Jared Sims, Ben Callanan, Ellie Monson and Colette Keller (left to right) represented San Marcos cross country on Monday. (Diego Sandoval / Noozhawk Photo)

It was a packed house at the third Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon on Monday, as 25 teams were in attendance from both the high school and college ranks.

Kai Mault poses with his MVP trophy at Monday’s luncheon.

The luncheon was headlined by the presentation of the Gary Blades Memorial “Big Game” Most Valuable Player Award, which was given to Santa Barbara High’s Kai Mault, who had a standout performance in Friday’s 35-0 win over San Marcos in the rivalry matchup.

Mault split the award with Abel Renteria last season, making him a member of an elite club of players that have won the award twice.

“Kai had a great night, (he) electrified and woke us up,” Dons head football coach Nate Mendoza said. “What was impressive about Friday night is that Kai threw a pass, had I think five rushes, caught passes, had a punt return and he played defense.

“He was all over the map and I think that’s why he deserved the MVP award for that game.”

There were also plenty of first-time attendees for the year, including local cross country teams and Santa Barbara City College sports, including women’s water polo and football.

Competition for high school cross country is off and running for most schools, and the ones that have yet to start begin this week, bringing plenty of excitement to the respective teams.

Carpinteria High, represented by Noe Gomez at the luncheon, is coming off a solid showing at the Gaucho Invitational.

“We attended our first invitational a week and a half ago at the Gaucho invitational where our small team showed their large hearts earning seven medals across all events,” Gomez said.

Head coach Marilyn Hantgin and San Marcos cross country have also begun their season with a pair of meets, the first one on the road in Pomona.

“[Pomona] is a really big meet and I take everyone down there to experience what real cross country race is and to build community within our team,” Hantgin said. “It’s been an exciting start.”

Bishop Diego, meanwhile, will begin its cross country season this weekend.

“The team has been building up and improving each week as we have prepared for the season ahead,” MeLinda Matsumoto said. “In our preparation, we have experienced some setbacks with illness and minor injuries. However, the team has done a good job preserving through this and together and focus on the things we can control and the longevity of the season ahead.

“We are excited to get started and keep getting better.”

SBCC Football head coach Craig Moropoulos represented his team just two days after its first win of the season after a 34-28 victory over Saddleback. 

The Vaqueros are facing a tough test in 2023, as they are competing in the SCFA Northern Conference, one of the toughest in all of community college football.

“Playing at this level, there are no let-ups, there is no easy game,” Moropoulos said. “It’s going to be week in and week out and it’s going to be a challenge but we’re looking forward to it.”

The student-athletes in attendance, by order of appearance:

Santa Barbara High Girls Tennis: Mary Moses, Caitlyn Buist

Santa Barbara City College Women’s Water Polo: Claire Daland, Lily Carrick

Carpinteria High Cross Country: Carel Bautista, Joel de Lira

Carpinteria High Girls Tennis: Sara Fakinos, Silke Leonard

Carpinteria High Football: Talon Trumble, Dominic Castillo, Isaya Gonzalez

San Marcos High Girls Volleyball: Grace Stone, Josie Gamberdella

Santa Barbara High Girls Volleyball: Tessa de Albergaria, Nicole Schuetz

San Marcos High Football: Dante Bruice, Diego Hernandez Catalan

San Marcos High Girls Tennis: Jolie Mardiat, Victoria Chow

Bishop Diego High Girls Tennis: Haley Hubbs, Marlene Lausen

Bishop Diego High Cross Country: Konrad Smith, Sofia Hill

Bishop Diego High Girls Volleyball: Eliana Urzua, Avi Gordon

Bishop Diego High Football: Gabe Villa, Mays Pese

Santa Barbara High Football: Koa Herrera, Kai Mault, Jacob Nevarez

San Marcos High Cross Country: Elile Monson, Colette Keller, Jared Sims, Ben Callanan

Dos Pueblos High Girls Volleyball: Halle Rillie, Layla McQuiggan, Katie Sitolini

Dos Pueblos High Cross Country: Finn Wright, Cullen Gully, Vienza Machuca, Elois Shea

Noozhawk sports writer Diego Sandoval can be reached at dsandoval@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter @NoozhawkSports