The St. Thomas Aquinas High School athletic program, known nationally for its success in football and several other sports, was named the nation's top athletic program by MaxPreps on Friday.
By: Kevin Askeland, MaxPreps.com
When it comes to judging the top high school athletic programs in the country, the dilemma is whether or not to choose quantity over quality.
While some schools rack up numerous state titles, they may not have a team that challenges for a top spot in the national rankings for sports like football, volleyball, basketball, baseball or softball. Then there are the schools that always seem to be at the top of one national poll or the other, but win very few state titles in any other sports.
This year, St. Thomas Aquinas made the dilemma a moot point. Not only were the Raiders ranked at or near the top of the various national polls in four different sports, they also showed enough depth in the other sports to earn St. Thomas Aquinas the Florida High School Activities Association All-Sports Trophy for 17 years running.
The Raiders had plenty of competition for the title of MaxPreps Athletic Program of the Year, including one school from the state of Florida, Dr. Phillips, as well as Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.), Jesuit (Portland, Ore.) and Punahou of Honolulu.
What set the Raiders apart, however, was their recognition at the national level. The Raiders finished the year ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Football Rankings and were ranked No. 1 by other polls. The boys and girls soccer teams each won state titles and the girls were ranked No. 1 in the nation by one ranking service. St. Thomas Aquinas finished the school year by winning a state title in boys track and field, earning a No. 1 national ranking in that sport by Dye Stat.
Here's a look at the Top 10 athletic programs in the country as chosen by the MaxPreps editorial staff:
1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
The Raiders got the school year off to a good start with a state title in football and a No. 2 overall national ranking by MaxPreps. The Raiders went undefeated at 15-0 in coach George Smith's final season as he announced his retirement in March. The girls soccer team finished the year 25-1 with a state title. The team's leading scorer, Julie Schumacher, was named by the Sun-Sentinel as the 6A-5A player of the year for Broward County. The Raiders allowed just two goals on the season while scoring 146. The boys soccer team also won state title with a 19-4-2 record and was ranked among the top teams in the country.
In the spring, the Aquinas boys track team zoomed to a state championship and was ranked by Dye Stat as the top boys program in the country. The boys won two events at the state meet, capturing the 400 meters by Arman Hall and the 4x400 meter relay. The Raiders edged powerful Northwestern 63-56 for the crown.
The Raiders also had strong seasons in other sports, finishing eighth in the state in boys cross country, sixth in girls cross country, third in boys golf, 11th in girls golf, fifth in girls swimming, seventh in boys swimming, 14th in wrestling and fourth in girls track. The Raiders also reached the state quarterfinals in girls volleyball and boys lacrosse.