Friday, May 7, 2021

Champions set records in Hinsdale, Lincolnshire


Hinsdale Central High School won seven Illinois state athletic titles this school year, and that has never happened before, our analysis of historical data reveals. In addition, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire joined a very short list of schools that have won four or more titles in the same academic year and an even shorter list of schools that have won state titles in three or more team sports in a single year.

Hinsdale Central championship boys soccer team 2015
Hinsdale Central’s championship boys’ soccer team

Hinsdale Central’s seven championships came this year in the following sports sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association:

  1. Girls’ tennis
  2. Girls’ golf
  3. Boys’ cross country
  4. Boys’ golf
  5. Boys’ tennis
  6. Boys’ swimming and diving
  7. Boys’ soccer

By winning seven athletic titles this year from the IHSA, Hinsdale Central went to the top of the list of schools that have won the most state athletic titles in a single year. Before Hinsdale Central’s ascension, St Charles High School held the record, having won six athletic titles in the 1998-99 academic year: girls’ cross country, girls’ soccer, both boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving, boys’ golf, and baseball. The school is now known as St Charles East High School.

It’s a short list of multi-championship schools

Adlai E Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire won state titles this year in football, boys’ basketball, girls’ water polo, and boys’ gymnastics.

With these four state titles, Stevenson joins a very short list of Illinois high schools that have won state titles in four or more IHSA-sponsored sports in a single academic year. We have analyzed data from the IHSA and found only five other schools on the list:

  • Hinsdale Central High School, in addition to the seven titles this year, won four state athletic titles in three other school years:
    • 1975-76 (boys’ soccer, boys’ gymnastics, boys’ tennis, boys’ swimming and diving)
    • 1976-77 (boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving, boys’ and girls’ tennis)
    • 2013-14 (boys’ and girls’ tennis, boys’ cross country, boys’ golf)
  • St Charles High School, in addition to the six state titles in 1998-99, also won four state titles two years earlier (boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving, boys’ and girls’ soccer).
  • New Trier High School in Winnetka has claimed four state titles in the same year five times:
    • 1981-82 (boys’ and girls’ tennis, girls’ swimming and diving, badminton)
    • 1982-83 (boys’ and girls’ tennis, boys’ golf, girls’ swimming and diving)
    • 1986-87 (boys’ and girls’ tennis, girls’ swimming and diving, badminton)
    • 2003-04 (boys’ and girls’ golf, girls’ soccer, boys’ swimming and diving)
    • 2010-11 (boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving, girls’ golf, boys’ tennis)
  • Notre Dame High School in Quincy, the only school on this list to win all its championships in team sports, won four state titles in the 2011-12 academic year: girls’ and boys’ soccer, girls’ basketball, and girls’ volleyball.
  • Lake Forest High School won four state titles in 2002-03: boys’ and girls’ tennis, boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving.

And an even shorter list of multi-championship schools in team sports

With the exception of Notre Dame in 2011-12, the schools on the list won at least some of their state athletic titles in sports that aren’t considered team sports. That is, when Hinsdale Central won its seven athletic titles this year, entire teams qualified for each round of the state series—tennis teams, for example, consist of two singles players and two doubles teams—but in golf, swimming and diving, gymnastics, badminton, cross country, and so on, scores earned by individual competitors are combined to get a team score.

In sports that are more traditionally considered “team sports,” the only scores that go on a scoreboard are those earned by the team as a whole. If we look only at prior state titles in team sports won by a school in a single academic year, we find an even shorter list of schools. Only Notre Dame, shown above, has won four team sport state titles in a single academic year, and now only Stevenson has won three. (See note 1.)

With the addition this year of Stevenson, only two of more than 700 IHSA member high schools are on this list. Teams at these schools are breathing rarefied air indeed!

A few asterisks and footnotes

(1) Montini Catholic High School in Lombard won three state titles in three consecutive years: 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12. Their state titles were in two sports—football and girls’ basketball—that are unquestionably team sports and in dual-team wrestling. Wrestling is like other team sports in that competition occurs at meets that involve only two schools. Sports that are unquestionably not team sports, like swimming or cross country, usually have “meets” with participants from several schools. But wrestling is unlike other team sports in that team points are earned through matches where one individual from each team participates at a time.

Some states, including Illinois, would consider a sport a “team sport” if “meets” are organized in such a way that only two different schools are present. This would certainly add Montini to the “three team sport titles in a single year” championship list above. Voxitatis is by no means an authority on this matter, so we simply report the quandary. The list of schools that have won three or more state titles in a given year in team sports now contains either two or three schools, depending on whether or not you consider dual-team wrestling a team sport.

(2) Naperville Central High School won state titles in four IHSA events in 2005-06: baseball, girls’ swimming and diving, girls’ volleyball, and journalism. Journalism isn’t a sport, so we didn’t list this achievement above. Naperville Central would be the only school added to the list of schools that have ever won four or more state titles in a single academic year if we had included the IHSA activities of bass fishing, chess, journalism, music sweepstakes, scholastic bowl, and speech-individual events.

