When it comes to judging the top high school athletic programs in the country, the dilemma is whether or not to choose quantity over quality.
While some schools rack up numerous state titles, they may not have a team that challenges for a top spot in the national rankings for sports like football, volleyball, basketball, baseball or softball. Then there are the schools that always seem to be at the top of one national poll or the other, but win very few state titles in any other sports.
This year, St. Thomas Aquinas made the dilemma a moot point. Not only were the Raiders ranked at or near the top of the various national polls in four different sports, they also showed enough depth in the other sports to earn St. Thomas Aquinas the Florida High School Activities Association All-Sports Trophy for 17 years running.
The Raiders had plenty of competition for the title of MaxPreps Athletic Program of the Year, including one school from the state of Florida, Dr. Phillips, as well as Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.), Jesuit (Portland, Ore.) and Punahou of Honolulu.
What set the Raiders apart, however, was their recognition at the national level. The Raiders finished the year ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Football Rankings
and were ranked No. 1 by other polls. The boys and girls soccer teams each won state titles and the girls were ranked No. 1 in the nation by one ranking service. St. Thomas Aquinas finished the school year by winning a state title in boys track and field, earning a No. 1 national ranking in that sport by Dye Stat.
Here's a look at the Top 10 athletic programs in the country as chosen by the MaxPreps editorial staff:1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
The Raiders got the school year off to a good start with a state title in football and a No. 2 overall national ranking by MaxPreps. The Raiders went undefeated at 15-0 in coach George Smith's final season as he announced his retirement in March
. The girls soccer team finished the year 25-1 with a state title. The team's leading scorer, Julie Schumacher
, was named by the Sun-Sentinel as the 6A-5A player of the year for Broward County. The Raiders allowed just two goals on the season while scoring 146. The boys soccer team also won state title with a 19-4-2 record and was ranked among the top teams in the country.
In the spring, the Aquinas boys track team zoomed to a state championship and was ranked by Dye Stat as the top boys program in the country. The boys won two events at the state meet, capturing the 400 meters by Arman Hall and the 4x400 meter relay. The Raiders edged powerful Northwestern 63-56 for the crown.
The Raiders also had strong seasons in other sports, finishing eighth in the state in boys cross country, sixth in girls cross country, third in boys golf, 11th in girls golf, fifth in girls swimming, seventh in boys swimming, 14th in wrestling and fourth in girls track. The Raiders also reached the state quarterfinals in girls volleyball and boys lacrosse.2. Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)
The Crusaders had an incredible season that saw them win 13 state championships and finish second in three other sports. Jesuit also ranked among the top teams in the country in boys and girls basketball
, girls soccer and volleyball.
The Crusaders won state titles in boys soccer, girls soccer, girls cross country, boys basketball, girls basketball, girls swimming, girls ski racing, boys and girls combined ski racing, boys tennis, softball and girls golf. Jesuit also reached the state finals in girls volleyball, girls tennis and girls golf.3. Punahou (Honolulu)
The Buff n' Blue won 16 state titles this year and were nationally ranked in both boys volleyball and soccer. Punahou, which was the No. 1 overall program in 2009
, captured state crowns in girls cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls swimming, boys wrestling, girls wrestling, boys golf, girls golf, judo, boys tennis, girls tennis, boys track, girls track and girls water polo.4. Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.)
The Raiders capped an outstanding season by winning the state championship in baseball, their seventh state crown for the year. Regis Jesuit also finished second in four other sports as the girls basketball team, the hockey team, the football team and the girls tennis team all just missed adding to the state title grab by the Raiders.
Regis Jesuit won championships in boys basketball, boys golf, boys lacrosse, boys and girls swimming, boys tennis and baseball.5. Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.)
The Panthers captured the 6A All-Sports Trophy in Florida and actually had more overall points than St. Thomas Aquinas (which won the 5A All-Sports Trophy). The Panthers won three state championships, capturing the girls basketball, boys cross country and girls flag football titles. Dr. Phillips fell just short of winning the state crown in football, falling to Miami Central in the championship game. The boys basketball team also finished second while the girls cross country and girls swimming teams each finished third. Dr. Phillips was nationally ranked in both football and girls basketball during the season.6. De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
The Spartans only have boys sports, but they dominated the North Coast Section of California unlike any other time in the school's history. The Spartans won section titles in wrestling, soccer, volleyball, track and field, golf and finished second in baseball and lacrosse. The boys basketball team won a NorCal championship and came within a quarter of knocking off Mater Dei for a state championship. The football team, meanwhile, put on a dominating performance in the CIF Open Division Bowl Game against Servite (Anaheim, Calif.
) to win a state championship. The Spartans finished in the top five in the MaxPreps football rankings.7. Jesuit (New Orleans)
Like De La Salle, Jesuit has only boys sports and it, too, dominated in the state of Louisiana this year. The Bluejays finished the year ranked in the MaxPreps Xcellent 50 National Baseball Rankings
after winning the 4A state championship. The boys soccer team was also ranked among the nation's best, although it did not win a state title. Jesuit also won state titles in cross country, swimming, golf and tennis and finished second in wrestling, indoor track and soccer.8. Palo Alto (Calif.)
The Vikings had the greatest season in school history and most of the excitement occurred during a two-week span in December. Early in the month, the Palo Alto volleyball team shocked nationally ranked Long Beach Poly to claim the CIF Division I state championship, and was named MaxPreps Female Team of the Year
. Two weeks later, the Viking football team pulled off another shocker, downing nationally ranked Centennial (Corona) 15-13 for the CIF Division I Bowl championship.
The Vikings continued to play well throughout the school year, winning a Central Coast Section championship in baseball and boys basketball and finishing second in boys and girls swimming.9. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
The Monarchs, who were ranked the No. 1 overall school last year
, tied for the lead in Southern Section championships won with four and also had a national No. 1 ranking to their credit thanks to the girls basketball team. Mater Dei won both the boys and girls state championships (although the boys did not win a section title) with the girls an easy choice as the No. 1 team in the nation. The boys also earned a national ranking by MaxPreps, finishing at No. 10.10. Long Beach Poly (Calif.)
The Jackrabbits moved into contention after a spectacular showing at the CIF state track meet
where they easily outdistanced the field by 42 points to claim the girls state title. The boys team also won, albeit in closer fashion, edging the second-place team by three points. Dye Stat ranks Long Beach Poly as the top overall track program in the country with the girls team No. 1 overall and the boys team No. 2.
Long Beach Poly did not win any other state titles, but it did reach the state championship in volleyball, where it fell to Palo Alto. The boys and girls basketball teams also did not win state titles, but the boys won a Southern Section championship and both teams were ranked in the MaxPreps national rankings all year long.