In the first five years of the Gazette Excellence In Sports Awards, the Class AAA championship went to a different school each year. Since 2001, however, Parkersburg and George Washington have combined to win 11 of the 13 big-school titles.
This year was an exception.
Buoyed by two team championships and a pair of runner-up finishes, Morgantown finally broke through and captured the triple-A division of the GEISA, the Gazette’s annual ranking of the top overall high school athletic programs in the state.
The winners in the other two divisions were once again veterans of the award. Charleston Catholic won Class A for the sixth year in a row and a record 10th time overall, while Bridgeport again ran away with the Class AA title, its second after returning to the division last year and its sixth overall.
This is the 18th year the Gazette has compiled the all-sports rankings, which are based on each school’s finish in the 19 sports recognized and sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
Morgantown certainly didn’t win by much. In fact, the Mohigans, who finished second in Class AAA the last two years, ended George Washington’s four-year run of titles by just a half point over Parkersburg, 55-54 1/2. GW was third with 50 1/2 points, followed by Hurricane and Huntington in a tie for fourth with 48.
Charleston Catholic and Bridgeport won by comfortable margins. Bridgeport fell well short of its Class AA-record point total of 75 1/2 last year because it scored in four fewer sports, but the Indians scored big with five state championships and two runner-up finishes. Their 57 3/4 total was still the third-best point total in the division’s history and was comfortably ahead of the runner-up for the second straight year, Fairmont Senior, which scored 41.
Charleston Catholic won 59 1/2 to 40 over Williamstown, the runner-up in Class A for the third year in a row and the sixth time overall. That easily kept the most notable GEISA streak alive, Catholic schools having won Class A all 18 years the awards have been presented. In addition to the Irish’s 10 GEISA crowns, Wheeling Central has won seven and Parkersburg Catholic won the first in 1997.
The standings, compiled by the Gazette since the 1996-97 school year, are based on a system that awards points (8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) to the top eight finishers in each of the 19 sports sanctioned by the SSAC.
Later this week, the Gazette will take a closer look at each of the divisions and the champions, but here is a capsule of each race during the just-completed school year.
Morgantown’s rise has been consistent over the last three years. The Mohigans finished second by 11 1/2 points two years ago and by 4 1/4 last year.
This time they scored in 12 of the 19 sports, matching Charleston Catholic for the most in any class, and won state titles in girls basketball and cross country and finished second in girls swimming and tennis. The Mohigans scored 37 of their 55 points on the girls side, nearly twice as many as any other school in Class AAA except for Hurricane, which scored 25.
Morgantown also finished third in boys cross country, reached the semifinals in girls soccer, the quarterfinals in boys basketball, baseball and soccer and also scored in boys tennis and swimming and girls track.
That was enough to barely edge Parkersburg, which had top-three finishes in an astounding eight sports, but scored in only nine, three fewer than Morgantown. The Big Reds won boys track, finished second in wrestling and boys soccer, third in boys and girls swimming and boys tennis, were tied for third in volleyball and girls tennis and finished fifth in boys cross country.
Although team finishes in many sports can come down to a single match or race or the outcome of just one almost-obscure game somewhere along the line, it can be argued that the critical difference between Morgantown and Parkersburg in the GEISA race this year came down to a couple of tennis team-score tie-breakers last month at the state tournament. The Big Reds came out on the short end of both (one of them to Morgantown) and it cost them more than enough points to fall just short of their eighth GEISA title.
Meanwhile, even though George Washington slipped to third this year, the Patriots still have quite a streak going with eight straight top-three finishes.
This is actually the sixth straight championship for Bridgeport as a Class AA school. The Indians won four straight from 2000-2003 (including a tie with Winfield in 2003) before moving to Class AAA for eight years. When the school dropped back to double-A last year, it won by scoring in an all-classes record 14 sports.
This year the quantity wasn’t the same, but the quality was even better. Bridgeport won championships in football, boys and girls track, boys cross country and baseball, and finished second in girls soccer and cheerleading. Throw in top-eight finishes in golf and boys basketball and tennis, and the Indians easily outpointed another former Class AAA school, Fairmont Senior, by 16 3/4 points.
Bridgeport was once again strong pretty much across the board, finishing first in boys sports and second in girls sports.
While the number of sports in which Bridgeport scored dropped from 14 to 10, the Indians did manage to score in two in which they were shut out a year ago. So in just two years since returning to Class AA, Bridgeport has scored in 16 of the 19 sanctioned sports. And including finishes in Class AAA, the school has scored in everything except wrestling over the last five years.
Fairmont Senior, which won the Class AAA GEISA title in 2000, didn’t win a state title, but scored in 10 sports to finish with 41 points. Ritchie County was third with 35, a point ahead of 1999 champion Oak Glen.
Charleston Catholic and Williamstown are making Class A sound like a broken record. This is the third year in a row those two have finished 1-2 and each year the margins have been almost identical — 18 points in 2012, 17 in 2013 and 19 1/2 this year.
Only the way in which the Irish win each year changes, which perhaps says as much about the school’s dominance as anything else. Last year it was with the most state titles in any class (five, in baseball, golf, boys soccer and both boys and girls tennis) and a runner-up finish in boys basketball. This year there was but one state championship for Charleston Catholic (golf), but there were runner-up finishes in boys basketball and tennis and girls cross country and track, and the school scored in 12 of the 19 sports.
The Irish scored more points in both boys sports and girls sports than any other school in the class.
Williamstown, meanwhile, keeps fighting the good fight. If the Catholic schools’ 18-year domination of the Class A award is the No. 1 GEISA streak going, Williamstown’s run is easily No. 2. In 12 of the last 16 years, the Yellowjackets have been the top-finishing public school in Class A, never dropping lower than fourth overall. In two of the four years they did not finish first among public schools, they were second behind St. Marys by razor-thin margins. And the other two years (2001-02) Williamstown moved up to Class AA and finished fourth and eighth overall in that division.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1