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Del Mar Nationals win Little League Championship

Sun, 06/29/2014 - 01:00

The Del Mar Nationals completed a great season as regular season champions and post-season champions of the Del Mar National Little League. The team started the season with eight straight wins, and seven of the team’s players connected for home runs during the season. The Nationals went undefeated through the League playoffs before playing the Del Mar American champion Angels in the Del Mar Cup, where the Angels came out on top. Congrats to all of the boys on a great season!

Front row (L-R): Andrew Mitchell, Stafford Anderson, Ian Crosbie, Ryan Jackel, Ryan Lowell, Jack Bao; Middle row (L-R): William Attisha, Jagger Filippone, Lucas Corbosiero, Grant Anderson, Joseph Gentile, Chase Ladrido; Back row (L-R): Manager Gary Anderson, coaches Larry Jackel and David Mitchell.

Surf Girls Academy champs in Pegasus Cup

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 17:33

The Surf Girls Academy U12, coached by Steveo Leacock, were recent champions in the Pegasus Cup.  The girls outscored their opposition 11 to 1 over the weekend.  Pictured, top row:  Ally G., Melanie G., Mia K., Kate O., Ari M., Casey W., Alyssa B., Angelica C., Coach Steveo. Front row:  Anya R., Kelly L., Sam Q., Zaylin T., Hannah S., Angelina P., Dorian S. Not pictured:  Mia G., Sophie P. and Olivia J.

Attack Muchnick BU15 wins Kickin’ it Challenge

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 17:31

The BU15 Attack team, managed by Coach Marc Muchnick, managed to go unbeaten on their way to winning the Championship at the recent Kickin it Challenge in Escondido.  The Kickin’ it Challenge was established to raise much-needed funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer.  This is the Muchnick BU15 Attack team’s second year participating and second year in the finals.  This was also the final prep tournament before the team heads to the Keele Cup Tournament outside of Manchester, England, where teams from 25 countries will compete at Keele University.

Pictured from left to right:  (Front) Conner Hunt, Sean Bridges, Michael McGowan, Matthew Rosenfield, Eli Colin, Josh Molyneux, Connor Wood, Blake Muchnick; (Back) Coach Marc Muchnick, Uli Ramirez, Joe Woo, Zach Evans, Ethan Tao, Tyler Weinrich, Justin Diehl, Paul Bartlett.

Three North Shore softball teams qualify for state championship

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 17:29

8U Girls: Top row (L-R): Coach Glenn, Manager Sharon Dillon, Coach Stefan, Coach Dave. Middle row: Zoe F., Jamie P., Sydney N., Allison B., Alex M., Maiken L. Bottom row: Kenzie W., Sam D., Eve C., Layla W., Karma N.

North Shore Softball All-Star teams achieved unprecedented success this past weekend at the ASA District Tournament. Players in three separate age categories finished among the top teams in the North San Diego County District, each earning a spot at the State Tournament in Lancaster on July 4-6.

This is the first time in the league’s 26-year history that all of North Shore’s All-Star teams have qualified for States in the same year.

Coaches, parents and players expressed their excitement with so many going to the tournament for the first time.

League President Randy Rechs said the honor of playing at States is well deserved.  “It’s a testament to all the hard work and effort from the girls, coaches and parents,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our teams.”

The 12U Gold team battled their way into the final game but lost in the Championship to Escondido, 9-2.  The team has proven its ability to win throughout the All-Star season with a record of 20-8, winning one tournament and finishing as a finalist in another.

10U Gold finished third in the North San Diego County District, losing a tough nine-inning international tie-breaker to PQ.  The team enters the State Tournament with a record of 21-8, scoring 142 runs and winning two tournament championships.  All three of the team’s pitchers have thrown no-hitters.

8U Gold clinched a third-place finish in the District.   They began the tournament with two straight wins, in one of their strongest performances of the season. Their only losses were to the Carlsbad, who finished second, and PQ, the tournament winners. Coaches say the team is playing their best softball yet.

10U Girls: Back row (L-R): Coach Karla, Coach Randy, Coach Paul, Manager Steve Pilarski. Middle row: Tzippy M., Katie W., Emily B., Katie N., Anna H., Olivia J., Sydney A., Sophie P. Front row: Jessie R., Sophia B., Simone B., Taylor A., Katie R., Kyra C.

The teams will now set their focus on preparing for the State Tournament, competing in Lancaster’s blistering heat.  Their goals are clear.  “We need to keep playing well and having fun,” said Rechs.  “If we play up to our capabilities, we have a chance to make it to Nationals.”

12U Girls: Front row (L-R): Lauren Z., Kristen B., Alex W., Sophia K., Nikki K., Madi W. Back row: Ava F., Chloe B., Valeria C., Hanna S., Ruby W., Jordan R., Leah T.

Surf Academy GU10 takes Pegasus

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 17:26

Surf Academy (Madrigal) GU10 placed first in their flight at the June 21-22 Pegasus Cup. The team, under the direction of Coach Danny Madrigal, won each of their pool play games, advancing to the final match, where they emerged as champions with a 6-1 victory. Pictured (L-R): Coach Danny Madrigal, Grace Feron, Anna Nichols, Katie Toomey, Jordyn Mariam, Kyah Otholt, Claire Curran, Isabella Bombelli, Marissa Gaut, Kailyn Pitt, Brooke Stadtherr, Juliana Caldarelli. Not pictured: Revere Schmidt.

Surf Academy (Madrigal) GU10 placed first in their flight at the June 21-22 Pegasus Cup.  The team, under the direction of Coach Danny Madrigal, won each of their pool play games, advancing to the final match, where they emerged as champions with a 6-1 victory. Pictured (L-R): Coach Danny Madrigal, Grace Feron, Anna Nichols, Katie Toomey, Jordyn Mariam, Kyah Otholt, Claire Curran, Isabella Bombelli, Marissa Gaut, Kailyn Pitt, Brooke Stadtherr, Juliana Caldarelli. Not pictured: Revere Schmidt.

