Joe Davidson

Head of the class: Sac-Joaquin Section recognizes six Model Coaches

Oak Ridge girls basketball coach Steve White is one of six high school coaches in the area who will be recognized by the Sac-Joaquin Section on May 1.
Oak Ridge girls basketball coach Steve White is one of six high school coaches in the area who will be recognized by the Sac-Joaquin Section on May 1. Sacramento Bee file

Coaches don’t just coach.

They often oversee the entire athletic department, raise funds, mentor players and other coaches, and generally work the candle on both ends, stressing they will relax when they retire.

The Sac-Joaquin Section named six Model Coaches for being positive role models in their craft and in their communities. Each of the six will receive a plaque and a lifetime section pass at an awards breakfast May 1 in Lodi.

The honorees are Vacaville assistant football coach Fred Jones, Bella Vista wrestling coach Mike Lee, Atwater tennis coach Mary McCullick, Rodriguez swimming coach Sarah McLaughlin, Pioneer softball coach Linda Merrida and Oak Ridge girls basketball coach Steve White.

Jones has been on the Vacaville football staff since 1969 and been athletic director since 1998.

Lee has coached wrestling at Bella Vista for 26 years, winning 10 league championships six section titles and more than 300 dual matches.

“Mike is a strong proponent of the development of the entire young athlete – physical, mental, academic and, most importantly, as a well-rounded caring human being,” Bella Vista principal Peggy Haskins said. “He stands out as a man of character, with a strong commitment to using athletes as a road to developing ethical, strong leaders for tomorrow along with winning athletes today.”

Merrida has coached Pioneer softball for 14 years and directed the Woodland softball program for 15 years in addition to coaching volleyball. She has won three section and 11 league championships.

“The rings don’t represent her success,” Pioneer athletic director Joshua Holloway said. “Her accomplishment was watching those young women become a team and creating a bond built upon respect and trust.

“Her 30-plus years of service and dedication to the town of Woodland is a major qualification, but her most impressive qualifications are her student-athletes who have graduated and become the next generation of leaders in their communities.”

White has been the Oak Ridge coach for 22 years, winning 14 league titles, three section banners and the 2010 CIF State Division I title over nationally ranked Long Beach Poly in one of the state’s greatest upsets. He’s a three-time Bee Coach of the Year and he won two section titles in softball. White has also been athletic director for 15 years and class adviser for 12.

“Steve’s most impressive numbers are the long list of alumni who come back every year to visit with coach and watch the games,” Oak Ridge principal Aaron Palm said. “All of the young ladies who have learned that when life gets hard, you play harder. They have learned to never give up and how to be a team player. Players who graduate from a Steve White program are life ready.”


Top-ranked Sheldon has the area’s longest boys winning streak at 13 after beating No. 4 Jesuit for the second time this season. Dom Johnson scored 16 points in a 63-58 win at Jesuit, extending the Huskies’ Delta League winning streak to 47.

Sheldon seeks a Delta League four-peat and the program’s seventh title in eight seasons under coach Joey Rollings.

▪ River Valley debuts in The Bee’s top 20 at No. 20, having won nine of 10 games to lead the Tri-County Conference. Charmpreet Bansal leads the Falcons in scoring (16.7) and rebounding (9.7). Tarn Lally averages 14.8 points, and Sergio Garcia puts up 9.4 points and eight rebounds.

▪ Antelope had its 10-game winning streak halted at Ponderosa, 60-49. The Bruins were led by Adam Orr (15 points), Zach Sattler (14) and Aidan Falls (10).


Vacaville won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Team Dual championship with Bella Vista winning in D-II, Oakdale in D-III, Rosemont in D-IV, Calaveras n D-V and Bradshaw Christian in D-VI.

In this week’s section team rankings, Oakdale is No. 1, followed by Vacaville, Oak Ridge, Del Oro, Folsom and Elk Grove.

The top-ranked wrestlers by weight class include: Brenden Johnson of Del Oro (120 pounds), Angelo Martinoni of Folsom (126), Noah Blake of Del Oro (160) and Matt Yang of Bella Vista (182).

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

The Bee’s top 20

With last week’s ranking in parentheses.

Girls basketball

1. Folsom (1) 20-3

2. McClatchy (3) 17-5

3. Sacramento (4) 14-9

4. West Campus (2) 14-7

5. Oak Ridge (8) 12-11

6. Union Mine (9) 22-1

7. Whitney (10) 16-6

8. Cosumnes Oaks (5) 18-3

9. Antelope (7) 16-4

10. Foothill (6) 20-3

11. St. Francis (11) 14-9

12. Christian Brothers (12) 16-7

13. Colfax (13) 20-3

14. Del Oro (15) 17-6

15. Elk Grove (19) 14-10

16. Davis (17) 14-10

17. Roseville (14) 15-7

18. Franklin (18) 14-7

19. Placer (20) 15-8

20. Inderkum (–) 15-9

Dropped out: Woodcreek

Boys basketball

1. Sheldon (1) 20-3

2. Capital Christian (2) 16-7

3. Folsom (3) 19-4

4. Jesuit (4) 19-5

5. Sacramento (6) 19-4

6. Oak Ridge (5) 15-8

7. Antelope (7) 18-4

8. Del Oro (9) 15-6

9. Liberty Ranch (12) 21-3

10. Whitney (11) 17-5

11. Franklin (15) 16-8

12. Grant (8) 17-7

13. Burbank (13) 17-6

14. Roseville (16) 16-6

15. Del Campo (17) 15-7

16. Woodcreek (10) 15-9

17. Colfax (18) 18-6

18. West Campus (19) 17-5

19. Placer (–) 17-7

20. River Valley (–) 16-7

Dropped out: Davis, Lincoln