As far as I’m concerned, any area athlete could not do worse than making the local campus their first stop in pursuing college. Every one of those coaches are professors of their sport.

I get it. Kids want to get away from home. Area of study might not be offered. Athletic financial aid isn’t offered at the University of Redlands. A bunch of reasons.

Still.

Nothing will ever top that Villanova-at-Redlands men’s basketball showdown back on Nov. 22, 2003. Bulldogs’ coach Gary Smith threw 16 players in an all-out effort to wear down the ’Cats’ eight players, including a couple future NBA draftees.

’Cats’ coach Jay Wright (still the coach there, by the way) escaped with a 114-103 win. Quote to me from Smith afterward: “They should’ve been scared.”

Speed or power? A deft touch or a spin move? Maybe a slam dunk? A flat-out sprint .

Elusive, as on a basketball court or football field, maybe a soccer pitch or between third base and home plate.

A power serve, or a bone-crunching block?

My assignment to cover the local area concludes with this week’s editions. Forty-two years. A lot of readers put up with me for a long time. Thanks!

A loyal reader, Mike Murphy, who spent years in local media at the county newspaper and as Cal State San Bernardino’s sports information director,  suggested I go out with a piece on the best local athletes I’ve covered over a

42-year span.

Whew!

Totally impossible. Still not sure if Mike was kidding on that. It would be suicide to try.

Let me showcase that impossible request for you:

Olympic high jumper Karol Damon, for instance, was an all-sports athlete at Redlands High in the late 1980s. How am I supposed to pick between Damon and two-time state JUCO heptathlon champion Juanita Webster from the Lady Terriers’ back-to-back CIF title teams? I pass.

As a high school basketball player, I never saw anyone stop Redlands High’s Willie Wilson. Thing is, he never went up against Kim Aiken, Jr.

Think I’d like to choose between Redlands High’s Kimberly Bruins firing risers against Citrus Valley’s Ella Nadeau or Mika Lee? It would’ve really been tough trying to run on REV’s Sahvanna Jaquish.

Redlands’ Karen Jacobs, a top runner, or Heather Aldama, who could’ve been a CIF quality sprinter, were a pair of soccer-playing, goal-sniffing, fleet-footed forwards. They could do battle against REV’s Danica Bowman, a defensive whiz. Just don’t ask me to pick between them. Or Citrus Valley’s Loren Landrus or Blanco Barrio, either.

Truthfully, I think there have been plenty of area soccer players that could’ve matched Olympian and World Cup striker Landon Donovan. Just don’t ask me to name any. Lots of great ones.

I’d have been dead in the water against girls’ freestyle champ Libby Williams (REV) or Redlands sprinter Joey Hale or Terrier backstroke ace Kyle Gornay.

It must’ve been fun to watch a REV baseball practice, checking out either future major league pitchers Matt Andriese or Tyler Chatwood.

No one could catch Redlands’ Patrick Johnson on a track, not around these parts, anyway. Just asking on this: Is Joel Mitre still the only Redlander to clear 7 feet in the high jump?

Those are just a few athletes that came along on my watch.

Don’t ask me to stand on the opposite side of a tennis net with Steve Marshburn or Ken Whitmer ready to serve. I couldn’t handle any of the Mateljans — Erik, Nick, Margie. Michelle or Andrew — either. I’d have Sean Comadena standing nearby to coach.

“Obrey,” he’d probably say, “get off the court.”

I’d need catcher’s gear or a football helmet to stand in the cage against heavyweight polo shooters Melissa Fernandez or one of the Vessey sisters.

Pick the greatest athlete? I think I’ll skip Mike’s request. It’d be like trying to run for a first down with wrestler Andrew Hudson, or Jaelan Phillips and Kylie

Fitts chasing me.

Pssst. I actually thought John Fouch (Ronnie’s dad) — who could dunk a basketball, hit the fence at bat, plus he was fast — was the best I’d ever seen. His main sport? Quarterback.

Frankly, I couldn’t wait to interview REV’s Krista Vansant after a volleyball match. Vansant, devastating and indefatigable to the end, dominated both sides of the net.

Then there are the cyclists. The collegians. It’s too much, folks. This area has produced golden athletes — too many, in fact. To call out this area’s greatest athlete would be a hard, non-sacred task.

Jeff Lane, a Bay Area product, brought me here in 1979. We were both sports-crazed from the cradle. Big props to Jeff. You’ll never know.

Worked for handfuls of editors, alongside dozens of photographers, battled against rival newspaper reporters, rattled beside a few publishers, tried to make deadlines over four decades, begging loads of advertising directors for more space in the sports section — balanced by writing for thousands of readers.

Thankfully, most of them stuck with me through some tough times.

I’d like to get young and do it all over again.