Sand Diego Rowing Club women take home bronze

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 17:23

Rowing Club members (L-R): Mariko Kelly, Sarah Hoskin, Coach Benton Sparks, Jillian Renly and Marissa Gibson.

Varsity women with the San Diego Rowing Club have brought home a bronze medal from the U.S. Rowing’s Youth National Championships in Sacramento. The event was held over three days earlier in June at Lake Natoma where top high-school-age rowers from across the nation raced on a 2,000-meter (1.25 mile) course to cap off the 2013-2014 season.

The club’s time of 7:26.852 made them the country’s third-fastest Women’s Youth boat in the “4x” (4 rowers, 8 oars) division. Junior rowers Marissa Gibson, Jillian Renly, Sarah Hoskin and Mariko Kelly earned their medals after competing against 19 teams in multiple heats. The club’s junior women advanced to U.S. Nationals after racing to a gold medal in the same event at the Southwest Junior District Championships in May, beating a field of 30 women’s teams in multiple heats.

“It was a tough weekend of racing,” said bow seat rower Mariko Kelly. “Going into nationals, we were seeded fourth and knew we’d have to all pull together to be in medal contention. We did it for our coaches and for our dads. It was a fantastic Father’s Day gift.”

San Diego Rowing Club Coach Benton Sparks led the varsity women to bronze at U.S. Nationals. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Susan Francia coached the women through their winning season, including last month’s gold at Southwest Regional Championships.

U.S. Nationals was the final competition as club rowers for two varsity women: Gibson, a graduate of La Jolla High School, will attend the University of Wisconsin on a rowing scholarship this fall, while Hoskin, a graduate of the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego, heads to Fordham University on a rowing scholarship. Two rowers will return in the fall: Kelly, of Del Mar, who will be a senior at La Jolla Country Day School, and Renly, who will begin her junior year at University City High School. Visit

AutoMatters: Wheels & Motorsports at the Fair

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 16:40

The Fab Fair

By Jan Wagner

Those of you who have been reading AutoMatters over the years already know that there are car shows, motorsports and other wheeled things to enjoy at the San Diego County Fair. The 2014 edition of the fair is no exception. I am so excited to share this with you as soon as possible that instead of writing the column that I’d intended and prepared for today, I will go through over 2,700 photos that I took, edit a few and write this for you in time for my deadline tomorrow morning. This will be a real challenge.

Each year I show a car in the event they call “GREAT WHEELS! The Car Shows at the Fair.” At first I was showing one of my succession of three Mazda Miatas with the San Diego Miata Club. Eventually I sold my last MX-5 (Miata) and special-ordered a beautiful white, with brick red leather interior, 2011 Mustang GT 5.0. I joined the Mustang Club of San Diego. Fortunately that club also participates in the annual car shows at the Fair. Yesterday was that day.

The Fair – superbly represented each year by Bob Meigs, the car show’s master of ceremonies and event organizer, takes a photo of each car – to be mounted on a large foam-core board, complete with the year’s fair theme graphic, for presentation to us as we are about to leave the show. This year the fair’s theme is “The Fab Fair” “paying tribute to the British Invasion that revolutionized the music industry 50 years ago.”

Eldy & the People’s Choice Award winner

After we were guided to park our cars in position in the car show display areas just inside a busy fair gate, we were free to head off to enjoy a few hours at the fair, hang out with friends on folding chairs by our cars, or both – as I did.

This day at the fair coincided with day one of Motorsports Week (“vrooom! Vrooom! We start the engines”). Under a roof that kept us shaded and cool, we fully enjoyed the spectacle in the Del Mar Arena.

There were two shows (I went to both). First Jimmy Fitzpatrick (founder of the “Fitz Army” and Metal Mulisha athlete) and Destin Cantrell treated us to a world-class freestyle motocross (FMX) demo, in which they performed incredible feats of skill and bravery. Speeding up to a tall, steep ramp, they launched high in the air, got off of their motorcycles, performed seemingly impossible acrobatics and then got back on their motorcycles and landed safely, every single time! You can read more about freestyle motocross at: and

Next up was Tuff Truck Racing – the insane main event. “Tuff Truck racing is an exciting off-road racing event consisting of modified trucks (and sometimes stock trucks for fun) going around a course filled with different jumps, bumps and turns.” This course was all dirt, and there was plenty of it. “Tuff Truck racing is a game of survival!” The trucks were run one at a time, with their laps timed and an announcer calling the action.

Freestyle motocross

When I cover motorsports I typically take a lot of photos but they are mostly of racing. It is only rarely that there is an on-track coming-together, and it is even rarer that I am in the place at the track where I could see that and potentially shoot it. The Fab Fair’s “Tuff Truck Racing: Open Class” was just about the opposite. For example, in close succession during the timed runs of three trucks, the drivers flipped their trucks over on a turnaround on the track – right in front of rows of screaming fans, who can see everything. I got photos of all of it, in case you were wondering how I could have possibly taken over 2,700 pictures in one day at the fair. That does not include all of the trucks that broke their suspensions (mostly in the first show) as they came crashing down hard from one particularly huge, nasty dirt jump. To find out more about this insanely wonderful and awesome sport, visit

Over the next few days at the fair there will also be a demolition derby (which I covered in AutoMatters #284 last year), beach buggy racing, antique car races, Terracross championship racing and monster trucks. If you miss the motorsports fun at this year’s fair, be sure to mark your calendars for next year.

As always, please write to with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters #338

Tuff Truck Racing one-tire landing

A rollover – one of many

A rollover – one of many

Appreciative fans

Driver is okay

A wheel comes loose

Kicking up the dirt

Up in smoke

New principal selected for Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 12:06

The San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent Rick Schmitt recently announced that Adam Camacho has been selected as the principal of  Earl Warren Middle School. Camacho will replace Mary Anne Nuskin, who was named principal of the new middle school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, which opens in the fall of 2015.

Since 2000, Camacho has served in various positions in the district, including counselor at both La Costa Canyon High School and Earl Warren Middle School and, most recently, assistant principal at Carmel Valley Middle School since 2010.

