The Broward County high school athletic season came to a close Friday morning in Davie as more than 440 athletes were honored at the annual Miami Herald All-Broward Awards Breakfast at Signature Grand.
As was the case throughout the 2013-14 season, St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage took home the lion’s share of the glory.
Presented by Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine and the Orange Bowl, Friday’s breakfast was attended by approximately 900 people.
At the end of the morning, St. Thomas Aquinas won its 33rd consecutive All-Sports Award for Broward’s large schools (Classes 8A-6A), with American Heritage winning the small-school honor for the fifth year in a row.
Of Broward County’s 20 state championship teams this season, 12 came from Aquinas and Heritage.
The Raiders won six state championships this season, and track coach Alex Armenteros won the Female Coach of the Year award. Ryan Crozier, who was an all-state selection in football and a state champion in the discus, won Male Athlete of the Year.
Crozier, an offensive lineman who will attend Connecticut in the fall, became the ninth athlete from Aquinas to win the large school Male Athlete of the Year since the award was split in 2002 and the first since current University of Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett won in 2011.
The Raiders have had 24 athlete of the year winners since Chris Evert won the school’s first such award in 1971-72. The Herald first started giving out awards in Broward County in 1965.
“We had a tremendous effort from our student-athletes in every sport,” said Aquinas athletic director George Smith, whose school has won the Herald’s All-Sports Award every year since 1982. “Our coaches did an excellent job, and our student body bought into what we were doing. We have great school support for our athletes. We just need to keep going. You win something like this, and the younger athletes feel it’s on them to keep it going.”
Said Armenteros: “We had a great season, the girls did well, as was expected. Year in and year out, we’re a targeted team. When the coaches talk around the campfire, it’s not always about winning the state championship anymore, it’s about not losing it.”
American Heritage also won six state titles and left with the boys’ and girls’ major sports award, as well as the overall All-Sports trophy for Classes 5A-1A.
First-year football coach Mike Rumph was honored as Broward’s Male Coach of the Year after leading the Patriots to their first state title. Rumph had previously won Track Coach of the Year honors.
“It’s a great feeling to have only been at Heritage a few years and for us to be able to accomplish so much,” said Rumph, a former UM standout defensive back who was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator for two years before being named head coach before the 2013 season.
“What I’m most proud of is our guys are going to great colleges. There’s no better feeling than that. They’re going to college for free. The state championship is great, and we’ll be able to look back on it. But helping these kids with their future is the biggest thing.”
Daeshon Gordon, who is headed to LSU, became only the second athlete from Northeast to be named Female Athlete of the Year, joining Cheryl Wilson (1983-84).
Gordon, whose goal is to participate in the next two Olympic Games, won state titles in both hurdles events and had times ranked among the top five nationally.
“I didn’t expect to win this, but it just shows I did the hard work that was needed,” Gordon said. “It’”s such an honor. All of the work brought a very special ending.”
Of the four individual athletes honored as tops in the county, both Sagemont’s Prince Ali and Pine Crest’s Julia Montgomery — who won state cross-country titles as a freshman and sophomore — have a chance to return to the stage next year.
Ali, a junior, led Sagemont to its second state basketball title, an unblemished 33-0 record and a berth in the National High School Tournament in New York by scoring over 18 points per game.
Broward’s Basketball Player of the Year for Classes 4A-2A, Ali has verbally committed to play at UConn in 2015-16.
“I think this is my greatest accomplishment so far,” Ali said, “aside from being able to go to the University of Connecticut and winning a state championship with my teammates. It was a great year; we really connected as a team and did some great things. Now, my next goal is to become a McDonald’s All-American. I definitely think I can do that.”
The morning started with Broward’s top scholar-athletes being honored, with Gianna Arrizurieta (American Heritage) and Eric Solomon (Western) winning the overall awards.
Arrizurieta, who is headed to Penn State, played volleyball and was an All-Broward selection in softball, helping the Patriots win the Class 5A state title. Arrizurieta finished with a 5.39 GPA and scored a 1850 on her SAT.
Solomon, who will attend Florida, played four sports at Western and was a three-time regional wrestling qualifier.