seniors, I think they’ll be ready to play.”

 

 

 

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

The 90s ended with former head coach Patricia Frazier getting her team to the second round of the playoffs. Since then, the program has been to the playoffs four times, all first round losses, with just two winning seasons. Frazier stepped down in 2006 and there have been seven head coaches the past 14 seasons with Cruz taking over from 2008-2013.

“Glenn always has one or two good athletes on the volleyball team, and they need the three or four to be successful as a team,” Cruz said. “There’s always a missing ingredient, though. When I was coaching, it was determination. None of those girls were determined to be successful. They were just happy to be out there, or happy to be on the team and happy to be playing. They didn’t have that killer instinct.”

Although the program has finished above fourth place just once in the past 20 years, Cruz sees better times ahead with current head coach Daniel Reyes in charge. He won 11 matches last season, the most the program has seen since the 2002 team went 12-7. With 134 wins since 2000, this is the school’s third winningest program, not including wresting, in which overall records are not available.

“I’m really excited for the girls volleyball program,” Cruz said. “I think Reyes is doing a great job. The last couple of years, I just think he’s found his niche and he’s going to stay there and have success the next couple of years. The girls really like him, he’s really motivated, and he has good help underneath him. I think we’re in a great position. I like that [we switched leagues], so we no longer play those giant girls anymore. We still have Cerritos, but they’re not La Mirada or Mayfair. It’s not three or four powerhouses we’re playing anymore; it’s just the one. I think you’ll be seeing us in the playoffs in the next few years.”

GIRLS TENNIS/CROSS COUNTRY

These are two of several unpopular programs on the campus with girls tennis winning 47 league matches since 2002 and not finishing above fourth place. Cruz cites the turnover of coaches as a key problem for the lack of success over the past 20 years.

“We’ve always looked to Joe [Parra] to be our coach and we can’t find a coach,” Cruz said. “We fall back and ask him just to donate time when he can, [or] to teach somebody to be the coach. It’s always been a backburner support for us. It’s never been a, ‘we’ll, let’s get a team and win’. It’s always been, ‘let’s just field a team so we can represent our school’. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a player with their own individual coach like you see at other schools.”

Cruz doesn’t know why that is, but the school is constantly getting athletes from other sports and trying to convert them to play tennis.

It’s even worse for cross country, which has had a revolving door with coaches over the past 20 years and because of that, has been unable to field a full team for the most part for league cluster meets. Cruz said it’s hard enough to recruit people to run and run competitively.

“With the rotating door of coaches that we have out there, it’s tough to get continuity,” he said. “It’s tough to get the same kids over and over.”

BOYS BASKETBALL

Cruz says this is another program in which the school is fortunate that it switched leagues. When the school was in the Suburban League, its highest finish was fifth place, and that came in the 2000-2001 season. The program has failed to reach the .500 mark, and has one double-digit win season (10-17), which came in 2006-2007.

“It was difficult to play against the O’Bannon’s and the Harden’s and the Williams’,” Cruz said. “It seemed the other schools…La Mirada, Mayfair and Artesia were always getting really quality athletes and it was tough for our school that we’re always getting one or two 6’ 4” guys. The best basketball team we had had to go up against James Harden and Malik Story.”

Current head coach Ruben Guerrero has been at Glenn for four seasons, compiling an overall mark of 14-89. No other person has coached at Glenn for more than four years in the past 20-plus seasons and when Darin Elisaldez oversaw the program from 2007-2008 to 2010-2011, he went 14-86.

“He’s built a reputation at the school where everyone knows he’s a hard worker and everyone knows he’s going to get stuff done,” Cruz said of Guerrero. “It’s just a matter of time before he starts seeing a little bit more success. He does teach the boys quality fundamentals, so I just think it’s a matter of time.”

The program’s lone playoff berth in the past 20 seasons came in 2014 when it applied as an at-large team despite a 7-20 overall mark and 1-11 in league play.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

With 222 wins since the 2000-2001 season, this ranks at the top of the list of the schools’ programs. The team consistently went to the playoffs under former head coach Richard Drake, the dean of the Suburban League in his time, and went to the postseason six times in the 12 seasons that co-athletic director Linda Parra oversaw the program. Now, Guerrero is in charge, putting himself in the rare category as being the head coach for a school’s two varsity basketball programs. Guerrero has won 32 games in three seasons whereas the previous six seasons, Glenn won 33 games.

