2017: A year of state titles in West, Southwest Orange | Observer Preps

The calendar year saw six team championships and three individual state championships for teams and athletes at schools covered by the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer.

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  • | 10:00 p.m. December 30, 2017
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The calendar year for 2017 was good to our Observer Preps teams covered by our West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer newspapers — especially for girls teams and athletes.

The following is a celebration of the six team champions and three individual state champions that reigned in 2017, in chronological order.


1 — Ocoee High's Victoria Jefferson, girls weightlifting 

Ocoee High senior Victoria Jefferson won her second individual state championship in girls weightlifting Feb. 2. Her bench press of 305 pounds set an FHSAA and national record, and her combined lift of 510 pounds tied a state record.

Read more about Jefferson's remarkable showing at state in 2017 HERE.

Read about Jefferson's first state title in 2016 HERE. 


2 — Dr. Phillips Panthers, girls wrestling

Two individual state champions, two runners-up and five additional placers helped propel the Panthers to the top of the mountain Feb. 11, besting 80 teams from around the state.

Individual champions were sophomore Shania Gowan at 182 pounds and sophomore Shedeline Ulysse at 195 pounds.

Read more about the Panthers' girls wrestling state title HERE.


3 — Olympia Titans, girls water polo

The Olympia Titans girls water polo team won its first state championship April 8. The Titans completed a perfect 31-0 season with a 7-4 victory over Gulliver Prep in the FHSAA State Championship Match at Ransom Everglades High in Miami. The match had been tied 3-3 at the half, but Olympia outscored Gulliver 4-1 the rest of the way.

A day earlier, Olympia defeated South Broward in the state quarterfinals, 16-6, and then topped Hialeah in a close contest in the state semifinals, 12-9.

The championship was a high-point for the Titans’ loaded senior class. 

For more on the Titans' championship, go HERE.


4 — Track: Olympia's Kenya Dillon and TFA's Alex Shields

Two individual athletes from West and Southwest Orange won state titles at the FHSAA Track and Field Championships May 6 in Bradenton. Olympia senior Kenya Dillon won the girls 100 hurdles and The First Academy's Alex Shields, then a freshman, won both the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, in addition to placing second in the long jump.


5 — West Orange Warriors, softball

The West Orange softball completed back-to-back championship seasons with a 1-0 victory over Palm Harbor May 20 in the FHSAA Class 9A State Championship Game.

The Warriors finished the season with a 28-3 record. 

For more coverage of West Orange's state title, go HERE and HERE.


6 — The First Academy Royals, girls golf

The girls golf team from The First Academy won the FHSAA Class 1A Team State Championship Nov. 8 at Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills. The Royals’ team score of 565 over the two-day event bested the Class 1A Runners-up, Lake Mary Prep, by 24 strokes (589).

Additionally, sophomore Ariel Yu placed first as an individual at nine-under-par, and junior Sophie Guo placed second at six-under-par. Senior Emma Zhao tied for sixth at two-under-par, junior Meiyi Yan tied for 19th at six-over-par, and sophomore Taylor Zeng finished tied for 24th place at nine-over-par.


7 — West Orange Warriors, girls volleyball

The West Orange girls volleyball team won its first FHSAA State Championship in fitting fashion Nov. 18 — the Warriors won by a sweep.

West Orange, which had lost only four sets all season and swept its opponents in 25 of its 28 wins ahead of the state final, added one more sweep to close its undefeated championship run. A block by senior Baylor Bumford completed the Warriors' (29-0) sweep of Palm Beach Gardens in the FHSAA Class 9A State Final: 25-23, 25-20 and 27-25.

For more on the Warriors' state title, go HERE. 


8 — Dr. Phillips Panthers, football

The banner was hung in January.

It said “Finish the Mission” and included the date “12.9.17” — the date of the 2017 FHSAA Class 8A State Championship at Camping World Stadium in downtown Orlando.

It was a bold proclamation for a program that had just lost the 2016 state championship game and had graduated 31 seniors — several of whom were Division I college prospects.

And, yet, that vision statement that hung in the Panthers’ locker room was a constant reminder of what the team was after. 

The Panthers delivered on that promise — they finished the mission with a 17-7 victory Dec. 9 against Atlantic High — giving the program its first title in its 30th year of existence.

For more on the Panthers' title, go HERE.


Close calls

Six local teams brought home the ultimate prize in high-school sports this year, but several others came close — making it to a state championship or state semifinal.

  • Olympia girls basketball — advanced to state semifinals of FHSAA Class 9A Playoffs
  • Windermere Prep girls tennis — advanced to state semifinals of FHSAA Class 1A Team Bracket
  • Dr. Phillips flag football — advanced to state semifinals of the FHSAA Class 2A Playoffs
  • Windermere Prep football — advanced to the SSAC Florida Bowl
  • Olympia volleyball — advanced to the state semifinals of the FHSAA Class 9A Playoffs


Awesome alumni

The championship bug was caught by more than just current varsity athletes — there also were a few instances of local alumni winning at the collegiate level.

Dr. Phillips' Ryan Larson, Olympia's Michael Byrne and TFA's Garrett Milchin were part of the Florida Gators' baseball team that won the College World Series June 27.

Earlier in the year, Justus Griffith, who graduated from DPHS in 2013, took the top spot in the nation at 133-pounds at NCWA Nationals in Texas during March.


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