Camacho holds a counseling credential and administrative services credential. Adam  began his career with a degree in criminal justice administration serving in law enforcement and then earned his master’s degree in counseling. He believes his counseling background and administrative experiences have prepared him well to lead Earl Warren Middle School.

Camacho will assume his new position as of July 1, 2014.

Camacho wrote the following to the Earl Warren Middle School parents recently: “I return to Earl Warren after serving as counselor at Earl Warren Middle School and La Costa  Canyon High School, most recently serving as Assistant Principal at Carmel Valley Middle  School. I’ve truly enjoyed my 14 years of experience as an educator in our distinguished  district and I eagerly look forward to again being a part of the close-knit and dedicated school  community at EWMS.”

Carmel Valley parents chair Rady Children’s Hospital gala after daughter’s successful spinal fusion surgery

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 10:55

Richard and Kris Gelbart (left) with their friends Mae and Curtis Chan at the 2014 Miracle Makers Gala. Courtesy photo

By Kristina Houck

Richard Gelbart’s daughter was still in a hospital bed, recovering from spinal fusion surgery when he called Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation to learn how he could help the organization. Inspired by the success of her operation and the staff’s attentive care, the Carmel Valley father wanted to give back.

“Sitting in the hospital, you get the sense of how Rady Children’s Hospital embraces not only the patient, but the family — pre-op and post-operatively,” said Gelbart, whose 15-year-old daughter Marisa underwent spinal fusion surgery Feb. 24. “I thought it was brilliant and really caring and very conscious of an institution to get down to that grassroots, family-level. It touched me. I felt fortunate in our unfortunate situation.”

Gelbart and his wife, Kris, became co-chairs of the 2014 Miracle Makers Gala, the hospital’s largest fundraiser. They shared their story in front of the gala’s 1,100 attendees May 31 at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina.

“I loved it,” he said. “It felt so right.”

Marisa was diagnosed with scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, when she was just 9 years old. Because it was only a slight curve, it was treated with physical therapy. She also wore a body brace for about three years.

Eric, Marisa and Kris Gelbart. Courtesy photo

While vacationing in Palm Desert during spring break last year, Gelbart noticed his daughter’s scoliosis had rapidly progressed.

“It frightened me because it was so contorted,” he said. “I remember getting really emotional and getting tears in my eyes.”

After talking with his wife, the couple decided to take their daughter to Rady Children’s Hospital for an exam.

In January, the Gelbart family met with Dr. Peter Newton, an orthopedic surgeon at Rady Children’s Hospital. Marisa’s spine was now curved at an 88-degree angle and it had rotated. She needed surgery.

Initially, Marisa’s surgery was planned for the beginning of summer, but further testing two weeks later revealed the curve of her spine had increased to 107 degrees.

“The doctor had great concern on his face,” Gelbart said. “He was holding a poker face, but I could see it.”

Marisa underwent spinal fusion surgery Feb. 24. After spending one night in the intensive care unit and the next four in the hospital, she got to go home with her parents and her older brother Eric.

“It was amazing,” Gelbart said. “Everybody was just amazed.”

Marisa went into surgery at 5-foot-2. Now standing at 5-foot-5, she just completed her freshman year at Canyon Crest Academy.

“My daughter is doing so well,” Gelbart said. “She’s happy, she’s healthy.”

To learn more about Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation or to donate, visit

Carmel Valley’s Kilroy Realty donates $10,000 to San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 10:53

Kilroy Realty staff took a tour of Carmel Valley’s Station 24 with far left, Battalion Chief David Gerboth and far right, San Diego Fire Rescue Department Assistant Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. Courtesy photos

By Karen Billing

Carmel Valley’s Kilroy Realty made a $10,000 donation to the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation during the May wildfires. As the largest suburban commercial real estate owner in the county, Kilroy wanted to show its commitment to keeping the neighborhoods safe by helping firefighters do their job, according to Brian Brady, Kilroy development manager and member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

Brady was credited as being instrumental in the decision to make the donation to the firefighters. Brady and other Kilroy staff members were invited for a tour of Station 24 on Del Mar Heights Road to get a peek at where their money will be put into work.

The firefighters on duty were not able to visit for long — they almost instantly had to respond to an accident call.

Wendy Robinson, executive director of the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation, said the mission of the foundation is to provide funding for enhanced equipment, training and technology that would not otherwise be met through the city’s budget.

It is still being determined what items from the fire department’s unmet needs list will be purchased with funds received during the wildfires, but some items on the list include pediatric rescue carriers; iPad tablets for battalion chiefs; portable breathing air carts for HAZMAT units; helicopter rescue equipment; and rescue safety equipment.

The carriers are especially needed for incidents such as fires, cliff rescues and other accidents to safely carry infants away from harm.

The need for iPad tablets was a direct result of after-action reviews from the May wildfires, according to San Diego Fire Rescue Department Assistant Fire Chief Brian Fennessy.

Chiefs can carry iPads programmed with mapping technology as a good way to identify land ownership and protection areas, as well as serve as an ordering point for dispatch centers.

“The foundation allows us to go out and fill that technology gap,” Battalion Chief David Gerboth said.

Brian Brady, Kilroy Realty development manager and member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, with San Diego Fire Rescue Department Assistant Fire Chief Brian Fennessy.

Fennessy said that since the fires they have been focusing on making any possible related improvements before the Santa Ana winds return — they typically blow in the fall and May’s winds were unusual.

“I’ve never seen it this dry, ever,” said Fennessy, noting that it might be a tough fire season ahead with dry winds paired with the lack of moisture in the fuel load.

Fennessy and Gerboth thanked Kilroy for its donation and led the group on a tour of the station. Robinson said that Kilroy’s contribution was one of the larger donations they received during the fires.

“The crews are really excited when they see the support from the community,” Robinson said. “ They don’t expect it obviously, but I think it really means a lot to them.”

Solana Beach City Council increases budget for Community Grant Program

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 10:46

By Kristina Houck

Solana Beach will be able to further support local organizations, following the City Council’s decision June 25 to increase the budget for the annual Community Grant Program.