“Again, that’s his work ethic and his dedication to the team,” Cruz said. “He’s put in countless hours with those girls. Up until we were ordered to stay at home, he was already getting ready for this upcoming season, having them lift weights [and] getting them to work on shooting fundamentals. He pays the price and it’s just a matter of time before students to come around for him.”

The best of the past 20 seasons for the program came in the 2006-2007 season when that team went 23-5 and won the Suburban League. Two seasons before that, the Lady Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals. But since then, there have been four playoff trips, one of them getting to the second round.

“Linda had the same type of work ethic and she was just fortunate enough to get those twins at our school,” Cruz said. “That is an example of what I had mentioned earlier of that [we had] a good group of girls, a good group of kids sticking together and when they get to Glenn, they produce the success. Besides Brandi and Champign [Hood], they had two other really talented players on their team; [former head coach] Christina [Hernandez] being the leader and Brandi and Champign producing all the points. But we miss that type of group coming through our school. I think we had it this past year. We had four or five committed girls on Ruben’s team and that’s the reason we’ve seen some success from the girls program this year.”

Cruz says it just takes one or two kids to make things start clicking and as a coach, you just have to walk the halls to try to find that person.

BOYS SOCCER

This is one of four programs at Glenn that has won a league championship in the past 20 years. Even though the program has spent most of the time either in fifth place or sixth place, it has had some success every now and then.

This past season, head coach Hugo Enciso-Rojas guided the Eagles to their first playoff trip since 2012 and the team finished in second place in the league, its best finish since winning the Suburban League to cap off the 2001-2002 campaign.

“Hugo, I think, has done a good job of getting the quality athletes to play soccer,” Cruz said. “Glenn has always had good athletes for soccer. But the problem is getting them on the team. Grades, interests, playing on so many other teams…that they didn’t have time to play for the school team. I think that’s why you’re seeing success.”

Before Enciso-Rojas took over the program prior to the 2017-2018 season, there had been nine head coaches and four trips to the postseason, three of them coming during the Carlos Miramontes era, who had coached until 2005. Cruz said with the other coaches, there would be players walking through the hallways who were neighborhood soccer stars who would not play for the team. As an athletic director, Cruz would be extremely frustrated watching them walk through the hallways. He thinks the program is headed in the right direction and that there will be several trips to the playoffs in the near future because Enciso-Rojas has built the program from the ground up.

GIRLS SOCCER

Even though the program has been a laughingstock for the past 10 years or so, there was a brief time when it was competitive. From the 2005-2006 season to 2007-2008, former head coach Jennifer Naumann compiled a 38-26-2 record and went to the playoffs twice. Since then eight other coached have combined to win 22 games with every season ending with a sixth or seventh place finish in league.

“Besides their record, there’s no real hard times on campus,” Cruz said. “You wouldn’t know that they’re struggling by the way [the players] are walking around campus. But it’s pretty bad. It’s one of those where I watch our girls and we just don’t have the athletes that the other schools have.”

The program has seen four different head coaches in as many seasons and there have been five winless campaigns in the past 20 years. In fact, the program has not won a league contest since 2012. Cruz added that the program has never been able to keep the same group together for multiple years like the boys program has. He cites that the girls can’t seem to get along with each other as well as with the coaches and it’s been a problem every year.

“Coaches that have had success with the girls are the hard-nosed, real extremely disciplined coaches,” Cruz said as far as turning the program around. “The girls on our campus need them. They need the Frazier’s; the rough coaches who are disciplinarians. They need those drill sergeant coaches.”

WRESTLING

If you’re not associated with John Glenn High School, then you probably wouldn’t know that this may be the most popular program on campus. Glenn has won a divisional championship in 2004 and 2019 as well as three others in the 1990s. While Cruz gives credit to Monico Enriquez and the rest of his family, the success of the program stems back to the late 1980s when Ralph Valle was coaching at Glenn. Some of the students that Valle had went on to become successful coaches, including Norwalk High head coach Francisco Soto. In fact, from 1990 to 1998, the program finished among the top three in its division in the CIF-SS championships.

“It all starts with the Enriquez’,” Cruz said. “Wrestling is a family at Glenn. You can really tell that with the years that Monico or Valle ran the program. When you walk into the gym, you feel that connection, you feel that love for one another and it keeps you there. The kids can feel it, the staff feels it and Monico does a great job of building that wrestling community. He’s there all the time with the young kids, he’s there all the time with the high school students and then he spends countless hours on his own just preparing for all these events.”

