Lakewood Ranch High is well-respected for its prowess across nearly every facet of athletic competition.
The Mustangs have won countless district and regional championships over the past six years and it’s rare for them not to be in the postseason mix in most sports.
This year alone, Lakewood Ranch won a girls track and field state championship, finished as the state runner-up in girls basketball and had five swimmers record second-place finishes at the state swim meet.
However, some of Lakewood Ranch's athletic success is driven by what the Mustangs have been able to accomplish in the classroom. When it comes to academic success, Lakewood Ranch has few peers.
The Mustangs won their sixth-consecutive Florida High School Athletic Association Academic Team Championship May 19 after finishing No. 1 in Class 7A.
"I think it shows the commitment by our athletes, coaches, administration and especially the teachers, to the real importance of what we are doing," athletic director Shawn Trent said. "Obviously we want to win on the field as well, and luckily for us we are pretty successful there as well. But our main goal is to get our athletes prepared for college academically, regardless of whether they plan on participating in athletics at the next level."
Lakewood Ranch scored 144 points to finish ahead of Melbourne Viera (104 points). Points are awarded to schools that finish in the top 10 academically in each sports category in which they participate.
Leading the way for the Mustangs this spring were softball, boys and girls track and field and boys weightlifting, which all won academic team championships for their respective sports. Lakewood Ranch was named the Class 8A ATC with a cumulative team GPA of 3.714 while girls track (3.686) and boys track (3.533) both won for Class 4A. Lakewood Ranch’s boys weightlifting team won the Class 2A ATC (3.498).
The Mustangs won their first academic team championship during the 2010-11 school year when they also were named the Florida Athletic Coaches Association’s Athletic Program of the Year and finished as the state runner-up in the FHSAA Floyd E. Lay Sunshine Cup All-Sports standings.
This year, Lakewood Ranch saw 12 of its sports finish in the top three in the state, with football and wrestling also finishing first, and all 22 of its sports finished with team GPAs above 3.2. The Mustangs are fortunate in that the vast majority of their coaches either coached or played at the collegiate level prior to coming to Lakewood Ranch. They continually stress the importance of academics and recognize that there's more to being a great athlete than simply what a player can do on the field.
“The girls in our softball program are so impressive in the fact that they dedicate countless hours and find great success with softball while maintaining high GPAs, taking numerous AP classes, earning hundreds of hours of community service and forming bonds that will last a lifetime," softball coach Maggie Feix said. “It is an incredible honor to coach these girls.”
If the Braden River football team’s spring game against St. Petersburg Lakewood is any indication, the Pirates appear to have picked up right where they left off despite the loss of 10 scholarship players last fall.
Lopsided score? Check.
Running game on point? Check.
Defense forcing multiple turnovers? Check.
In its first test of 2016, Braden River rolled to a 37-6 victory on the road with running backs DeShaun Fenwick and Knowledge McDaniel combining for 220 yards and four touchdowns. The Pirates were without starting running back Raymond Thomas, who is still recovering from a knee injury he sustained back in October.
With Thomas expected to return for the start of the 2016 season, Braden River will have what coach Curt Bradley and offensive coordinator Eric Sanders have dubbed their three-headed monster. The Pirates’ use of a three-running back system began two years ago with Thomas, Jaylin Austin and Carlos Crawford; and has since become a focal point of Braden River’s offensive arsenal.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Pirates forced six turnovers, including five interceptions. Desmine Ross and Demetrius Lawson each had two interceptions. Noah Arce added one and Deqwunn McCobb recovered a fumble.
Defensive back Tyrone Collins had arguably the most productive spring season. The talented sophomore picked up his sixth collegiate offer from the University of Michigan May 20.
Collins, who tied for the team high with seven interceptions, already has received offers from three of the five power conferences, including the Big Ten, ACC (Boston College) and Big 12 (Iowa State), to go along with offers from Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Bowling Green.
For Collins, the grind is just beginning. With Braden River’s summer program set to begin in a couple weeks and his junior season on the horizon, he has a lot of work to do.
“It means a lot because I never thought I would be getting big Division I offers like this my sophomore year,” Collins said. “I just tell myself to keep going and never give up even if you have ups and downs. Coach Bradley always told me to stay humble, and that’s what I have been doing.”
A pair of seniors will have the chance to put a little dirt on their high school uniforms one final time during the Florida Athletic Coaches Association’s 38th annual Baseball Classic May 27-28, at Fireman’s Field, in Sebring.
Braden River pitcher and shortstop Tyler Dyson and The Out-of-Door Academy catcher Parke Phillips were both chosen to represent the West in the All-Star game.
In his first season in the Pirates starting rotation, Dyson, who signed with the University of Florida, went 49.2 innings — an entire regular season — without allowing a run.
Phillips, who will play for Brown University next year, helped lead the Thunder into the regional tournament for the fourth time in his career.