In a 5-0 vote, council members opted to give an additional $10,000 in grants each year, increasing the program’s annual budget from $15,000 to $25,000. The unanimous decision took place when the council adopted a revised budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“We have a great number of people in need in the community,” said Councilman Peter Zahn, who recommended the increase during the May 20 budget workshop. “We’ve had tremendous participation by people who want to get involved and help in the community. We have a good number of applications that do come in … and we’re not able to come close to fulfilling all of them. There’s good work to be done.”

Established in 2004, the city’s Community Grant Program provides funds to nonprofit, non-governmental groups that serve Solana Beach and its residents.

Coast Waste Management and EDCO Waste and Recycling Services, the city’s two waste haulers, each contribute $5,000 to the program. The city provides an additional $5,000, bringing the total available funds to $15,000.

Initially, the city budgeted $25,000 for the program but reduced its contribution during the downturn in the economy, City Manager David Ott explained. The council’s vote brings the budget for the program back to where it was prior to the recession.

Last year, 13 organizations requested $55,500 in assistance. In December, council members, awarded a total of $15,000 in grants to the Community Resource Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, the St. James and St. Leo Medical and Dental Program, Del Sol Lions, Kids Korps USA, Casa De Amistad, La Colonia de Eden Gardens and BikeWalkSolana. Santa Fe Christian Schools matched the city’s funds, providing an additional $15,000 in grants.

“I’m supportive of taking it back to the previous funding,” said Councilman Mike Nichols. “We cut it back when we didn’t have the money, and now we have the money. We’re in a surplus.”

In addition to increasing the budget for the city’s Community Grant Program, the council also contracted with Partnerships with Industry, a nonprofit organization that provides job training for people with disabilities.

Founded in 1985, Partnerships with Industry serves more than 1,000 people each year, working with businesses such as Qualcomm, Home Depot and the San Diego Zoo. The organization also partners with the cities of Coronado, Imperial Beach and Vista.

PWI board member and Solana Beach resident Ted Finkel reached out to Solana Beach last year, suggesting a partnership with the city.

Now included in the budget, the $28,000 contract with PWI enables three people to work for the city for six hours a day, four days a week, Ott explained. They will receive direction from the public works director, likely helping clean up parks, beaches and public right of ways, as well as assisting with landscape and janitorial duties.

“Other cities using the same services find these employees are extremely loyal,” Ott said. “They truly enjoy having a job where they can come and really make things better. I really think they’ll be an asset to our organization.”

Learning from May wildfires: What can we do differently?

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 18:09

Dave Roberts

By Supervisor Dave Roberts

One month after the May firestorms blackened more than 26,000 acres across North County, the Board of Supervisors received an “after-action” report on June 17 that makes nearly two dozen recommendations to improve regional firefighting capability and public outreach.

The 102-page document, published by the county’s Office of Emergency Services and available at, also summarizes damage and costs of the May fires.

One of its top recommendations is to triple our aircraft budget — from $250,000 to $750,000 — and to explore the possibility of buying a third Sheriff’s Department helicopter for firefighting.

Another recommendation is to improve the delivery of emergency information to county residents, especially to those who don’t speak English.

During the weeklong emergency — our largest disaster since the firestorms of 2007 — 14 separate fires stretched resources and prompted a declaration of a state of emergency from Gov. Jerry Brown.

The response to the fires is estimated to have cost $28.5 million among the region’s agencies. Property damage is pegged at $29.8 million, the report states. All told, 46 single-family homes and 19 other structures were destroyed in Carlsbad, San Marcos and the unincorporated area.

While the first of the 14 fires, the Bernardo Fire, was sparked by construction equipment and considered accidental, the cause of the other fires remains under investigation, the report states.

What can we do better?

The report recommends assigning twice as many county employees to work the phones at the 2-1-1 emergency information call center. Last month, I was happy that a member of my staff was able to volunteer at the center.

Other recommendations include quicker publication of maps showing fire boundaries and improving information delivery by employing more foreign-language speakers and more “partner relay” groups to reach non-English speakers.

The report also calls for finding ways to improve the public’s compliance with evacuation orders and warnings, of which more than 149,000 were issued during the wildfire event.

At our meeting, I appreciated San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s appearance and support for the existing mutual-aid system, in which neighboring jurisdictions made firefighting resources available to one another.

I also appreciated a directive from Chairwoman Dianne Jacob that the county host two workshops focused on implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The report noted the county’s significant investments and improvements in fire services since 2003. Yet, to be clear, the county is only one of the region’s fire agencies. Carlsbad, San Marcos and the city of San Diego each responded boldly to fires within their jurisdictions.

Still, the county has spent almost $285 million since 2003 to increase firefighting resources and has established great cooperation with the Navy and Marine Corps, which brought helicopters to the firefight last month to join state and county aircraft.

As my colleagues and I deliberated after receiving the report, I suggested purchasing $400,000 worth of infrared equipment to detect hot spots.

I appreciate Chairwoman Jacob’s suggestion to spend an additional $400,000 to promote preparedness and highlight the importance of maintaining defensible space around homes and structures.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Patriot Profiles: ‘Find the positive in everything you do’

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 18:02

Spc. Erin Cortez Jones. Courtesy U.S. Army

This column presents “Patriot Profiles” to provide readers insight into the lives of our country’s heroes.

By Jeanne McKinney

A soldier needs stress unless it leads to distress. “Stress causes energy-pumping hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to be released into the bloodstream, preparing the body to act in times of danger, known as a ‘fight or flight’ response,” states Lisa Young, a health educator with the U.S. Army Public Health Command. “While this burst of energy can help Soldiers get through a battle or even overcome a difficult obstacle course during training, chronic stress is not a good thing.”

Army Specialist (Spc.) Erin Cortez Jones is someone who helps others “soldier” through hard challenges. “When I was having a down time about things at home, he was able to lift my spirits and make jokes to help me feel better,” states Spc. T. Weatherspoon. This simple act of caring helps insure that a confident, highly-trained warrior maintains his ability to survive.

