Cathedral Catholic High School: The Evolution of Excellence

Cathedral Catholic High School: The Evolution of Excellence

Cathedral Catholic High School, located in the vibrant city of San Diego, California, is a remarkable institution known for its rich history of education, transformation, and athletic excellence. Operated by the Diocese of San Diego, this coeducational Catholic college preparatory day school has a storied past that has shaped its identity. In this post, we will explore the remarkable journey of Cathedral Catholic High School, from its beginnings as University High School and Cathedral Girls High School to its current status as a leading educational and athletic powerhouse on the West Coast.

Cathedral Catholic High School: A Journey of Transformation

The story of Cathedral Catholic High School begins with the establishment of University High School (UHS) in 1957. UHS was founded as a Catholic college preparatory institution exclusively for boys, and it was situated in the picturesque San Diego neighborhood of Linda Vista. Reverend Father James Cadden, a renowned scholar of church history, served as the school’s first principal, setting the stage for a tradition of academic excellence.

Simultaneously, Cathedral Girls High School, founded in 1943 and located on a downtown campus, was dedicated to providing a strong education within a Catholic framework. In a pivotal moment in 1970, Cathedral Girls High School merged with UHS, giving rise to a coeducational high school. This merger marked the birth of a coeducational high school, making it one of the first in the region to offer this dynamic educational experience.

Becoming the University of San Diego High School (USDHS)

With the successful merger complete, the school’s name was changed to the University of San Diego High School (USDHS) in 1986. This change represented a fresh chapter in the institution’s history and showcased its commitment to academic excellence. Over the years, USDHS became synonymous with quality education, producing over 10,000 graduates equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for success in their future endeavors.

The Linda Vista campus, overlooking the scenic beauty of Mission Bay and Mission Valley, accommodated 1,450 students. However, as the school continued to grow and excel, the need for more substantial facilities became apparent. In 1999, the Diocese of San Diego proposed a plan to relocate the school to a larger campus in Carmel Valley, sparking a new era of development and expansion. Dr. Richard Kelly, who served as the principal from 1991 to 2004, played a pivotal role during this transitional period, ensuring a smooth shift from the Linda Vista campus to the new Carmel Valley location.

Becoming Cathedral Catholic High School

The new campus was completed in the summer of 2005, and the institution officially shed its former identity as USDHS. In its place emerged Cathedral Catholic High School, a school with a fresh perspective, state-of-the-art facilities, and a commitment to nurturing the potential of its students. Mike Deely, a graduate of USDHS, served as the founding principal and played a pivotal role in the school’s early years, guiding its development and growth. Under his leadership, the institution continued to thrive and evolve.

In 2021, the Diocese of San Diego made a historic appointment by naming Marlena Conroy as the school’s principal. This appointment marked a significant moment in CCHS’s history as she became the first female principal of the school, reflecting the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Academic Excellence and Extracurricular Opportunities at CCHS

Cathedral Catholic High School is not just a place of academic excellence but also a hub for extracurricular activities and sports. The school’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education is evident through its diverse offering of activities, including football, swim/dive, water polo, basketball, sailing, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, softball, and baseball.

These extracurricular activities play a crucial role in the development of students, teaching them valuable life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and discipline. The modern facilities at the Carmel Valley campus have allowed these activities to flourish, providing students with the resources and space they need to excel in their chosen pursuits.

Athletic Excellence and Challenges at Cathedral Catholic High School

While Cathedral Catholic High School has seen remarkable success in various aspects, it has also faced challenges, particularly in the realm of athletics. The school’s 5th/6th grade football team experienced an undefeated streak that ultimately came to an end in a Christian League championship game.

The game itself had moments of back-and-forth competition, with neither team initially gaining the upper hand. However, a mistimed toss by Catholic High gave Cathedral-Carmel the lead to close out the first quarter. Cathedral added another touchdown before halftime, leading 20-0.

In this particular game, the Panthers faced Cathedral-Carmel and fell short with a score of 34-8. The CHS head coach, Michael Haik, acknowledged the physicality of the opposing team and praised their performance. He mentioned that Cathedral-Carmel had a formidable front line and a special player in Number 59. Despite their efforts, the Panthers struggled to consistently counter the strong performance of their opponents.

The Panthers made a comeback in the third quarter, scoring their first touchdown of the night, narrowing the gap to 20-8. Unfortunately, the Panther defense was unable to halt the running game from Cathedral-Carmel, allowing two additional touchdowns in the second half, resulting in a final score of 34-8.

Coach Haik acknowledged the challenges his team faced due to a smaller roster size, which required them to struggle to field a full team. The loss was undoubtedly a disappointment for the players and coaches, but Coach Haik reflected on the successes his team had seen throughout the season.

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Academic Excellence and Community Involvement

Beyond athletics, Cathedral Catholic High School places a strong emphasis on academic excellence. The school is accredited by the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), ensuring that it maintains high standards in its educational programs. Additionally, the school holds membership with the College Board, which is instrumental in preparing students for college and beyond.

The dedication to academics is further reflected in the achievements of the school’s students. Over the years, Cathedral Catholic High School has consistently produced graduates who excel in various fields and make meaningful contributions to society. Whether in science, arts, humanities, or technology, CCHS alumni have made their mark and continue to inspire current students to reach for greatness.

But the spirit of Cathedral Catholic High School goes beyond academics and athletics. The school places a strong emphasis on community involvement and service. Students are encouraged to engage in charitable and community service activities, instilling in them a sense of responsibility and compassion for those in need.

The Role of Educators and Principals

One of the cornerstones of Cathedral Catholic High School’s success is its dedicated faculty and administration. The school has been fortunate to have visionary principals who have provided leadership and guidance during pivotal moments in its history. From Reverend Father James Cadden, who laid the foundation for academic excellence, to Dr. Richard Kelly, the longest-serving principal who oversaw the transition to the new campus, each leader has contributed to the school’s development.


In the heart of San Diego, Cathedral Catholic High School stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of education, transformation, and community. From its origins as University High School and Cathedral Girls High School to its current identity, the institution has evolved while holding fast to its core principles.

The merger of two separate schools in 1970 paved the way for coeducation, signaling a progressive approach to Catholic education. As the University of San Diego High School, it thrived and produced thousands of accomplished graduates. In 2005, the school embraced a new name and a modern campus, becoming Cathedral Catholic High School.

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