LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch High athletes across the board can agree on one thing: When it comes to being a student athlete, balance is key.
Over the past year, hundreds of Mustang athletes have striven to divide their time evenly among sports, schoolwork and other commitments. The road hasn’t always been easy, but their hard work and dedication has paid off in dividends both on and off the field.
“There’s a joke that we say, ‘Sleep, good grades, social life; pick two,’” junior Kristin Zarrella said. “In my opinion, the toughest part about being a student athlete is trying to find a balance of time. Sports and school can be demanding, and the challenge arises to manage time well.”
On May 23, Lakewood was awarded the Florida High School Athletic Association’s overall Academic Team Championship for Class 6A. The FHSAA Academic Team Champion recognition program recognizes and honors teamwork not only in competition but also in the classroom. The top 10 schools in each category are awarded points based on how they finished. Lakewood scored 123 points to 115 for runner-up Naples Barron Collier.
The following week, Lakewood recognized more than 300 athletes for their commitment to the classroom during the Mustangs Scholar Athlete Awards Banquet May 29.
Athletes needed to maintain a 3.5 GPA during their specific sports seasons to receive the honor. Seniors Ariel Basden and Jesse Spinelli were recognized as the scholar athletes with the highest GPA.
“It’s a huge honor to be a scholar athlete because it shows that you can excel in more than just one thing,” senior Devin McDermott said. “It’s just such a privilege to be associated with such a remarkable group who have accomplished so many things in the classroom and on the field as well. I definitely appreciate the award because it’s not easy to maintain a high GPA while staying committed to my two sports all year.”
“It’s an honor to be recognized as a scholar athlete,” Zarrella said. “I think being a scholar athlete means that you understand your priorities and use your time and energy wisely with the ultimate goal of excelling in the future.”
Over the course of the 2011-12 school year, 22 sports teams made the Academic All-State team with 18 teams finishing in the top 10, including girls soccer, boys tennis, football, cheerleading and boys weightlifting, which all were named state champions.
Athletically, the Mustangs crowned seven district champions, five regional champions and one state champion with 11 teams finishing in the top 10 in the state.
“Lakewood Ranch’s athletic program is top of the line,” senior Hannah Asay said. “We athletes take school very seriously. We love our sports, but at the same time are concerned about our future and what goes beyond sports.”
Most recently, Lakewood was announced the winner of the Class 6A Floyd E. Lay Sunshine Cup All-Sports Award. Points are awarded to schools based on how they finish in the FHSAA State Series competition in each sport in their respective classifications. The top 16 places are scored. The Mustangs finished with 905 points to 724 for runner-up Gainesville. Lakewood finished second last year in Class 4A.
“To me, it is astounding that, as a school, we won both awards,” Zarrella said. “I think it really showcases the efforts that our student athletes, teachers, coaches, and parents put forth throughout the year. These awards recognize what so many people have taken for granted — the hard work and persistence that Lakewood’s students and teachers have seemingly mastered to qualify our school as (according to the awards) the best academic and athletic school.”
“The fact that LRHS claimed both titles blows me away,” McDermott said. “It makes me extra proud to say I’m a Mustang, because these awards aren’t won by one player or one team, it’s the entire athletic program at Lakewood really stepping up all year and performing at such an impressive level. It’s a program not only full of talent, but hardworking coaches and athletes. These kids aren’t recruited or trained professionally; they aren’t different from any other school. It’s just their dedication to what they do that sets them apart.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].