An Oceanside, Calif. native, Jones first clarifies that Erin, typically a female name, is really his. He grew up seeing the world as the son of a Marine who served as a Master Gunnery Sergeant. In Japan, Jones and his younger brother went out together a lot. “I just wanted to party and have fun the rest of my life,” admits Jones. “He [his brother] went out one night without me and had a situation happen I can’t speak on. It was enough to send me a wake-up call to better myself before I end up where he almost ended up. I decided to up and join the military.”

No problem for a Marine Corps brat to go Army. Jones’ father, a 27-year veteran, was proud he’d joined a branch and felt the Army would be a better fit for his son. “I’m used to being goofy, energetic, and fun,” says Jones. In addition, his listening skills can pull someone away from their unhealthy thinking.

As an Automated Logistical Specialist, Jones calls what he does “UPS for the military.” “We supply the parts needed to have equipment mission-ready and to keep track of what and where it is being used at all times,” says Jones. In one of what he dubs his “personal battles,” he puts the crosshairs on threats to combat readiness, “We had someone new who was pretty upset in our shop. Instead of letting him storm off, I sat him down and talked to him letting him know he’ll be alright. He continued on for us and the mission.”

While serving in Kuwait 2013, with 4th Brigade Support Battalion (4BSB), Sgt. Brett Madara, his first-line supervisor stated, “From the beginning of deployment to when he left, he showed great motivation. He always shows up ready to accomplish the task at hand.”

Computerized logistics requires skills Jones had before he joined. “I’ve been in computer classes since kindergarten. I adapted how to operate computers inside and out and how to make one from scratch if needed. There are a whole lot of tricks of the trade using Microsoft Excel, Word, the Internet and Google — you must be very well-versed.”

Jones says, “We have those days – it’s overwhelming – there’s too much going on and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ It’s rare for me to do that, because if I’m the one that starts thinking like that, everyone’s going to start thinking like that.”

“There are always people that find so much negative, they forget to look at the positive. Find the positive in everything you do.” Jones musters his own strength while making sure everyone laughs and has a good day. His go-to leaders inspire him and his iPod placates his passion for music.

Now stationed at Ft. Carson, Colo., Jones’ days are spent ordering, receiving, and issuing repair parts, along with opening and closing job orders for the battalion and sister battalions around 4BSB. He’s also an equipment dispatcher.

Jones knows culture shock, extreme heat and lack of comfort, pressure, system flaws, and personality clashes. Call to combat hovers like a stubborn cloud…consequences of decisions are in perpetual motion…

A logistics guy supplies a part to a Humvee in a supply convoy whose lead driver was yesterday – feeling blue. After getting a handle on stress, today the Humvee driver’s senses are sharp and suggests going down an alternate road – avoiding suspicious IEDs. One less wheelchair will be filled, no family will go fatherless and needed supplies will reach their intended destination.

In those supplies is a rifle part, so when that ground soldier faces a kinetic enemy – his defense will be swift and sure. With the enemy out of the neighborhood, a displaced foreign family can come home – free to work and live without the stress of tyranny.

Spc. Erin Cortez Jones, who wanted to serve his way, is helping the Army win their battles in more ways than one saying, “I’m pretty content here. I might make a career out of it.”

Solana Beach hires firm to help search for new city manager

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 08:14

By Kristina Houck

A little more than a month after City Manager David Ott announced his plans to retire in November, Solana Beach hired a firm to recruit his replacement.

The City Council on June 25 awarded a $25,000 contract to Peckham & McKenney to conduct a search for a new city manager. The 5-0 vote was part of the council’s consent calendar, a list of items approved with a single vote and no discussion.

“We’re embarking on replacing the irreplaceable Mr. Ott,” said Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner. “We’ll do our best.”

Recruiter Bobbi Peckham of the firm will lead the search. With nearly 30 years of experience in local government and executive recruitment, Peckham helped bring City Manager Gus Vina to Encinitas in 2011, and City Manager Steven Sarkozy to Carlsbad just a few months ago.

During the May 14 council meeting, Ott announced his last day with the city would be Nov. 28. He informed council members about his decision to retire during a closed session prior to the meeting.

Since then, the city received three proposals from recruitment firms. The $25,000 contract with Peckham & McKenney consists of an $18,000 fee and up to $7,000 in expenses.

Solana Beach swim coach wins marathon Manhattan swim

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 08:10

Grace Van der Byl, a renowned open-water swimmer who coaches at the San Dieguito Boys & Girls Clubs, won the 31st annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim recently.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s Coach Grace Van der Byl, of the Rancho San Dieguito Swim Team, won the 31st annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim recently.

Van der Byl, 35, completed the 28.5-mile counterclockwise course in 7 hours, 14 minutes 3 seconds. The first male finisher was Samir Barei, in 7:17:59.

“Gracie is such an amazing individual,” said Joe Benjamin, Pardee Aquatics Director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito. “Her mental toughness, work ethic and willingness to prepare for such extreme endeavors is truly amazing and such an inspiration to all of our young swimmers and masters swimmers alike.”

The NYC Swim organized event is the longest annual swim race in the world. The race began and finished at the South Cove in Battery Park City at the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

Van der Byl is a world-class open-water swimmer and national-level pool swimmer from Solana Beach. She also is the record holder for the Catalina Channel solo crossing, from Catalina Island to the California mainland, in 7 hours 27 minutes. She is also an active observer for the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation and was one of only two individuals (besides Rondi Davies) to finish all seven stage swims of the 2012 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, the longest competitive open water swim in the world.

She also won the first 9.5-mile stage swim in Saguaro Lake, the second 9-mile stage swim in Canyon Lake, the third 17-mile stage swim in Apache Lake, and the fourth 10 km night race in Roosevelt Lake at the 2013 S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge in Arizona. She also won the 15.1-mile (24.3 km) inaugural Cape Circumnavigation Challenge around Cape May, N.J., in 2013.

