Legends joined with a new generation to make history this season at South Dade High School.
So there was little surprise when the Bucs took home some of the most prestigious honors at The Miami Herald’s annual All-Dade Athletic Awards breakfast Friday morning at Jungle Island.
The event, sponsored by Doctors Hospital for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and The Orange Bowl, drew a capacity crowd of nearly 1,400 and saluted a banner year in Dade that included 26 overall team state champions with one more potentially to add to the list if Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy wins the Class 6A baseball title Thursday night.
South Dade stood out among the show of champions.
After becoming the first Miami-Dade County school to win state titles in three major sports (football, baseball and wrestling) in the same calendar year, the Bucs took home the Class 8A-6A All-Sports Trophy and the Boys’ Major Trophy in the same category.
The Bucs also secured an unprecedented three-way tie in the Overall Coaches of the Year category as The Herald honored two coaching legends in baseball coach Fred Burnside, wrestling coach Victor Balmaceda and one of Dade’s promising young football coaches,Nate Hudson. Each also won the Coach of the Year awards in their respective sports.
Burnside split the 8A-6A Baseball honor with American’s Ricky Gutierrez, who guided his team to the Class 7A baseball title, and Hudson split his 8A-6A football honor with Miami Central coach Roland Smith, whose team won the Class 6A football title.
“Sixty years in the making to have a season like this especially in my first year as principal and our athletic director [Mike Polizzano’s] first year is incredible,” South Dade principal Javier Perez said. “A lot of credit goes to our coaches for the work they put in with our kids, but really I have to credit our community. I’ve been involved in the school district for 18 years and at nine different schools, but I’ve never seen a community as supportive as this one.”
Following a state championship season in which his team finished 31-1 and earned a spot in the top 20 national poll, Miami High’s Sam Baumgarten won the Girls’ Overall Coach of the Year award a short while after winning the Coach of the Year honor for 8A-6A Girls’ Basketball.
Ferguson won its first 8A-6A Girls’ Major trophy after a state final four appearance in volleyball, regional final appearances in soccer and basketball and a strong performance in track and field.
Ransom Everglades was the big winner in the small school category, taking home the Class 5A-1A All-Sports Trophy. The Raiders won state titles in girls’ volleyball, girls’ tennis and girls’ water polo and advanced to state in boys’ volleyball.
A couple of multi-sport stars from two of the nation’s best football teams took home the Male Athlete of the Year honors.
Booker T. Washington basketball and football star and University of Miami recruit Demetrius Jackson won the 5A-1A Athlete of the Year award after earning All-Dade honors in both sports. Jackson became a star defensive end the past two seasons on back-to-back state championship football teams helping the Tornadoes win a national title this season, and excelled at the forward position on a perennial playoff basketball team.
Central’s Frederick Jones won the Class 8A-6A Athlete of the Year honors. Jones was a stout defensive lineman as well for the state champion Rockets football team, but his highest honor was becoming the state’s best thrower winning state titles in both the shot put and discus.
After leading her school’s volleyball team to its first state title and playing on a state softball championship team, Westminster Christian’s Sylvia Hernandez earned 5A-1A Female Athlete of the Year honors. Hernandez, also the 4A-2A Volleyball Player of the Year, capped a distinguished volleyball career this year with state Player of the Year honors and will play this fall at the University of Miami.
“This was just an amazing way to finish and to accomplish all the things I set out to do,” Hernandez said. “My lifelong goal has been to play a sport in college and I’m excited to get to UM and see what happens.”
Another of the county’s volleyball standouts, Ferguson’s Annika Reczek, won the Class 8A-6A Female Athlete of the Year honor. Reczek was a two-time All-Dade volleyball player helping her team make it to state, also ran in track and field and was a Scholar-Athlete finalist earning a scholarship to Amherst College.
“I was pretty shocked,” Reczek said. “I think my career ended in the best way possible.”