BASEBALL

Besides girls basketball, the baseball program is the only other one at Glenn that has won over 200 games in the past 20 years. When Cruz was coaching the program from 2006-2011, he liked having a bunch of people out there and he tried not cutting players. He tried not to make anyone unwelcomed because as he pointed out, you’re only going to find quality athletes in numbers. Cruz tried to keep the program a family and was always trying to get alumni back and getting talent from the junior high schools to attend Glenn.

Most of the program’s success came during the eight seasons that Jack Brooks was the head coach. From 2012 to 2019, Brooks won 121 games, captured the 2015 Suburban League title and made five playoff trips in the last six seasons he was at Glenn. Cruz added that for the program to have the same success as what he and Brooks had, current head coach Gabriel Guzman will have to do the same.

“Jack had a lot of success because he was able to get players to come to Glenn,” Cruz said. “He was able to get kids from neighboring neighborhoods to come play for him because of his name. People knew him and his dad and he was able to get those kids here, and that’s one of the reasons why Jack had success.

“The bottom line for Jack is he has a great baseball mind and no matter what kind of kids he has playing for him, he’s going to be successful,” Cruz continued. “He’s that knowledgeable of the sport.”

SOFTBALL

This program has been struggling for quite a long time, even though there were a few seasons when it appeared it might be turning the page. The 2004 season is the only one since 2000 that has produced a winning mark (12-9-1) and Glenn has not advanced to the playoffs since 1990.

Cruz, who coached the program from 2016 to 2018, says softball is a sport that you need to have been playing for at least a couple of years so you can know the fundamentals before getting to high school. With that said, Glenn doesn’t always get those softball players coming to the school.

“That stretch that we had some success when I was the coach, we had five, six, seven girls that knew how to play, and that made us competitive,” Cruz said. “We weren’t able to get over that hump. For one reason or another, we weren’t able to make plays. But we were there, and we did have opportunities.”

Larry Leal became the program’s sixth head coach since 2000 prior to last season and won three games. Cruz sees the quality of the athletes improving and saw a lot of potential this past season even though the team played four games. Currently, there are about five to six players that have been playing for a while.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL/BOYS TENNIS

Cruz says this program is muck like the girls program in that the players like Reyes as the head coach. He anticipates Reyes being at Glenn for, at least, the next few years. The quality of the volleyball has been improving. Since 2002, the program has finished in second place once and claimed third place three times.

“I see it on the up rise just because the joy that I see back in the gym playing volleyball,” Cruz said. “Kids love to go out there, kids want to be at practice. It’s coming around. It’s one of those sports that I can see us year in and year out having success.”

As for the girls tennis program, Cruz calls it a backburner sport, much like the girls tennis program, although the boys program has finished in second place in league three times since 2002 and fourth place another four times.

“If we don’t have a coach, we’ll just find somebody or have somebody sit out there,” Cruz said. “We don’t have a lot of tennis players. It’s just a difficult situation out there in tennis, just because we don’t have the tennis players, we don’t have the students who want to play tennis. We’re going to struggle for many years to come just because the type of students we have.”

The boys volleyball and boys tennis programs have combined to win 143 league matches since 2002.

TRACK AND FIELD

Cruz calls track and field a ‘hit and miss sport’ at Glenn because there is talent in a lot of the other sports. He says the program struggles because of the lack of athletes for each event.

“In the last couple of years, students have been concentrating on one sport a year, it seems like,” he said. “We’ve been getting the individual athletes. Just take our fastest football player, who has been running track and field the last couple of years. We just need someone to enforce that students can be multi-sport athletes. Linda and I have been trying to encourage coaches to allow their players to [play other sports]. We don’t have enough quality athletes out there. They’re all just standing on the sidelines playing another sport or spectating. Until we can get the 100 percent participation with all our best athletes, we’re going to continue to struggle.”

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One Response to STATE OF JOHN GLENN HIGH ATHLETICS: Happy to be in the 605 League

  1. Joe Parra Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Loren,
    Willie Norman’s football team got a win vs St Francis in 1990 before losing to Napoleon Kaufman and Lompoc in the second round.

    My boys tennis teams went to cif in 4 straight seasons, 2008, 2009, 2010 (18-3 record), and 2011. In 2011, Ryan Honculada finished 3rd in League Individuals, and bumped up to 2nd after a Cerritos player was disqualified. Ryan competed in CIF Individuals and won his first match vs Downey’s League Champion.

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