Van der Byl started swimming at age 2 for the Green Gate Gators Swim Team in Spring, Texas. She started year-round swimming at age 7 for the Hub Fins Swim Team in Hattiesburg, Miss. Later she represented The Woodlands Swim Team and University of Houston at a national level.

After retiring, she coached for several teams in the Houston area. Upon moving to California, she became involved in the local swimming community and now coaches the Rancho San Dieguito swim team in Solana Beach at the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito.  She swims for Solana Beach Swim Masters under Coach Joe Benjamin and supports a variety of open water swim-related causes and programs, including the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation.

Van der Byl is “a true ambassador for the sport of swimming with several local and national television appearances,” and enjoys investing in kids to develop the sport of open water swimming for a new generation.

After retiring from swimming for about 10 years, Van der Byl became involved with open water swimming and returned to master’s pool swimming, receiving five gold medals in Atlanta 2010. She has been competing in open water races since 2008 and increasingly became involved in the community through charity events like the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the NBC-sponsored Iron Man program for cancer survivors, and the Mates-Helping-Mates event for victims of the Australian wildfires.

She also dedicates her time to grass-roots program development and introduced an age-group program for kids to compete in an all-season open-water swimming championship. Her dedication to the sport earned her the coach of the year award in San Diego.

She is married to renowned ocean kayaker and escort crew member Neil Van der Byl and co-manages the SoCal Open-Water Swim Support service.

Carmel Valley runner ‘flips hourglass’ to create stellar career

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 08:00

Tal Braude will compete for Columbia after a distinguished prep career at Torrey Pines High School.

By Gideon Rubin

When Tal Braude first surfaced at Torrey Pines as a freshman, it was assumed he’d be following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, both excellent soccer players for whom competing in track was a secondary activity.

“So here’s the third brother, it’ll be the same old story,” figured Torrey Pines track and field/cross country coach Brent Thorne.

“It’ll be soccer-soccer-soccer, and he’ll fit running in where he can.”

To say Braude exceeded the expectations on the track and cross country circuits would be an understatement.

Early in his prep career, he decided to forgo soccer to focus on distance running. That decision paid big dividends.

Braude, who earlier this month concluded a distinguished prep career at Torrey Pines, will compete in track and cross country at Division I Columbia in the Ivy League later this year. His Falcons career was highlighted by him becoming the school’s first state cross country champion — in either the boys or girls circuits.

“He totally flipped the hourglass upside down,” Thorne said. “Totally.”

Braude went out for cross country at the prodding of former Falcons distance running sensation Ally Billmeyer, whom he met at a junior lifeguard camp the summer before his freshman year.

“When I went into the first race, I was like, ‘Coach, how do you think I’m going to do in this race?’” Braude said. “They were just like, ‘Go out and have fun and just do the best you can, and we’ll see from here.’”

In that race at the Bronco Invitational, his coaches saw the first chapter of one of the most distinguished distance running careers in school history.

Braude shocked a rising star from rival La Costa Canyon, Steven Fahy, who happened to be the younger brother of former Torrey Pines standout Matt Carpowich’s nemesis, Darren Fahy.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into in that first race,” Braude said. “It developed into its own rivalry between us.”

That rivalry helped push Braude to become one of just a handful of San Diego Section runners to ever win a state title in cross country.

He jokingly credits his siblings for his development as a runner.

“My family says it’s … because they used to chase me around with a cricket bat when I was younger,” said Braude, who was raised in South Africa, where cricket enjoys great popularity.

He decided to give up soccer early in his freshman year, when it became apparent the demands of competing on the cross country and track and field teams would be too much to accommodate a third sport.

It wasn’t an easy decision, though.

Braude had looked forward to following in the footsteps of brothers Liran, who graduated in 2007, and Liad (2009), both of whom played on Falcons teams that won Palomar League and San Diego Sections championships.

“I felt it was time for a change and time to focus on something I was good at,” Braude said. “I saw what I wanted to become when I started. I guess that just kind of pushed me to do the best that I can.”

Braude’s decision had his soccer family’s blessings.

“My family is really good about not putting on pressure on you,” he said. “As long as you’re happy, they’re fine with it, because that’s what counts.”

But Braude has put pressure on himself. He said his family instilled a whatever-it-takes mentality in him at a young age. His father, a karate instructor, taught Braude and his brothers martial arts.

Braude credits Billmeyer and Karpowich for being role models who helped him keep his focus when he was just starting his distance running career.

“I’ve had great teammates and coaches who’ve been pushing me and sticking by me,” he said.

In a sport that inherently emphasizes individual accomplishments, Braude has embraced the team concept.

He cites mentoring younger teammates among his most important contributions to the program, and helping lead the cross country team last year to its first San Diego Section title in recent memory ranks right up there with his individual state title among his most important accomplishments.

“It was a big deal, because we hadn’t gotten first in a really long time,” he said. “I was so pumped, and my coaches were so pumped.”

Thorne said Braude contributed to the development of up-and-comers Spencer Dodds (who has since moved to Temecula) and Ian Hutchinson, among others. He believes Braude’s blueprint offers lessons for other athletes.

“He’s one of those stories that you love to tell as a coach,” he said. “He had big goals and big dreams. He had some talent, but we didn’t know how much, and I think he maximized his talent and his potential by hard work and dedication.”

Del Mar Union School District announces the appointment of two new leaders

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 01:00

The Del Mar Union School District has named Mike Galis as the Director of Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities. Prior to accepting the position in DMUSD, he has been the Director of Facilities in Maine Township High School District 207, which is located in a suburb in the Chicago area. Galis will begin his position in the Del Mar school district on July 7.

Also joining the Del Mar Union School District leadership team is assistant principal, Abby Farricker. Farricker is currently a fifth grade teacher at Del Mar Hills Academy, and prior to coming to the Del Mar school district taught in the Boston Public School District. Farricker will be assigned to Ocean Air School and Sage Canyon School beginning August, 2014.

