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    Dunn: Ciarelli enshrined in CIF Hall of Fame
    • October 19, 2023

    Tony Ciarelli, a longtime and highly decorated throws coach in track and field, was enshrined in the CIF-Southern Section Hall of Fame on Oct. 18, along with his brother, Rocky, who was honored posthumously following a distinguished career as a volleyball coach.

    “I am very proud to be inducted into the CIF Hall of Fame,” Tony Ciarelli said. “To take it to another level, my late brother Rocky was also inducted for his great accomplishments in his volleyball coaching career. Not sure how many brothers have inducted together. CIF started in 1913 and has a great history of coaches throughout its history. There are over 600 high schools in the Southern Section alone. It is a great honor to receive this award.”

    Ciarelli, in his fourth year as a volunteer assistant throws coach with the UC Irvine track and field program, is also a member of the Mt. San Antonio College Relays Hall of Fame and Arcadia Invitational Track and Field Hall of Fame. Ciarelli coaches at UCI with his daughter, Katelyn, the Anteaters’ associate head coach of track and field.

    At the high school level, mostly at Newport Harbor High, Ciarelli helped his athletes win a combined 32 Southern Section divisional and Masters Meet titles, as well as coaching 52 state qualifiers in the shot put and discus throw, taking home 33 state medals.

    “Nothing like this is done alone,” Ciarelli said. “I would like to thank all of the athletes and coaches that helped me reach these great milestones.”

    Ciarelli coached at Newport Harbor from 1990 to 1996 and again from 2005 to 2020. He started his coaching career at Honolulu (Hawaii) Damien from 1979 to 1981, Edison from 1982 to 1989 and Huntington Beach from 1997 to 2004.

    Ciarelli has mentored six state champions, four in the discus and two in the shot put.

    Two of Ciarelli’s students, Huntington Beach’s Scott Moser and Newport Harbor’s Bo Taylor, rank second and third on the state’s all-time list in the discus throw, with Moser reaching 213 feet, 11 inches in 1997 and Taylor hitting 213 feet, 7 inches in 2006.

    Ciarelli, a 1972 Huntington Beach graduate, is also a highly acclaimed Olympic weight training coach and conditioning guru who has influenced myriad students and athletes throughout his career.

    Some of the Olympians Ciarelli has coached include the Netherlands’ Rutger Smith, India’s Seema Antil, Canada’s Jason Tunks and Americans Jarred Rome and Brian Blutreich, as well as Cara Heads Slaughter, who represented the U.S. at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in weightlifting. Ciarelli coached Heads Slaughter and her sister, Gina, at Newport Harbor High.

    Ciarelli, who competed in the javelin throw in track and field at the University of Hawaii, was also a highly sought-after football coach as a defensive coordinator.

    Upon his arrival in 1989 as Newport Harbor’s strength and conditioning coach, as well as defensive coordinator, Ciarelli introduced Olympic weightlifting to the football program as the Sailors, under head coach Jeff Brinkley, won four CIF-Southern Section titles and appeared in eight CIF championship games. The 1994 Sailors finished 14-0 in their first CIF championship season, completing the school’s first and only perfect season.

    “At one point, with Tony Ciarelli, we had the premier strength and conditioning program for high school sports, and you hear a lot of stories about college coaches coming through and observing,” Newport Harbor Principal Sean Boulton said.

    Rocky Ciarelli, who died in February at age 66, coached volleyball for 32 years at Edison, Huntington Beach and Newport Harbor.

    In his final season in 2019, he led Newport Harbor’s boys to the CIF Division 1 and CIF State Division 1 titles. At Huntington Beach, Ciarelli guided the boys to CIF Division 1 championships in 1993 and 1994, and the Oilers’ girls to CIF Division 2-AA and CIF State Division 2 titles in 1996.

    Richard Dunn, a longtime sportswriter, writes the Dunn Deal column regularly for The Orange County Register’s weekly, The Coastal Current North.

    ​ Orange County Register