GW, Catholic reign supreme
George Washington and Charleston Catholic have been nothing if not consistent in recent years where their athletic programs are concerned. Thus, it should be of little surprise that those two Charleston schools once again finished on top of the Gazette's annual all-sports standings.
Point Pleasant? Well, the Big Blacks' forte has not been consistency during the 16 years in which the Gazette Excellence in Sports Awards (GEISA) have been tallied. But in the school's final year in Class AA, it struck gold.
Point Pleasant emerged as a razor-thin winner in a three-school battle for first place in Class AA, edging Shady Spring and Ritchie County for its first-ever all-sports championship. George Washington in Class AAA and Charleston Catholic in Class A were runaway winners.
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 West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
George Washington and Charleston Catholic each have a streak of all-sports wins going. For the Patriots, this year's title is the third in a row and by the widest margin yet. After edging Jefferson by two points in 2009-10 and Wheeling Park by five points last year, GW won by a rather comfortable 111/2 points, 621/2-51, over runner-up Morgantown this year.
Charleston Catholic's streak is even more impressive. The Irish won for the fourth year in a row and the eighth time in 16 years, this time by 18 points, 641/2-461/2, over Williamstown.
But in Class AA, which always seems to be tighter than the other two divisions, the margin was a mere half point. Point Pleasant finished with 381/2 - the final margin coming when the Big Blacks made it to the state baseball tournament - just ahead of Shady Spring's 38 points. Ritchie County was third with 361/10 points.
Beginning Wednesday, 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 athletic year.
George Washington just keeps on churning out athletic success in the big schools division. In addition to winning the GEISA title for the third year in a row, it is the Patriots' sixth top-two finish in the last seven years.
As was the case a year ago, GW scored in 10 of the 19 sports, but this year dominated the boys sports. The Patriots won soccer and swimming titles and finished second in football, basketball and tennis, all from the boys. Along with a tie for third in golf, that gave GW 421/2 points in boys sports, which would have been a half point out of second place in the overall standings.
Morgantown, which had six top-five finishes in a row between 2002 and 2007, had not been a contender of late, finishing 20th, 17th and eighth the last three years. But four girls state championships (cross country, soccer, swimming and track) pushed the Mohigans to their second runner-up spot ever (2005 was the other).
Finishing third with 43 points was the smallest Class AAA school according to the enrollment figures used to draw the current class lines. But when the new four-year classification cycle begins next year, Bridgeport will be back down in Class AA, where the Indians won four GEISA titles and had a second-place finish in the five years prior to moving up a class.
Point Pleasant has occasionally been a player in the GEISA standings, but more often an also-ran. The Big Blacks finished third in another air-tight race behind Winfield and Berkeley Springs in 2007-08 and had eighth-place finishes the year before and after that. But otherwise Point has never finished in the Top 10. Since moving up from Class AAA in 2002-03, the Big Blacks' average GEISA finish was 16th.
That changed this year with a strong performance in the 10 boys sports. Point won the wrestling state title for the third year in a row, but this time added runner-up finishes in football and track and the semifinal appearance in the baseball tournament. The Big Blacks also had top-eight finishes by reaching the boys basketball tournament and the regional soccer finals.
Throw in a fifth-place finish in cheerleading and seventh in girls track and that was a half point better than Ritchie County, which didn't score in many sports but scored big in those. The Rebels, fourth in the GEISA standings each of the last two years, won championships in golf and boys track and finished second in volleyball and softball, accounting for 30 of their 38 points.
Shady Spring, which made a dramatic rise from 12th place last year, won no titles, but had top-four finishes in football and golf on the boys side and cross country, soccer and softball for girls. Shady scored in 10 sports, more than any other Class AA school, to finish less than 21/2 points out of first.
Both Point Pleasant and Shady Spring picked the right time to contend. Both move up to Class AAA in the fall. Point is the fifth different winner in the division in the last five years, following Winfield, Ravenswood, Grafton and Oak Hill.
Two things are fairly notable about Charleston Catholic's fourth straight GEISA title: the margin and the runner-up.
By any other measure, the 18-point margin is a landslide. In Class AA, the composite margin for the last four winners is less than 10 points. But it's also a photo finish compared to the last two years. The Irish won by 432/3 points last year and by 489/10 points the year before, each time more than doubling the point total of the runner-up.
As for that runner-up, for only the fourth time in 16 years the top two were not both private schools. Williamstown is the only non-Catholic school ever to finish in the top two in Class A and this year did it for the fourth time. The Yellow Jackets were also runners-up in 2003, 2004 and 2010. In fact, since moving down from Class AA in 2002-03, Williamstown has finished second or third every year.
Still, Charleston Catholic's win this year was impressive. The Irish won five state championships (soccer, golf, basketball and tennis on the boys side and tennis for girls) and had enough points in boys sports alone (481/2) to win the all-sports title.
Wheeling Central, which is one GEISA title behind Charleston Catholic (8-7) in the 16-year history of the ratings, finished fourth, behind St. Marys. While in the other classes the contenders tend to fluctuate, this is the fourth straight year those four schools have finished in the top four.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1