The Effects of Health Care Over-Regulation

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 17:08

By Joseph Franz

As much as those of us in the patient care field support the triple aim of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—better care for populations, better health for individuals, and lower per-capita costs—one aspect of the new health care system that many of us find frustrating is the sheer number of regulations (of which there are well over 10,000 pages). Of course, government regulation of healthcare is necessary, but because health care regulations are enforced by all levels of government and private organizations, it’s terribly inefficient. Consequently, many of the ACA’s regulations are, ironically, undermining the goals that the ACA hopes to achieve.

Government regulations are increasingly attempting to standardize care. However, a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment alienates populations. The government’s standardization of care leaves the decision of a treatment’s effectiveness in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the experts—the physicians. Therefore, health plans are not necessarily tailored to patients’ needs, which can affect the health of individuals and populations.

Over-regulation also compromises patient care because physicians are forced to spend more time complying with regulations (i.e., paperwork, credentialing, pre-authorizations, and quality measure data), which leaves them less time to interact with patients. Patient/physician interaction is key to improved healthcare, but much to the chagrin of both doctors and patients, the new regulations are relying more on technology and less on humanity. For example, one ACA requirement is that all patients have an electronic health record (EHR); however, in their current state, EHRs can’t exchange health information electronically. Consequently, physicians still rely on faxed medical documents from outside providers and have found instances in which the data entered about the patients is either extraneous or inaccurate.

EHRs have also been found to be more expensive than expected, which brings us to another effect of government over-regulation: the high cost. Complying with all the regulations costs the US approximately $7 billion. Again, this is due to the all the paperwork physicians, government, and private companies have to do. These costs ultimately trickle down to the patients.

At Encinitas Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, we believe it’s important to educate our patients about the pros and cons of the changes in health care reform. We also do our best to take advantage of the benefits for our patients and mitigate the costs by staying focused on providing them with optimum care. For questions about skilled nursing and rehabilitation care of you or a loved one, please visit us at or call us at (760) 753-6423.

High school student parking fees under scrutiny

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 16:41

Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

At $40 annually per vehicle, the San Dieguito Union High School District collected over $77,000 in fees this year from students for campus parking permits.

With an overall budget this year of about $107 million, $77,000 may seem insignificant. But there’s a principle at stake here, says Sally Smith, a San Diego attorney and relentless crusader for equal access in public education.

Smith has taken on dozens of school districts throughout California for what she claims are illegal fees that exclude or discriminate against low-income students.

A Uniform Complaint filed by Smith against SDUHSD on May 2 itemized five areas of questionable practices, one of which was student parking fees.

“It is strictly a fee to generate revenue directly from the students which is illegal,” her complaint reads. “[S]tudents are used to generate tens of thousands of dollars and only they bear the burden, not the adults. No district should impose a fee which makes it more difficult for students to get to school, particularly indigent students.”

In her complaint, Smith argued that parking on campus is related to an educational activity, and schools cannot charge fees for educational activities. Supporting this claim, Smith said that “students may have their parking pass revoked for behavior issues … so it is used as student discipline.”

She also noted that staff is not charged for parking on campus, only students. “The parking fees have been imposed unilaterally on only the students,” she said. “School districts that charge fees such as colleges require visitors, staff, and students to pay parking fees. UCSD is an example. The law is fairly applied to all citizens and does not single out minors to bear the burden of the cost for parking.”

Students, she wrote, are required to use their vehicles for school events, and students who can afford the fee “have an advantage over students who cannot pay parking fees because they have access to their vehicles for extracurricular activities.”

In addition, she said the district “recognizes that there are indigent students by requiring students to identify as charity cases to get the [parking] fee waiver, thus causing humiliation and shame to a child …”

Finally, Smith said there must be a specific law that allows school districts to charge particular fees, and there is no such California law identifying parking on school property as a legitimate fee.

She also claimed that the governing board of a school district must approve such fees, and San Dieguito’s board has never taken this action.

To support her arguments, Smith cited guidelines from the Tulare high school district which state that lawful fees must be specified in the California Education Code and must be authorized in advance by the school district’s board of trustees.

“The law requires any public agency, including school districts, to hold a public hearing, at which oral or written presentations can be made, as part of a regularly scheduled public meeting, before adopting any new fee or approving an increase in an existing fee,” guidelines state.

Smith cited a legal interpretation on the issue, which reads in part: “Title 5 says that any fees charged to students must be specifically authorized by law. …

“Although Vehicle Code 21113 has been interpreted as to allow such fees, some attorneys have suggested that without specific authorization in the Education Code, the fees may not be charged since the Vehicle Code only speaks in terms of parking regulations.

“Therefore, districts should consult legal counsel prior to the levying of such fees.”

That is exactly what San Dieguito did.

After consulting with legal counsel, Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, wrote in his May 30 response to Smith’s Uniform Complaint that, under the law, “schools may charge fees for items not related to ‘educational activities.’ Vehicle Code 21113 has been interpreted to include allowing schools to charge for parking.”

Case law analyzing the Vehicle Code section “allows for the governing bodies of public entities to impose regulations on cars parked on their property,” he wrote.

Despite the apparent requirement that governing boards must establish fees, Dill said Smith’s claim that the fees must be set by the governing board is inaccurate.

“The Vehicle Code section specifically allows the condition or regulation to be set by the governing board or officer of the public school,” his response reads. “As such, the principal or other school officer could set the parking permit fees without violating the California Constitution’s guarantee to a free public education.”

Dill said the practices detailed in the complaint do not violate the “free school” guarantee. “The district and its constituent schools may charge fees for parking,” he concluded. The schools, he said, are complying with the law.

Free parking

Information provided by Dill showed that student parking fees collected during the 2013-2014 school year were, by school: $18,862 from Canyon Crest Academy, $25,422 from Torrey Pines High School, $11,736 from San Dieguito Academy, and $21,280 from La Costa Canyon High School.

This totaled $77,301, about the same as last year, Dill said. All the money goes into the district’s general fund and does not stay with the schools, he said.

In an interview, Dill said the district received a comprehensive review in 2004 from legal counsel that examined everything schools were charging fees for, and “we had the opinion that we were okay on parking.”

