Top 10 athletic programs for '08-09
Powerhouse Punahou School has won 61 state titles since 2005
Oklahoma-bound Keilani Ricketts finished 22-0 for San Jose's Archbishop Mitty
In his 11 years as athletic director at the Honolulu's Punahou School Tom Holden never decorated his school's gym walls or outfield fences with championship banners. State titles, of which there have been 61 over the last four years, hold a place in Buff 'n Blue lore, but that's in the trophy case. "We just congratulate among ourselves," said Holden, who retired last Thursday. "Nothing public."
Punahou's 19 state titles during the 2008-09 school year were a nice retirement gift for Holden. Now he can add being named Sports Illustrated's top high school program for the second consecutive year. To come up with our top 10, as well as our top programs in each state, we looked for state championships and Division-I scholarship athletes and success on and off the field. Punahou was at the head of the class.
On the mainland, Jesuit High (Portland, Ore.), won seven state titles to rank just behind Punahou. Throughout the country and the District of Columbia, SI.com found schools that exemplified excellence in athletics during all seasons. Here is our top 10:
1. Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
When he presented linebacker Manti Te'o with the first national linebacker award last fall, Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus told the Notre Dame-bound bruiser, "You better show me something because a lot of people wanted me to give this trophy to an Ohio or Texas kid." That night, Te'o ran over seven tacklers while playing tailback, and proved his case. By the end of the season, Te'o earned his first football title and the school had a national face to put on its parochial accomplishments. State titles were won in a number of sports, including baseball, basketball and wrestling (the school's first). Tennis star Kristin Lim capped her career with a fourth consecutive girls singles title. The baseball team showed the most resilience. Mired in a slump and holding a record of 12-10 at midseason, the hardballers rallied to win a state title and exceed expectations.
2. Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)
The multi-sport athlete is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. Rising senior Keanon Lowe doubled as an all-state wide receiver and one of the top sprinters in Oregon with a 10.77 in the 100 meters. When he matriculates to the University of Washington next spring, he'll pass the baton to three-sport star Elizabeth Brenner, who was voted all-state as a sophomore middle blocker in volleyball. Brenner also plays center in basketball and third base in softball. The Crusaders won the Oregonian Cup (rewarded for all-around excellence) for the fifth straight year.
3. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.)
Girls just want to win titles at this NoCal power: Swimming and tennis finished with unbeaten seasons and softball and volleyball brought home No. 1 national rankings. The star of stars was Oklahoma-bound Keilani Ricketts, who finished 22-0 with an 0.10 ERA and 347 strikeouts. Rachel Williams, a rising senior who has already committed to Stanford, tallied 473 kills for the volleyball squad. Not all of the boys were overshadowed: Mitch Haniger, a 6-2 pitcher, was drafted by the New York Mets in the 33rd round.
4. The Woodlands (Texas)
Football is still king in the greater Houston area, but senior Reed Connor and the Highlander runners were the biggest story this school year. Connor, a 6-foot-1 Eagle Scout, was named Gatorade cross country runner of the year for his individual efforts in taking the Class 5A title. He followed that in the winter and spring track seasons with runner-up times in the mile and two-mile races.
5. Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.)
In claiming its 15th tennis title and adding a repeat win on the links, Rockhurst (an all-boys school) proved to be comfortable on the country-club circuit. Adding to the Hawklets depth was the championship swimming and diving team. The soccer team went 27-4 as midfielder Alex Sweetin took home player of the year honors and Christian Krueger collected top goalkeeper honors.
6. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
The Gaels dominated the baseball diamond. Jeff Malm, a fifth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays, set a national record with 277 career hits and was part of four straight state-title teams. Malm may decide to attend USC instead of going pro, but four graduating seniors will move on to play Division-I baseball. If Malm does become a Trojan, he may see junior football recruit Xavier Grimble (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) in the weight room. Though they fell in the regional-title game, four Division-I scholarship winners anchored the football squad. Boys swimming touched the wall in second to earn Class 4A runner-up honors.
7. Collins Hill (Suwanee, Ga.)
Florida State-bound Amanda Winslow, who previously earned All American honors in the mile, collected state titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events. The girls cross country program carried the baton for the runners in the fall with a state title. Junior Malcolm Miller, who has committed to Michigan, scored eight of the Eagles' nine playoff goals in leading the soccer team to its first Class AAAAA state-championship.
8. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Football garnered the most preseason hype with USC signee Matt Barkley at quarterback, and boys basketball traveled the nation with the Wear twins (Travis and David), who will be freshmen at UNC next season. Baseball opened with a 9-0 record to raise expectations, but fell in the state semifinals and finished with a 24-6 mark. Leave it to the boys volleyball team to serve up the Monarchs' crowning moment -- they won a state title.
9. Eden Prairie (Minn.)
The Eagles fought off all comers with sticks. In boys hockey, Eden Prarie finished 25-3 and won the state tournament for the first time as the No. 2 seed. In girls lacrosse, they entered as the favorites beat The Blake School (Hopkins, Minn.), in the final. The ultimate trophy was the school's second straight Challenge Cup -- a statewide, year-long competition among Minnesota's league member schools.
10. Union (Tulsa, Okla.)
The high point? That's easy, beating rival Jenks High 34-10 en route to the 6A football championship. The Redskins were more than a football school, though, as the wrestlers pinned a team state title, and 103-pounder Josh Walker and 171-pounder Joey Sheridan wrapped up individual crowns. Taylor Monaghan and Steven Baker also took top honors at the state cross-country meet.