Vista Murrieta's boys track and field team served notice last July, ironically enough, in a non-CIF-sanctioned event. And most of the Broncos sports programs have been on a roll ever since.
With a strong finish in track and field and outright Southwestern League championships in baseball, softball, boys track and field, football and girls volleyball, Vista Murrieta edged Murrieta Valley to win The Californian's All-Valley Program of the Year Award for 2011.
Vista Murrieta, paced by a 257-point push from the track team on The Californian's point scale, placed first with 633 points. Murrieta Valley, which got a 154-point effort from its swimming teams, was second with 591 points.
Great Oak, which enjoyed a 120-point output from its cross country teams and 123-point effort from its own track teams, placed third with 471 points.
Last July, the Broncos boys won a national championship at the Nike National meet in Eugene, Ore., before their football team started the year with a bang, advancing to the CIF Southern Section Inland Division championship game against Corona Centennial.
Vista Murrieta's track athletes ended the year just as impressively, as the Broncos won their second straight CIF SS division title, and senior Jovonte Slater took home a state championship earlier this month in the long jump.
"You know, we didn't know exactly what to expect from our senior class," Vista Murrieta's founding athletic director, Ray Moore, said. "We had high expectations, but we didn't know if they would find their identity, because we had good groups in front of them."
Slater seemed to be the focal point of this athletic effort. Despite enduring an appendectomy during football season, he still returned to join quarterback Derrick Brown (Washington), lineman Jon Sanchez (San Diego State) and Co. for the championship game.
"I knew that he was a special kid," Moore said of the USC-bound Slater. "It just impressed me so much he do something like that and put his team first."
Slater also missed part of the regular season in track with a hamstring injury. The senior re-tweaked the hamstring at the CIF State Track and Field Championship meet, yet still won the long jump in a Valley-record mark of 24 feet, 10 ½ inches ---- just a little more than 4 inches off of the Riverside County record of 25-3, a hallowed benchmark set by Bobby Bonds at Riverside Poly in 1964.
There were other notable program performances in 2010-2011. Temescal Canyon, perhaps boosted by its move to the Sunbelt League, tallied 385 points, its highest performance in years.
Hemet, with its volleyball team winning a section crown in the fall, reached No. 6 with 249 points.