The father-son story of the year in San Diego sports is Tony Gwynn coming home to play for the Padres, where his father of the same name established a Hall-of-Fame baseball career and has a statue outside the right field fence at Petco Park.
But it’s not San Diego’s only father-son success story of 2009 — just the more famous one.
University City High senior Mac Fleet matched his father, Dale, by winning a state title Saturday at the CIF State Track and Field championships before 9,517 fans Saturday night in Clovis.
In 1971, Dale Fleet won the state title in the two mile while running for Clairemont High. After Mac’s victory, Dale greeted him by saying “welcome to the club.”
“There aren’t too many houses that have two state champions,” said Mac Sunday morning upon reflecting on his accomplishment.
It should be noted that there probably isn’t a tougher state championship to win in high school sports than a California title in the sports of track and field and wrestling. That’s for a couple of reasons.
The obvious is that California is the nation’s most populace state. But the other is that track and field and wrestling in the Golden State are among the last holdouts in the nation to contest their state championships with all schools competing in one division.
This is an age of watered-down championships in high school sports, but not California track and field and wrestling.
In the fall, the Oregon-bound Fleet won the CIF State Division III title in cross-country, and he acknowledges the track title is the more rewarding accomplishment.
“First of all, it’s the best state in the nation, especially for middle-distance runners,” Fleet said. “To show you how tough it is, a guy who ran 4:11 for seventh place (4:11.89) didn’t even get on the podium (the top six earn medals).”
Although the father-son relationships for Gwynn and Fleet are in different sports, oddly enough they both started in basketball.
Tony Gwynn Jr. says basketball was his first love until he realized as a 5-foot-11 guard he had a better future in baseball.
The 6-foot-1 Mac Fleet also says basketball was his first love until he got to high school and realized he had a better future in running.
“I was always around running because of my Dad,” Mac said. “But it wasn’t until I started running as a freshman in cross country and track that I realized I had a talent for it.”
Something else both sons share with their fathers is their dads stepped back and let their sons find their own way and work with other coaches.
“My Dad put the least amount of pressure on me of anyone,” said Mac, echoing comments made by Tony Jr. “It was nice to have his advice, but he stayed out of the coaching end of it. Coach (Jim) McCarthy and my Dad come from different backgrounds in running, so I had a nice medium with them.”