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Updated: Friday, 05 Jun 2009, 7:56 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 04 Jun 2009, 4:18 AM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - East Aurora is an academic powerhouse. It has qualified for Business First's Honor Roll of outstanding school districts every year but one since 1992.
Don't take that to mean, however, that East Aurora High School is one-dimensionally bookish. It also happens to have the most successful sports program of any public high school in Western New York, according to a Business First analysis of records from 2005 to the present.
"We've been on a roll the last few years, which has been just great," says Jay Hoagland, East Aurora's principal. "The people here expect us to have a comprehensive athletics program. They support the budget. They've given us first-rate athletics facilities. It's clearly a priority for the community."
East Aurora has won 17 sectional championships in team sports since 2005, a record unmatched by any competitor in Section VI, which includes all public high schools in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties and a couple in Orleans County.
The result is a decisive victory on Business First's scale of athletic excellence, which awards anywhere from one to four points for each sectional title, giving the highest credit for championships won during the most recent year.
East Aurora emerges as the region's best high school in team sports with 42 points. Orchard Park is second with 30 points, and Randolph, Clarence and Maple Grove round out the top five.
The correlation between these standings and Business First's academic ratings is surprisingly strong. Four of the top five schools for sports also rank among Western New York's 20 best high schools academically.
"To some extent, success in one area can breed success in another," says Hoagland. "If kids experience success outside the classroom, they develop a sense of pride and self-worth. I think that carries over and helps them in the classroom."
Business First tallied the Section VI champions in 18 interscholastic team sports over the past four years, beginning with the spring season of 2005 and extending through the winter of 2009. (That timeframe was selected because spring 2009 champions had not been determined by the deadline for this publication.)
Basketball, bowling, cross country, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball, which are played separately by boys and girls, accounted for 12 of the 18 sports in the study. The other six were baseball, football and wrestling for boys, field hockey and softball for girls, and rifle, which has coed teams.
The study did not include sports that crown individual, but not team champions, such as golf, tennis and track and field.
Section VI slots schools into a variety of enrollment classifications for different sports. Five champions are crowned each year in football, for example, but only three in field hockey. Champs in all classifications were counted equally in this study, yielding a mixture of big and small schools in the top 10.
Business First based each school's final ranking on two factors -- its number of sectional titles and the years in which they were won. Four points were awarded for each victory during the most recent year (spring 2008 through winter 2009), down to one point for each title in the most distant year (spring 2005 through winter 2006). Ties were broken by the total number of championships.
Sixty-eight schools won a total of 296 titles in team sports during the four-year period. These are the 10 high schools that rank the best:
1. East Aurora (42 points) -- What's striking about East Aurora
is the symmetry between its sports programs for girls and boys. The
girls secured sectional titles in cross country, lacrosse and
soccer during the past four years. The boys did exactly the same.
The only difference is that the girls won championships in
basketball and volleyball, too. East Aurora's haul of
17 Section VI crowns is four higher than the total for any other school.
2. Orchard Park (30 points) -- Orchard Park pulled off two sweeps, winning four straight titles in football and boys lacrosse. It added a pair of victories in baseball and another two in boys volleyball, running its overall count to 12 championships, all by male teams. That makes it the only school in the top 10 to have a single gender earn all of its points.
3. Randolph (29 points) -- If the number of championships were the sole factor in determining these standings, Randolph's 13 would vault it to second place. Its big winners were its girls bowling and girls volleyball teams, both with three sectional titles in four years. The football, boys basketball and girls cross country programs chipped in two wins apiece.
4. Clarence (29 points) -- Clarence is tied with Randolph in points, but ranks fourth overall because of two fewer championships. Girls were responsible for five of Clarence's 11 titles, while boys won four, and the coed rifle team picked up the remaining two. A couple of other teams also earned a pair of sectional crowns: boys cross country and girls soccer.
5. Maple Grove (29 points) -- The 2008-2009 school year was a very good one for Maple Grove's sports program, which came away with Section VI championships in football, boys soccer, girls soccer and boys basketball in the span of a few months. Its record since 2005 includes nine titles, five by the boys and four by the girls.
6. Fredonia (28 points) -- The wrestling program was responsible for four of Fredonia's 11 sectional crowns during the past four years. Fredonia also sparkled on the diamond, as evidenced by its two championships in baseball and another two in softball.
7. Lancaster (23 points) -- Lancaster's girls lacrosse program
swept through Section VI, earning four consecutive titles during
the study period. Also impressive were its girls volleyball (three
championships) and wrestling
(two) teams. The school won 10 titles in all.
8. Hamburg (22 points) -- Lacrosse is king (and queen) in
Hamburg, where the boys and girls teams each reigned twice as
sectional champs since 2005.
Victories by boys squads in baseball, cross country and volleyball rounded out Hamburg's total of seven.
9. Forestville (21 points) -- No other school dominates a single sport the way Forestville does bowling. Its boys team took all four championships, and the girls won three themselves. Girls added a win in softball to bring the overall count to eight.
10. Amherst (19 points) -- Girls did most of the heavy lifting in Amherst the past four years, sweeping four lacrosse titles and adding one each in basketball, cross country and field hockey. The boys, not to be shut out, picked up a pair of lacrosse championships themselves.
This is the first time that Business First has analyzed the athletics programs at local high schools. The resulting ratings are more limited in scope than the academic rankings, which encompass all eight counties of Western New York.
Section VI is closed to private schools, and its boundaries exclude three of the region's easternmost counties: Allegany, Genesee and Wyoming. Yet the 93 high schools eligible for the sports rankings still account for more than three-quarters of Western New York's total enrollment -- 78 percent of all students from grades nine through 12.