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By Zach Cavanagh
After a two-year hiatus, the San Clemente Sports Wall of Fame will welcome its 25th, 26th and 27th inductees next month.
Mater Dei men’s basketball coach Gary McKnight, all-around athlete Brandi Cumin Baksic and youth sports pioneer John Springman have been selected as the latest San Clemente Wall of Fame winners. The eighth annual induction ceremony — and the first since 2019 — will take place May 14 at the San Clemente Aquatic Center in Vista Hermosa Sports Park. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public.
Recipients are selected annually by the Friends of San Clemente Foundation in coordination with the San Clemente Sports Wall of Fame Committee. The Wall currently consists of 24 world and national champions, Olympians, professional or outstanding athletes, coaches, mentors, and inspirational contributors to recreational programs who were born, educated, or earned their accolades while living in San Clemente.
Before becoming the winningest basketball coach in California State history, Gary McKnight was a Newt from San Clemente. McKnight’s family moved to San Clemente, where he started school as a freshman at San Clemente High School and graduated in 1971. McKnight played basketball and baseball for the Newts.
McKnight began coaching at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana in 1983, and since then he and the Monarchs have reached unattainable heights. McKnight has a 1,214-127 overall record as head coach of Mater Dei, which is the most wins in California history and fourth all-time nationally. The McKnight Monarchs won a national title in 2014, 11 state championships, 16 Southern California regional championships, 23 CIF-SS championships, and 39 Trinity League championships, with 29 consecutive league titles.
Brandi Cumin Baksic is one of the most complete inductees to the Wall of Fame. Cumin Baksic represented San Clemente in athletic competitions for most of his life. She started swimming with the San Clemente aquatics team at age 8 and eventually swam as Triton at SCHS. Cumin Baksic played club volleyball at age 13 and earned a full SCHS scholarship to Florida State University. She became a firefighter 25 years ago and works in Torrance.
At 30, still looking for an outlet for her competitive energies, Cumin Baksic turned to running, cycling and swimming and competed in competitive Olympic sprint triathlons. She placed sixth in the world in the 2007 Olympic distance triathlon for Team USA. Cumin Baksic continued down this path to a ninth-place finish at the 2009 Hawaiian Ironman World Championship. She branched out into stand-up paddleboarding and canoeing, where she became a three-time international SUP champion and a four-time champion. American outrigger canoe with the Dana Point Outrigger Canoe Club.
Anyone who was involved in San Clemente youth athletics in the 60s and 70s will know John Springman, who will be inducted posthumously. Springman was responsible for building Vista Bahia Little League Stadium and building the high school baseball dugouts. Springman initiated and coached Pop Warner football in San Clemente. He also coached Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball. Springman also funded, launched, and coached American Legion baseball. Springman is credited with inspiring several athletes at San Clemente, including Wall of Fame inductees McKnight and Sue Enquist, the all-time winningest college softball coach and an inaugural Wall of Fame inductee.
The Friends of San Clemente Foundation is a local charity that provides scholarships for children to participate in local recreation and parks programs. For more information about the Foundation or to pre-register for the 11th Annual Friends of San Clemente Golf Tournament on June 24, visit friendsofsanclemente.org or email [email protected]
Zach Cavanagh is the sportswriter for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has been covering sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email to [email protected].
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