(3) Hinsdale Central High School tweeted that the school had won a total of eight state titles from the IHSA and two from non-IHSA sanctioning associations, bringing the total of state championships to 10.

If we add non-athletic activities, the number is indeed eight, as Hinsdale Central took the top spot in the state final speech-individual events activity. For our tally, we included only athletics, but if we’re counting IHSA state titles, we would add Hinsdale Central’s speech title this year.

The other two titles mentioned in the tweet came in a mock trial event, sponsored by the Illinois State Bar Association, and from Business Professionals of America, Dan Jones, the school’s athletic director, said in an email. BPA lists only 36 high school teams from Illinois, which represents less than 5 percent of the state’s high schools.

Although Hinsdale Central students are right to take pride in these achievements, it’s difficult for us to classify these awards as “state” titles, given the limited involvement by schools throughout the state. Furthermore, these awards aren’t sanctioned by the IHSA, giving these outside sanctioning organizations absolute control over their own rules. Besides, for our purposes here, these events aren’t athletic in nature, so that brings the number back down to seven IHSA athletic state titles, as listed above.

(4) Our decision not to include non-IHSA “state” titles is supported by the fact that we can’t track historical data from every sanctioning organization used by Illinois schools. Some of them, having conferred such titles years ago, may not even exist today, making counting those titles all but impossible. We also question the legitimacy of “state” championships conferred by private organizations whose directors don’t answer to the schools and which aren’t listed by the IHSA.

We set a precedent for this decision when we seriously questioned the Bands of America organization’s use of the term “grand national champion” to describe a marching band that had never competed in an inclusive tournament. Most bands pay high entry fees and travel expenses just to compete in a Bands of America contest, and that external barrier to entry gives us strong reason to question the “national” part of the label conferred by this external sanctioning organization. Bands of America is a wonderful organization, providing positive, life-changing experiences for students for 40 years now, but their terminology needs editing.

Closing thoughts on a historic year in Illinois high school sports

Asking these academic questions—Should we tally non-athletic events? Should we count dual-team wrestling as a team sport? Should we consider “state” tournaments that aren’t supervised by the IHSA?—completely misses the point, though. When it comes to a designation as a “team sport,” for example, we realize “coaches stress in all of our sports that the team comes first before the individual. This is one of the reasons why seven athletic teams from Hinsdale Central won team titles,” as Mr Jones wrote.

But more to the point, we congratulate Hinsdale Central, founded 135 years ago, on what students and staff members are tweeting was their #BestYearEver, a red-letter year for the Red Devils. Several other teams at the school advanced well into the playoffs, and the number of championships could easily have been much higher. There’s always next year.

And we congratulate Stevenson High School, built 50 years ago, on their best year ever in team sports, a huge celebration for the #PatriotNation. Stevenson’s baseball and softball teams also advanced to the super-sectional round of the state 4A playoffs but lost their games on June 8.

Finally, Stevenson is the only school on either list for which water polo or boys’ basketball contributes one of the state titles. We are extremely pleased to present below a reaction to this historic year, written by Allison Travetto, a junior at Stevenson High School and a member of this year’s championship girls’ water polo team.

Stevenson High School

WINNING STATE is incredibly rewarding. It is the culmination of countless hours of hard work and dedication to your sport and the realization of a goal that once seemed so distant. Peers and family congratulate you; “You are so lucky!” they exclaim. Was this luck? This year, the girls’ water polo team was one of four Stevenson High School athletic teams that won an IHSA state athletic championship. Clearly this is neither a coincidence nor a stroke of luck. The sources of our success are many.

Stevenson High School’s motto is “Success for Every Student.” This is achieved by creating a supportive school environment that values student achievement and celebrates school pride. This school pride and enthusiasm is the groundwork for team success.

Students also know that we are valued as individuals. Despite the school’s size of over 4,000 students, the administration and staff at Stevenson manage to make our massive school seem small. Athletic directors seem to know each athlete by name and never favor a specific sport, no matter the ability of the team. Thus, the teams that won state championships this year began with an initial advantage.

The football, boys’ basketball, boys’ gymnastics, and girls’ water polo teams, in addition to various other Stevenson teams, had the good fortune to play for experienced coaches who devote their time to a high school sport. These coaches likely spend more time on their season than the athletes. Coaches make plays, analyze competitors, and find a spot on the team where each member will succeed. Every one of these coaches has developed young athletes into state champions.

The road to a state championship, however, does not come without challenges. Sacrifice is part of the package. Morning and afternoon practices, full day tournaments, traveling, and forgoing a family spring or winter break vacation can be frustrating for some. This frustration is eased because a great deal of effort is made to create a family within the team. Team events outside of practice that focus on fun and team bonding are critical. We have each other’s backs on and off the field. Players become each other’s mentors and support systems.

To play on a team, an athlete needs to put forth an individual effort to understand each and every one of their teammates. Our teams know that individually, a championship will not be reached but that together we can achieve our goals.

The amount of effort required by athletes and coaches is unbelievable. At its foundation, Stevenson has created a culture of excellence, guidance, and support, which results not only in students who strive to succeed academically, but also in athletes who have unbelievable amounts of motivation and passion to excel.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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