Last year (2015-16) was a banner year for La Porte High School athletics with seven sectional titles and a pair of regional trophies in cross country. That tied for the most sectional crowns in a single high school season for the Slicers, matching 1996-97 and 1998-99.
Last summer I wrote a column on the campaign, calling it possibly “the best season in school history.”
Well, the 2016-17 might have been better, depending on your point of view.
This year La Porte set a new school record for sectional titles with eight for the whole year. The Slicers hoisted trophies in boys tennis, girls golf and volleyball in the fall with the latter also winning the regional before losing to Crown Point at semistate, girls basketball in the winter for the second straight year, and baseball, boys golf, girls tennis and girls track in the spring.
So, does more sectional titles than any other year in La Porte history supersede longer postseason runs? Basically the question is, do you place more importance on quality or quantity?
In the two seven-sectional-title in the 1990s, longer postseason runs went with the sectionals. In 96-97, there were three regional titles (girls tennis, baseball and boys basketball) with the latter reaching the state final. In 98-99, boys tennis and wrestling won regionals with the grapplers advancing to state.
If we’re referring to college or pro teams, then I’d say quality since winning a title should be the ultimate goal every season in every sport. But in high school, a more well-rounded athletic department with quality teams across the board allowing more kids to take those team photos with a sectional trophy means a heck of a lot more.
“I am proud and happy to be associated with the coaches and student athletes in La Porte and they deserve all the credit for the success,” Slicers’ athletic director Ed Gilliland said. “Hopefully we can continue to build on past successes.”
In addition to the eight trophies, the Slicers also had runner-up sectional finishes in boys and girls cross country, and won a rare Duneland Conference title in football last fall. That might be just as impressive — or even more — than any of the sectional titles since the DAC might be one of the top three or four football conferences in the state.
Tennis and golf, though, were the most impressive collectively, and set two other school marks. This was the first year all four won sectionals in the same year, and it’s also the first time boys and girls golf won in the same year. Boys and girls tennis had won in the same year six times in the 1990s.
There were some good individuals efforts leading to those titles. Drew Spartz led the Slicers’ boys golf team with an 83 at sectional, followed by 84s by Max Holmes and Michael Steele. In girls golf, Emily Wilmsen and Claire Miller shot 89s to help their team win.
Alaina Majors has become a solid No. 1 player for La Porte girls tennis, which has won back-to-back sectionals, while girls track produced myriad individual highlights. All three relay teams won at the Chesterton Sectional, while Lauren Anglin (100 dash), Riley Tuerff (100 and 300 hurdles), Kat Shuble (800), Shelby Riehle (3,200) and Nichole Flowers (long jump) each won individual events.
To put the 15 sectional titles in two years in better perspective, Michigan City (a school around the same size as La Porte) hasn’t won any sectionals in the last two years, and only two in the last four high school calendars (2015 boys golf and 2014 girls tennis). The Wolves did finish runner-up in the boys track state finals in 2016, which fits into the quality-over-quantity argument.
But I’m sure City athletic director Craig Shaman would love to have Gilliland’s problem right now of needing to update nine banners in the gymnasium with sectional and conference titles.
As the 2017-18 high school season approaches quickly, I’m betting Michigan City ends the drought with at least a couple trophies, while La Porte keeps winning multiple trophies.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at email@example.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.