History of Redwood Empire track leagues

By Jim Crowhurst

It is hard to think of our leagues being messed with but it really is not that unusual.
As you hopefully know next year for the 2018-19 school year new leagues will be set up changing the NBL/SCL into three leagues. See the bottom of this story for the proposal.
Here is some history I’ve dug up so far showing how the track scene has changed over the year’s. For the most part this applies to cross country as well.
And as you will see changes to our leagues have been going on since the first one was created.

Petaluma, opened in 1873, Ukiah and Santa Rosa 1875, are three of the oldest high schools in all of California, Santa Rosa was the 9th high school chartered in the state’s history.
Healdsburg came along shortly after in 1880 with Sonoma Valley 1895 and Analy 1909 all starting before the North Bay Track League or the State meet were formed.

Before the NBL was created the Redwood Empire had lots to brag about in the track world.
Even before the turn of the century, no not 2000, but 1900, we produced some of the best preps in the world.

Ukiah’s Arthur Henley was the 1898-99 Cal-Hi Sports Athlete of Year, check out this great jumper.

Healdsburg’s Ralph Rose was the 1902-03 Cal-Hi Sports Athlete of Year and he went on to be a competitor in three Olympic Games, compiling a medal total of three golds, two silver and one bronze, plus many world records. Check him out here.

By 1915 California had it’s first State meet with Santa Rosa’s Wayne Weeks 1st shot put 46-2 3/8 and Clifford Merritt 1st discus 113-0 (2 kilo) becoming our first State Champs.

Our first league
NBL’s first league track finals took place back on May 7, 1921.
Santa Rosa won that one and I know Napa, Petaluma and Analy were all members and I assume Ukiah, Healdsburg and Sonoma Valley were probably in it as well.

You will probably be surprised by all the schools that have won the NBL boys titles.
In order
Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Analy, Vallejo, Tamalpais, San Rafael, Napa, Drake, Montgomery, Piner, Cardinal Newman, Elsie Allen, Rancho Cotate and Maria Carrillo.
The girls started in 1975 and since then only five schools have ever won the NBL pennant with Santa Rosa 18 and Maria Carrillo 16 winning most of them with Ukiah 4 and Montgomery and Petaluma winning 2 each.

Back to league makeups.
I know by 1926 Vallejo and Tamalpais were in the NBL.
And in 1932 San Rafael won the NBL title.

St Helena was an NBL member in 1935, they later ruled the NCL I from 1960-1975 losing only 1972 to Cloverdale.
Also in 1935 the NBL would change from two divisions Varsity & JV to three divisions Varsity, “B’s” & “C”. The “C” division would be dropped after 1970.

1956 saw Drake High win the NBL title.

Now that the city of Santa Rosa has five public high schools it seems strange to think that none of the Empire’s local cities had more than one high school but that first changed in 1959 when Montgomery was opened.
Montgomery joined the NBL in 1959 with Napa winning with 77 pts to that year, Healdsburg’s 45, Montgomery 38, Ukiah 24.5, Analy 22.5, Petaluma 14.5, Clear Lake 7 and Tomales and Calsitoga both at 0. Not sure why Santa Rosa is not listed but Vikings did win dual meet over the Panthers that year.
The new school, Montgomery, would win all of the varsity titles from 1962-1967, minus 1964, and then win six of the ten titles in the 70’s.
Those first nine years would be lead by coach Bob Acquistapace who besides the league titles would also win two NCS division 3 titles and with a little help from a kid named Mel Gray take a team 2nd place finish at State in 1967.

Mel Gray

Sometime I should do a piece on long time coaches. Guys like Jimmy Underhill, Doug Johnson, Louie Rosales “is there a school this guy has not coached at”, Chip Castleberry and others with a decade of coaching or more.

In 1962 a new league called the Northwestern was created with Willits ruling the first three years.

In 1965 a new league called the NCL II was created with Kelsyville ruling the first two years. In 1981 the Northwestern league merged into the NCL II.

In 1966 another new league called the NBL II was created with Analy taking the first title, appears that Rancho Cotate entered this league as a new school in 1966 with Piner following in 1967 and Cardinal Newman in 1969. The NBL II would change it’s name to the Sonoma County League in 1972.

In 1968 the new league’s were re-alignment again shown below.
NBL I
Hogan
Montgomery
Napa
Petaluma
Santa Rosa
Ukiah
Vallejo

NBL II
Analy
El Molino
Healdsburg
Piner
Sonoma Valley

First sign of Casa Grande was at the 1974 SCL finals which was won by Rancho Cotate.

1975 Girls divisions were added to both the NBL & SCL.

In 1976 Napa and Vintage were part of the NBL for the last time before moving out of the NCS to join the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Of course this whole article is because these two schools are coming back soon and looks like they will join our Casa Grande, Petaluma and Sonoma Valley plus Justin-Siena and American Canyon in a new Redwood Empire league.

1976 NBL looked like this.
Hogan
Montgomery
Napa
Petaluma
Santa Rosa
Ukiah
Vallejo
Vintage

1976 SCL looked like this.
Analy
Cardinal Newman
Casa Grande
El Molino
Healdsburg
Piner
Rancho Cotate
Sonoma Valley

After just one year the league’s were re-alignment again to this.

1977 NBL
Cardinal Newman
Montgomery
Petaluma
Rancho Cotate
Santa Rosa
Ukiah

1977 SCL
Analy
Casa Grande
El Molino
Healdsburg
Piner
Sonoma Valley

1987 Piner moves to the NBL while Petaluma in moves to the SCL.

Elsie Allen was added to the NBL in 1995 and Maria Carrillo in 1997.

Windsor was added to the SCL in 1998.

In 2013 Casa Grande and Windsor move to the NBL while Piner and Elsie Allen move to the SCL.

Current 2017 North Bay League
Cardinal Newman
Casa Grande
Maria Carrillo
Montgomery
Rancho Cotate
Santa Rosa
Ukiah
Windsor

Current Sonoma County League
Analy
El Molino
Elsie Allen
Healdsburg
Petaluma
Piner
Sonoma Valley

Next year it looks like the track leagues around here may look something like this.

Listed next to school is enrollment numbers
“A” division (Top 6 schools) ? North Bay League
El Molino 600
Maria Carrillo 1601
Montgomery 1613
Piner 1170
Santa Rosa 2024
Windsor 1805

“B” division (6 schools) ? Sonoma County League
Analy 1200
Cardinal Newman 621
Elsie Allen 1082
Healdsburg 607
Rancho Cotate 1476
Ukiah 1715

New Southernmost League (7 schools) 3 of ours plus the new guys
American Canyon 1564
Casa Grande 1708
Justin-Siena 627
Napa 2045
Petaluma 1382
Sonoma Valley 1293
Vintage 1966

This whole proposal to go A, B & Southernmost League was designed by the Ukiah principle.
It looks very possible that because of this design Ukiah will move out of the NBL for the first time since it started in 1921 and move into the SCL, making them the first non-Sonoma County school in the Sonoma County League.
It could also be the first time El Molino would move into the NBL.
Casa Grande and Petaluma would be in the same league again for the first time since 2012 when Casa beat Petaluma by one point for the SCL title.

So as you can see though the new proposal breaks away from what some of you may see as our traditions that in reality these types of moves have been happening for a long time.