For a few minutes, the main stage at Jungle Island belonged to a school of “Barracudas.”
Coral Reef High School had a banner year that included the school’s first state championship in softball and trips to the state finals in boys’ and girls’ volleyball.
And Wednesday morning the Barracudas took advantage of the chance to celebrate their memorable year by winning their first All-Sports Trophy — the most prestigious school award given by The Miami Herald at its annual All-Dade Athletic Awards breakfast.
The event, sponsored by Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and The Orange Bowl, drew a crowd of more than 1,100 and honored the top athletes and coaches in Miami-Dade County in 18 sports.
Coral Reef won the Class 8A-5A All-Sports Trophy and the Girls’ Major Sports Award in the category.
During the acceptance portion, Coral Reef coaches and faculty, including Principal Adrianne Leal, and players crowded the stage posing for pictures and celebrating the momentous occasion for the school.
“We have to savor this because it’s a first for our school,” said Coral Reef boys’ and girls’ volleyball coach Yasmin Ortiz, who won Coach of the Year honors in both categories.
Among the big winners for Coral Reef were softball coach Dario Rodriguez, who earned Overall Girls’ Sports Coach of the Year honors as well as for Class 8A-6A softball. Coral Reef pitcher Dayna Wilson and shortstop Kylan Becker won the Pitcher and Player of the Year honors, respectively. Boys’ volleyball standout Cedric Hankerson won Player of the Year honors in his sport.
Gulliver Prep won the Class 4A-1A All-Sports Award and the Girls’ Major Sports Trophy after a stellar season that included state championships in softball, girls’ water polo and boys’ and girls’ tennis. The Raiders won 12 awards combined.
Booker T. Washington, which won a state football championship and was a state runner-up in track and field, took home the Class 4A-1A Boys’ Major Trophy. Columbus secured the Boys’ Class 8A-5A Boys’ Major Trophy.
After guiding Norland’s boys’ basketball team to its second consecutive state championship and fourth in the past eight seasons, coach Lawton Williams III won the Overall Boys’ Sports Coach of the Year award. Williams also won the Boys’ Basketball Class 8A-6A Coach of the Year award.
Northwestern football and track and field star Artie Burns was selected as the Class 8A-5A Male Athlete of the Year. Burns, a state champion in two hurdles events and first team All-Dade defensive back headed to the University of Miami, became the first Northwestern boys’ Athlete of the Year since former UM basketball star Tim James in 1995. Burns, who was in class and could not attend the event, also won Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year honors.
On the girls’ side, South Dade track and cross-country star Barbra Vilson capped her career by winning the Class 8A-5A Female Athlete of the Year award. Vilson was a first-team All-Dade recipient in cross-country and track and field and became the first girls’ recipient of the award and only the third overall joining Kendrick Sanders (2008-09) and Herman Jones (1973-74).
Ransom Everglades junior Chelsea Johnson won the Class 4A-1A Female Athlete of the Year award after earning first team All-Dade honors in swimming and water polo. Johnson is following in the footsteps of her older sister, Ashleigh, a former two-time Water Polo Player of the Year, who set multiple college records as a freshman at Princeton.
“I didn’t really expect it, to be honest, but I was really excited,” Johnson said.
“Winning awards like these like my sister did make me feel like I’m headed on the same winning path she is.”
Dade Christian three-sport star Gary Sampson earned the Class 4A-1A Male Athlete of the Year trophy becoming the school’s first male recipient and first since Lavesa Glover won the girls’ award in 2005. Sampson was the starting quarterback for the Crusaders, leading them to their first state championship game appearance. He averaged over 20 points per game on the basketball team and helped the track team finish third at state. Sampson was on a senior trip and could not attend the event.
South Dade athletic director Joel Furnari was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Furnari, who has been the school’s athletic director since 1984, is retiring this season.
Braddock junior running back Davonte Pollard was honored with the Leo Suarez/Walter Krietsch Courage Award. The honor is bestowed annually to individuals in the local high school sports community who exemplify extraordinary courage overcoming adversity.
Pollard, who has been battling retinitis pigmentosa since age 9 and has been left legally blind, managed to play varsity football for the Bulldogs this season.