On the question of whether fees can be charged if not specifically authorized by the Education Code, Dill said, “Our position is that driving to school is not a requirement. Nobody gets a grade for driving to school.”

He said students can get to school any number of ways. “Any student can walk, ride, skateboard, carpool, get dropped off by parents, take the bus, take public transportation,” he said.

Staff could also get to school any number of ways, but they don’t get charged a fee to park on campus, which is precisely Smith’s point.

Whether staff should pay for parking if students have to, Dill said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen that particular argument, that you can’t charge a fee unless you charge adults as well, so that’s a new one.”

Dill said one reason the schools charge students to park on campus is to control traffic in the student parking lot, because there can be more students wanting to drive to school than available spaces. That is not an issue in the staff parking lot, he said.

“That’s one way to control the traffic in the parking lot,” Dill said.

A simple solution to that would be to issue permits at no charge until the number of spaces available have been allotted. So it’s hard to understand how charging for parking reduces demand, unless it’s to weed out those who can’t afford the permit fee.

No legal authority

Smith said Dill cited a court case that applies only to private universities.

“Colleges charge for tuition, books, parking, etc., but the Constitution does not provide for a free college education,” she said, whereas it does for K-12 public schools.

“Calif. Code of Regulations § 350 states that any lawful fee must be specifically authorized by the state legislature,” she said, claiming there is no legal authority for San Dieguito to collect these fees which are therefore illegal.

“Parking fees are particularly egregious because the school district does not require staff nor visitors to pay parking fees, just the teenagers,” Smith wrote in an email.

High school students, she said, “are singled out for the fees to generate revenue while employees pay nothing. I believe parking fees must be returned to students.”

Rick Schmitt, SDUHSD superintendent, said the district is diligent about making sure that no illegal fees are charged to students and that low-income students have equal access to all educational experiences.

“Kids never have to self-identify, and no questions are ever asked,” he said.

Several years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union requested extensive information from California school districts on the subject of student fees and reviewed the material from SDUHSD in depth.

“The ACLU agreed we do all we can,” Schmitt said. “We’ve really gone out of our way.”

But Smith doesn’t mince words. She noted how many tens of thousands of dollars parents in the San Dieguito district donate to their schools, and said charging students additional fees is not just illegal but unreasonably excessive.

“Educators have lost their way,” she said.

Whatever one may think of Smith, no one can argue that she is not driven with a purpose and armed with steely determination to represent the under-represented.

Sally Smith keeps us honest, is a mirror to our conscience, and reminds us all that not everyone is privileged to have the economic advantages in life that some school districts take for granted.

Marsha Sutton can be reached at

Carmel Valley native a nominee for the 2014 Major League Soccer All Star game

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 11:43

A.J. Soares Courtesy photos

By Karen Billing

A.J. Soares, the only Major League Soccer player to come out of Torrey Pines High School, is having one of his best professional seasons this year. The 25-year-old athlete has been the New England Revolution’s most consistent presence on defense this year, playing every minute of every game so far. Soares has also helped the team on the attacking end, scoring a memorable goal at Philadelphia in week 11.

Soares’ strong efforts have made him a nominee for the MLS All Star game. Fan votes will decide whether Soares gets the chance to represent the United States and showcase the league in a match against Germany’s Bayern Munich.

The All Star game will be held on Aug. 6 in Portland and will air on ESPN2. Fans can vote for Soares online at through July 11.

The center defenseman is now in his fourth season with the New England Revolution.

“My dream my whole life has been to play professional soccer, and to play the sport I love every day for my job, it’s pretty awesome,” said Soares. “I’m just a normal kid from the Carmel Valley area, and it shows it’s very attainable if you work hard.”

Soares played with San Diego Surf Soccer from the time he was 7 years old until he was 18. His best memories from the early Surf days are of the San Diego Surf Cup, a tournament held every summer at the San Diego Polo Field.

“I always loved representing the club at what felt like a huge tournament,” Soares said.

He went on to play at UC Berkeley, where he was named the 2010 first team All American and 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year. In his four years at Cal he missed only two games and helped his team advance to three NCAA Tournaments, including the national quarterfinals in 2010.

A.J. Soares and Servando Carrasco (Houston Dynamo) from their days at Surf Soccer Club.

New England picked Soares as the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Soares said the team has given him an amazing opportunity.

“My most memorable moment in soccer so far was my debut in 2011,” Soares said. “It was my first professional game and I played in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, in front of all my friends and family and against one of my idols, David Beckham.”

He is used to playing against famous soccer players and doesn’t get starstruck, but he does enjoy the chance to play against some of the best in the world, such as Thierry Henry, Alessandro Nesta, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and all of Manchester United and Inter Milan.

The 6-foot Soares is described as a skilled defender and very physical leader on the field.

“My best strength as a defender is my brain. I always think my way through games and try to plan well and be one step ahead of my opponents,” said Soares. “I also love the camaraderie of soccer, so I get fired up during games and love to fight to win with my good friends that are my teammates.”

In addition to playing for the Revolution, Soares is also the team’s representative for The Sports Museum’s Boston vs. Bullies educational program, where he teaches anti-bullying behavior to Boston-area kids. He is also a volunteer assistant soccer coach for the Harvard University men’s soccer team. Harvard’s head coach, Pieter Lehrer, was the assistant coach at Cal when he played there.

“We are very close friends, and I enjoy working with such great students who are also great players,” Soares said.

The MLS season is essentially a full-year gig with only December off. At the midway point, the Revolution team is in a good spot in second place in the eastern conference at 7-5-2 behind DC United.

“We want to make the playoffs. We just have to stay on top of the table and keep winning games,” Soares said.

Last week, Soares was spending some time away from Boston in San Diego and taking the opportunity to watch a lot of World Cup soccer.

“To me, it’s the best sporting event ever to watch,” he said.

While Soares has done some analyst work with Comcast New England’s World Cup coverage, he does not believe broadcasting is in his future — he has his sights set on making a World Cup team himself four years from now.

Vote Soares into the All Star game at