REGION — The pioneering student-athletes who participated in the inaugural season of flag football in the San Dieguito Union High School District are looking back fondly on a memorable season.
San Dieguito was one of many districts throughout the state to kick off flag football programs this fall after the California Interscholastic Federation, or CIF, approved it as a varsity sport earlier this year. In June, the school board officially added it as a district sport.
At the board’s Dec. 14 meeting, several players from Canyon Crest Academy, La Costa Canyon High School, San Dieguito High School Academy and Torrey Pines High School shared their experiences on the field.
“I believe I can speak on behalf of all of the female student-athletes who competed on their school’s flag football teams when I say that having the opportunity to play this year was very special in more ways than one,” said La Costa Canyon senior Mia DiGiulio.
Senior Camille Samarasinghe was one of 70 girls at Torrey Pines who came out to play this season, and while she plays two other sports — varsity basketball and lacrosse — she said many of the participants had never played a sport before. For her, the community of flag football was one of the best parts of playing.
“We got to come together as female student-athletes and play a sport that was new to most of us,” Samarasinghe said.
Samarasinghe also shouted out to her teammate, Laurel Gonzalez, the team’s quarterback and league player of the year.
Torrey Pines’ varsity flag football team went undefeated in the regular season and made it to the San Diego Section Division 1 CIF Championships in November, along with San Dieguito Academy. La Costa Canyon’s varsity team also made it to the Division 2 CIF Championship.
While they didn’t win a title, the players said they were proud of their progress.
Many of this year’s players were seniors who won’t get the chance to return for another season. However, having that experience in high school and paving the way for future girls to play was an honor.
“It was just great to sort of be the foundation for a growing flag football girls program to come, and just setting that stage was an amazing experience,” said Canyon Crest Academy senior Quinn Campbell.
San Dieguito Academy senior Mason Westlund reminded the community that flag football opportunities are growing even outside the district. At the 2028 Olympic Games, it will be one of several new sports in which athletes can compete at the highest level.
Westlund thanked the district board for allowing them all to play.
“I just want to say thank you guys for giving us and the district this opportunity. I really appreciate it,” she said.
Trustee Rimga Viskanta said she was moved by the students’ reflections on their season and she was proud to have supported it.
“My heart is just full at tonight’s meeting. That was amazing. I’m not exaggerating when I say that voting for that [flag football] was one of my proudest votes,” Viskanta said.