Following a season in which Broward County high schools won 25 state championships, there was plenty of athletic greatness to celebrate.
The Miami Herald did that Friday morning, honoring the county’s best athletes and coaches at the Signature Grand ballroom in Davie at its annual All-Broward Athletic Awards breakfast presented by The Orange Bowl. Athletes and Coaches of the Year were awarded in 17 sports at the event, which drew a crowd of over 900.
Four of those talented athletes – St. Thomas Aquinas’ Richerd Desir-Jones and Nikki Lyons, Hallandale’s Kimani Rushing and American Heritage’s Torrance Gibson took home state championships this season, and Friday took home the coveted Athlete of the Year trophies.
“To hear my name called is a blessing because I’ve been working for this since I was a freshman,” said Gibson, the Patriots’ senior quarterback, who is headed to Ohio State, led them to their second consecutive state title and won a state title on the track and field team as part of its 1,600-meter relay. “It was a rough road for me and my family at times, but we stuck with it and American Heritage helped change our lives forever.”
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American Heritage and St. Thomas Aquinas combined for 10 of the county’s team state titles and each took home the All-Sports trophies, honoring the most successful athletic programs in the county.
Aquinas, which won the Class 8A-6A Trophy swept that category also winning the 8A-6A Boys’ and Girls’ Major Awards. American Heritage, which won the 5A-1A All-Sports, also won the Girls’ Major Trophy.
Cardinal Gibbons, however, broke up the sweep by winning the Boys’ Major Trophy primarily on the strength its boys’ basketball team winning its first state title and a state runner-up season in wrestling.
Lyons, who is headed to Pepperdine University, after leading to Aquinas to its third state title in school history was still a little shocked after winning the award.
“I was really surprised,” Lyons said. “It’s actually crazy to me. I’m still shaking. There are so many good athletes in Broward. I’m really honored.”
Desir-Jones, who signed with the University of Florida, said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Ryan Crozier and win the 8A-6A Athlete of the Year award. After helping bolster the Raiders’ state championship offensive line and finishing as the county’s top heavyweight in wrestling, Desir-Jones got his wish.
“This award is very special for me and I wanted to strive for this,” Desir-Jones said. “Ryan is someone I look up to and I’m very humbled by this.”
Rushing broke through this season for Hallandale, led them to their first state title and became the talk of the track and field community. She won three events at state and, only a junior, should be in store for a tremendous senior season.
“It was tough this season, but I pushed through and did my best,” Rushing said.
Blanche Ely boys’ basketball coach Melvin Randall was also honored with the Overall Boys’ Sports Coach of the Year award. Randall, also the Co-Winner of the Class 8A-5A Basketball Coach of the Year award with Gibbons coach Marty Seidlin, led Ely to a 28-0 record this season and the Class 7A state title. It was the first perfect season by a public school in Broward County history.
Coral Springs Charter softball coach Mark Montimurro won the Overall Coach of the Year Award for Girls’ Sports. Montimurro, who won two state titles at Hollywood Christian earlier in his career, led the Panthers to their first state title and an undefeated regular season.
The Herald also presented Westminster Academy water polo coach Denise Israels with its Leo Suarez/Walter Krietsch Courage Award. The annual award meant to honor the memory of those two former Miami Herald editors salutes courage in the face of adversity. Israels coached her team this season despite having suffered a stroke at the end of the prior season, and led the Lions boys and girls to district championships.
Herman Vernon, Broward County President of Track and Field officials, was also presented with The Herald’s Lifetime Achievement Award.