Broward County had one of its strongest seasons in some time, ending title droughts in a few sports and compiling 17 state championships overall.
Here’s a look at some of the triumphs and memorable moments of the past season:
• Raiders rule: St. Thomas Aquinas football rarely finds itself being regarded as an underdog. But it relished that role in December, upsetting then-national No. 1 Bradenton Manatee in the Class 7A state semifinals. A week later, the Raiders capped their seventh state championship season by beating Tallahassee Lincoln in the Citrus Bowl. It was just the start of a stellar season — even by Aquinas standards — that saw the Raiders win state championships in five sports.
• All about the U-School: After seven years of building toward a title, the University School football team finally got the job done in December, winning the school’s first championship and completing a 12-0 perfect season. The Suns are now regarded among the state’s top programs.
• Lightning strikes, almost: If any team deserved to join Broward’s state championship parade it was the Cypress Bay football team. A back-and-forth battle marred by a couple of late controversial penalties ended in heartbreak for the Lightning as it fell to Apopka 53-50 in one of the highest-scoring state finals ever.
• Redemption in soccer: A different group of Cypress Bay footballers did bring home a state championship. The Lightning boys’ soccer team, in spite of losing eight players who chose to play academy soccer due to the new U.S. Soccer Federation rules, won its third consecutive state title in Class 5A.
• Breaking barriers: South Plantation senior Erin Dimeglio became one of the stories of the year across the country when she became the first female quarterback in state history to play in varsity regular-season games. Dimeglio didn’t just show up. She completed passes and became a source of inspiration for female high school athletes nationwide.
• Record-setter: Archbishop McCarthy’s baseball team overcame a few close calls in the playoffs to win a fourth consecutive state championship. The Mavericks became the first team in the state’s rich baseball history to win four in a row.
Dillard dynasty: The Dillard girls’ basketball team celebrated its own “four-peat” by winning its fourth consecutive crown. The Panthers won their eighth state championship overall under legendary coach Marcia Pinder.
• Tiger pride: Despite incorporating four new starters into its lineup, Blanche Ely’s boys’ basketball team won its second state title in a row and ascended to a No. 9 national ranking after going 30-2.
• Nail-biters: The St. Thomas Aquinas softball team delivered two of the most dramatic victories at the state final four to win its first state championship in a decade. The Raiders recorded a pair of 1-0 victories at state thanks to great pitching performances from Meghan King and heroics by Gwen Svekis, Rachel Collins and Samantha Sharkey.
• Gold standard: The rainy weather conditions at this year’s track and field state championships in Jacksonville didn’t deter Boyd Anderson sprinter Kali Davis-White or the St. Thomas Aquinas girls. Aquinas won a state team championship and Davis-White led the Boyd Anderson 400-meter relay team to the nation’s No. 1 time, individually posted the then-No. 2 time in the 100, and a national-best 23.05 in the 200 meters setting a state record in the event.
Ending droughts: St. Thomas Aquinas’ track championship capped a huge year for its athletes, who also won a state title in girls’ cross-country — the first by any Broward school since 1998 and first girls’ team to win one since 1989.
• Polo and “the push”: St. Thomas’ boys defeated Belen Jesuit for the school’s first state boys’ water polo title. Tensions erupted after the match as a Belen player pushed an Aquinas player into the pool prompting an eventual suspension from the FHSAA. The incident itself didn’t disrupt the Raiders celebration, as both teams shook hands. The video of the incident, however, went viral shortly after appearing on sites such as Yahoo.
• Heritage scores big: American Heritage had another solid season overall, highlighted by its girls’ track and field team winning a fourth-consecutive state title. Its boys’ golf team won its first state title and its girls’ soccer team also triumphed winning the Class 3A crown.
• Tennis talent: Broward had a strong year on the tennis court as Cypress Bay and Sagemont each won boys’ state championships. A couple of new contenders emerged on the girls’ side as Cypress Bay and Pine Crest each posted top-3 finishes at state.