Local Olympians lauded at Orange County Youth Sports Foundation gala – Orange County Register

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It was a grand gala as the nonprofit Orange County Youth Sports Foundation honored Olympians Ann Meyers Drysdale, Janet Evans and April Ross in a Jan. 10 event emceed by veteran sportscaster and longtime Olympic television host Bob Costas.

Meyers Drysdale (Sonora High) and Ross (Newport Harbor High) were multisport athletes growing up in Orange County, while Evans (El Dorado High) won four Olympic gold medals in swimming.

“Here’s a video clip of me interviewing Janet Evans half my lifetime ago for NBC at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games,” Costas said during a panel discussion with the honorees.

Costas, a Newport Coast resident, said his three favorite moments in broadcasting were Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot against Utah in the 1998 NBA finals, Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series and Evans carrying the torch and joining Muhammad Ali for the iconic lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

“I’d give up all of my medals to do that again,” said Evans, a Laguna Beach resident and member of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic committee.

Ross, who became a mother for the first time three months ago, has won Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals in beach volleyball. She won gold with partner Alix Klineman at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, silver at the 2012 London Games with Jen Kessy, after wining gold at the 2011 World Championships in Norway, and an Olympic bronze with Kerri Walsh at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Ross, a national high school and collegiate player of the year in volleyball at Newport Harbor and USC, respectively, was an outstanding athlete in volleyball, basketball and track and field at Newport Harbor. She graduated with the Class of 2000.

Ross said she’s ready for a comeback and wants to play in the LA 2028 Games.

“We’ll throw it out there and see what the universe thinks,” said Ross, who will be 46 in 2028. “I thought 39 was too old to play (in Tokyo), and we won a gold medal. I’m going to dip my toe back into the sport, so we’ll see what happens.”

Meyers Drysdale has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an athlete and broadcaster, including becoming the first basketball player to be part of the U.S. national team while still in high school, being the first woman to be signed to a four-year collegiate athletic scholarship at UCLA and being the first woman to sign an NBA contract with the Indiana Pacers in 1979.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to be honored with the other Olympians,” said Meyers Drysdale, who played basketball for Team USA at the 1976 Montreal Games.

Meyers Drysdale has been vice president and a broadcaster for the Phoenix Suns and WNBA Mercury since 2007, winning WNBA titles in 2007, 2009 and 2014.

The OCYSF, founded in 1971 by Paul Salata, has been dedicated to supporting and enabling a thriving youth community through sport.

The annual banquet is a fundraiser and gala that celebrates the accomplishments of prominent sports figures. It is a vehicle for generating money used to enhance Orange County youth sports programs, provide opportunities for underprivileged and disabled students to attend major sporting events, and award college scholarships to graduating high school scholar/athletes. It raised $300,000 during this year’s banquet.

Costas was honored last year as the OCYSF Sportsperson of the Year. There is a list of impressive past winners that includes Dick Enberg, Rod Carew, Teemu Selänne, Jim Nantz, Pete Carroll, Terry Donahue, Bill Walsh, Jerry West, John McKay, Mike Scioscia, Tommy Lasorda, Gene Autry, Dan Gurney and a host of others.

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

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