One was chosen for dominating in his sport so completely that world records fell, the other was picked for being about as versatile as you can get. But Aaron Peirsol from Newport Harbor High of Newport Beach and Julia Pitts from North High of Torrance now share a common honor. Both have been named 2001-2002 State Athletes of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.

Peirsol already made a name for himself in swimming at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, when he won a silver medal in the 200-meter backstroke. He had not yet taken a class as a junior at Newport Harbor at the time and such a strong showing by such a young swimmer only proved to be a glimpse of what was yet to come.

At the 2002 Short Course World Championships that were held in Moscow last April, Peirsol broke the world record in the 200 back for the second time. He clocked 1:51.17 and smashed the previous best of 1:51.62 held by Australia's Matt Welsh and Croatia's Gordan Kozulj. Peirsol then teamed up with three other Americans to break the world record in the 400-meter medley relay. The U.S. squad timed 3:29.00 and surpassed the old standard of 3:29.88 set in 1999 by Australia.

The University of Texas-bound senior could have gone back to Newport Harbor and cruised through the rest of the school year. But that wouldn't do. Peirsol instead re-joined Newport Harbor's team -- how many world record holders would do that? -- and proceeded to lead the Sailors to the CIF Southern Section Div. I team title. Peirsol did not swim the 200 back at the high school level, but in the section finals he took firsts in the 100 back and 200 free. Peirsol also anchored Newport Harbor to first-place finishes in the 200 free relay and 400 free relay.

Peirsol is the sixth swimmer to be picked State Boys Athlete of the Year since 1960. The other four have been Jesse Vasallo (Mission Viejo) for 1977-78, Brian Goodell (Mission Viejo) for 1976-77, Tim Shaw (Wilson, Long Beach) for 1973-74, Mark Spitz (Santa Clara) for 1967-68 and Don Schollander (Santa Clara) for 1963-64. Those selections have been made retroactively, based on research, prior to the 1980-81 school year and extend back to 1890-91 in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book and Almanac.

Pitts probably never had time to even take a dip into a pool. But for all she did during the 2001-02 year she definitely deserves to take a long, relaxing one.

The North Torrance senior ranks as one of the state's top three-sport girls athletes in recent years. She used her 6-2 height to earn all-league honors in volleyball in the fall and then averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds per game in basketball. In the spring, Pitts stood out in numerous track and field events, but in the CIF state meet it was in the high jump, 300-meter intermediate hurdles and 400. Pitts cleared 5-9 in the high jump to place third, clocked 42.46 in the hurdles to place second and zipped to a 55.33 time in the 400 for a fifth.

Pitts signed a letter of intent in the fall to play basketball at UCLA. She also will go out for the track team and after one season may even give volleyball a try. She will not be only member of her family playing at the Div. I college level, either. Julia's older brother, Chester, is a 6-4, 305-pound football lineman at San Diego State and another brother, Devin, is a wide receiver at USC.


OF THE YEAR (all-time list)

(All selections by Cal-Hi Sports)

2001-02 -- Aaron Peirsol (Newport Harbor, Newport Beach)

2000-01 -- Antwon Guidry (Leigh, San Jose)

1999-00 -- D.J. Williams (De La Salle, Concord)

1998-99 -- Chris Lewis (Poly, Long Beach)

1997-98 -- C.C. Sabathia (Vallejo)

1996-97 -- Ken-Yon Rambo (Poly, Long Beach)

1995-96 -- Chris Claiborne (J.W. North, Riverside)

1994-95 -- Eric Guerrero (Independence, San Jose)

1993-94 -- McKay Christensen (Clovis West, Fresno)

1992-93 -- Calvin Harrison (North Salinas, Salinas)

1991-92 -- Jason Kidd (St. Joseph, Alameda)

1990-91 -- Rob Johnson (El Toro)

1989-90 -- Ryan Hancock (Monta Vista, Cupertino)

1988-89 -- Lorenzo Neal (Tulare)

1987-88 -- Adam Keefe (Woodbridge, Irvine)

1986-87 -- LeRon Ellis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)

1985-86 -- Brian Johnson (Skyline, Oakland)

1984-85 -- George Porter (Cabrillo, Lompoc)

List continues back to 1890-91 in Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac.


OF THE YEAR (all-time list)

(All selections by Cal-Hi Sports)

2001-02 -- Julia Pitts (North, Torrance)

2000-01 -- Lashinda Demus (Wilson, Long Beach)

1999-00 -- Monique Henderson (Morse, San Diego)

1998-99 -- Rometra Craig (Mitty, San Jose)

1997-98 -- Amanda Freed (Pacifica, Garden Grove)

1996-97 -- Tayyiba Haneef (Laguna Hills)

1995-96 -- Kerri Walsh (Mitty, San Jose)

1994-95 -- Marcy Crouch (Marina, Huntington Beach)

1993-94 -- Suzy Powell (Downey, Modesto)

1992-93 -- Marion Jones (Thousand Oaks)

1991-92 -- Marion Jones (Thousand Oaks)

1990-91 -- Marion Jones (Thousand Oaks)

1989-90 -- Lisa Leslie (Morningside, Inglewood)

1988-89 -- Janet Evans (El Dorado, Placentia)

1987-88 -- Janet Evans (El Dorado, Placentia)

1986-87 -- Michele Granger (Valencia, Placentia)

1985-86 -- Terri Mann (Point Loma, San Diego)

1984-85 -- Elaina Oden (Irvine)

List continues back to 1890-91 in Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac.

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