EDITOR'S TRAVEL ITINERARY

Missing the first CIF state track finals in years will be painful, but seeing perhaps two teams lock up No. 1 state rankings in baseball and softball on the same day will be worth the effort.

It's a good thing gas prices are starting to dip, because my car is going to get a workout this weekend in Southern California. In a nutshell, it'll be the first night of the state track meet on Friday, a CIF Southern Section baseball title game on Saturday morning, a CIF Southern Section softball title game on Saturday afternoon and the CIF San Diego Section Div. I baseball final on Saturday night.

This became my schedule due to what happened in baseball and softball playoff games on Tuesday and the schedule of championship games as announced in both the Southern and San Diego sections.

The San Diego Div. I final between La Costa Canyon and Rancho Bernardo will have a ton of implications, both for the final state rankings as well as the final national rankings. LCC has won 26 games in a row en route to a 31-1 record and if the Mavericks win, they'll be our State Team of the Year and I can say with certainty they would also be the Student Sports FAB 50 National Team of the Year. Some will say that doesn't mean much, compared to USA Today or Baseball America, but at least the Student Sports ranking will be based in part on our own ranking system in California (one we've been doing for nearly 20 years) and not compiled by someone from the other side of the country who chooses to ignore us.

It's always a blast to see a team take a crack at a final No. 1 ranking in person and I wasn't sure I wanted to miss the state track finals for the first time in ages. But I know I will be able to get someone else to easily cover it for us. Besides, baseball and softball in recent years have become more of a priority for us because those are sports we do rankings in and track is a sport that is covered quite well by other web sites.

I was surprised a little that the CIF Southern Section did not start the Pacifica of Garden Grove softball game later than 1 p.m. at Irvine's Barber Park. The Pacifica baseball team is playing at 10 a.m. in its title game at Edison International Field, so it will be tough for Mariner fans to watch all of both games. I'm going to do the same double-dip because Irvine is on the way to San Diego from Anaheim anyway. I'll also be able to see La Quinta of Westminster play in that same 10 a.m. game, which could turn out to be for a No. 1 state ranking if Rancho Bernardo were to win later in the evening and Chatsworth were to lose somewhere down the line in the L.A. City Section.

Pacifica's softball team won't be No. 1 in the nation, but coach Rob Weil's team will be a very solid No. 1 for California if it wins on Saturday against La Mirada. There certainly isn't going to be a debate like there could be in baseball even if La Costa Canyon wins. If Pacifica is upset, next in line for the No. 1 ranking looks like Notre Dame of Salinas (31-2).

Some may ask why I'd go see any of the state track meet at all if I wasn't planning on being at the finals. That event happens to be the best collection of prep athletic talent at any one site perhaps anywhere at any time in the nation. You've not only got future world-class track athletes competing, but many who will go on to play professionally in many other sports. All those athletes aren't all there on Saturday and the first day of the meet is a great opportunity to connect names with faces. It's also a great opportunity to connect with many of the best prep sportswriters in the state, some I've known for many years, so I like to get there a little early before all the results come pouring in and everyone in the press box starts locking in on their deadlines.

Three years ago, I followed a similar Saturday schedule on the final prep sports weekend of the California school year. I first drove to Dodger Stadium for a morming Southern Section baseball title game in which West of Torrance was denied the state's No. 1 overall ranking due to a loss to Villa Park. Then I went to Cerritos College for almost all of the CIF state track meet, having to leave a little early to go to nearby Lakewood for the Southern Section Div. I softball final between Mater Dei and Foothill in which the winner would be national and state team of the year. Foothill was the team that did the celebrating.

So barring any traffic problems, look for me on Friday evening at Cerritos College, then during the Saturday 10 a.m. game in Anaheim, followed by the Saturday 1 p.m. game in Irvine, and finally down in Border Town for the 7 p.m. game. Anybody got a plane -- or one of those transporters from Star Trek -- I can borrow?


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