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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Apr. 27, 2018 1 year ago

Wildcats and a winning culture | Observer Preps

This spring, few schools are enjoying success quite like Winter Park High School.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

Building a dominant athletic department is no small feat — even when it’s made to look easy.

Programs at the high-school and college levels see players come and go at high rates, yet some schools still can maintain an impressive year-in, year-out standing. 

Here, that school is Winter Park High — which is having its usual successful year with plenty of hardware to show for it.

Since the start of the school year, the Wildcats have so far racked up title after title, including 15 Metro championships, 14 district titles, three region titles, one state championship in girls cross country and a single runner up spot in competitive cheerleading.

“It’s a common thing for us — our teams do very well,” Athletic Director Michael Brown said. “But we’re always excited to win Metro and district championships. Right now, we are sitting at 15 Metro championships — there are 30 Metro sports that have championships … and we have won half of the championships. That’s not a bad season.”

More recently, the Wildcats have been running the ship in the Metro this spring. Six of those 15 titles have come from spring sports — boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls track, and boys and girls water polo.

Brown, who has been the AD at Winter Park since 2003, said it’s the second-most Metro titles he’s seen the Wildcats claim. The most came during the 2013-2014 sports season, when the Wildcats snagged 16 titles.

In the district, the Wildcats have continued their success this spring as the boys lacrosse, boys tennis, boys and girls track, and boys and girls water polo teams all have taken home titles. 

The onslaught of success has to be attributed to something — maybe it’s the water or maybe it’s a culmination of other factors, Brown said.

“We do have a lot of good coaches, and we do have a lot of good athletes,” Brown said. “A  lot of  times our athletes are recognized even beyond the school with other types of awards —  both athletically and academically. 

“Now beyond that, I would say that some of the club teams and so forth around here — I think they help to contribute toward that,” he said. “Kids learn at an early age to play these sports, so I think that’s a contributing factor.”

The work that student-athletes at Winter Park have put in has not gone unnoticed by the FSHAA, who have awarded Wildcats’ athletic programs the FHSAA Floyd E. Lay “Sunshine Cup” All Sports Award 21 times — 10 in the overall category, four in the boys category and seven in the girls category.

“That tells me that in those years that we won it, we’re the most successful athletic program in that classification — and we’re in the large-school classification, which is pretty much all public schools,” Brown said. “There is no other school in the state that has won it twice, and if you take those schools and you look at where they place in the years that they don’t win, plenty of times, they’re not even in the top 10 or top 20. 

“So not only are we winning it, but the years we’re not winning it we are second, third, fourth — I mean we’re right there,” he said. “We’ve been that way for close to 20 years, so we’ve done really well.”

Currently, Winter Park sits at second just behind Oviedo, which also has been having a stellar year.

Although the end of the spring season is approaching, Brown said he still thinks the Wildcats can end the year on a high note as they look to take back that No. 1 spot in the overall standings.

“We’re within 20 points of catching them, and based on what I see still competing in the spring — we have a good shot of catching them,” Brown said. “And hopefully if that’s the case, we can win our 11th FHSAA All Sports Award — so we’ll see how that all plays out.”

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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