In the short history of the Power 10, there has been one program that has left an impact unlike any other.
Which is why it is no surprise who is atop the final Power 10 for the fall.
Clarence swimming, which not only topped the final fall Power 10 a year ago but was also No. 1 for the entire 2012-13 school year, again is the most powerful of programs atop our list of the best sports of the fall season.
In the spring of 2012, we began compiling the Power 10 to show which teams we considered the best overall. To even make the list, teams have to show they are exceptional locally. To climb it, they usually have to do something special on a regional or even national level.
Putting together the list throughout the fall season can be excruciating, simply because there are so many sports to begin with. Add up the total number of sports in the fall season and it nearly matches the combined total for the winter and spring.
We try to truly honor the most deserving, the best of the best, the champions of champions.
That is far from easy, especially when you take in this dose of perspective: Winning a Section VI or Monsignor Martin championship is certainly a major accomplishment, no matter what the sport. However, when you add up all the winners from each Section VI class (AA, A, B, C and D) as well as the Monsignor Martin’s winners, you get more than 40 teams – and that’s just the sports that determine traditional team champions.
Then there’s trying to account for schools of different sizes winning titles in different classifications to see which teams really deserve a spot – for example, the No. 10 team on this list is a state champion.
There are also sports like golf, tennis, gymnastics, and – of course – girls swimming. Which brings us to the start of our rundown:
1. Clarence girls swimming. The Red Devils, who were also third overall in the final Power 10 for the 2011-12 school year, continued their dominating recent run with a perfect regular season that concluded with their third straight state championship. The outstanding run is a testament not only to the program’s talent, but its depth.
The Red Devils broke one state record (400 freestyle relay) and three Section VI records (50 free, 500 free were the others) to finish with a meet-best 241 points. That total was 10 more than runner-up Pittsford of Section V (Rochester area) even though Clarence lost 48 points when its winning 200 medley relay was disqualified for a swimmer having left the block too early.
Dina Rommel, who will swim at the University of Virginia next year, was the meet’s Most Outstanding Swimmer after winning the 50 freestyle (Section VI record and All-American time of 23.13) and 100 butterfly (55.77). Rommel was also part of the 400 free relay, with fellow seniors Rebecca Anthone, Victoria Butler and Sydney Modeas, which broke Clarence’s own state record it set last year (3:28.72) with an All-American time of 3:26.98.
2. Randolph football. Class D state champions for the second straight year. The unanimous No. 1 in The News small school poll over state semifinalists in larger classes (Depew in Class B and Cleveland Hill in C) and deservedly so. Opposing coaches during Randolph’s dominant state title run said the Cardinals played like a large school, and they’d beat plenty of local Class AA and A programs. With four state championships in the last nine years, they are one of the region’s top programs overall.
3. Clarence cross country. Both the boys and girls topped the Western New York large school poll for much of the year, and both finished as Section VI champions in Class A. The boys finished 11th overall at the state meet while the girls were 17th. In the final rankings put out by the New York State Sportswriters Association, the girls were ninth and the boys 10th.
4 (tie). Canisius and Jamestown football. We usually hate ties. But here was one time that it was the best route to run.
Personally, I voted for Canisius in the final News large school poll. I had Canisius on top for the last few weeks based on it having one of the best defenses in recent Western New York history (if not all-time) and its competition level: Its two losses were 3-0 to eventual New York State Public High School Athletic Association AA state champion Aquinas of Section V and 9-7 at Cardinal Mooney, which went on to lose in the Ohio Division IV state final.
In the final News poll, both teams had five first-place votes, which was most appropriate.
While Canisius’ defense was incredible, the Jamestown offense drew similar superlatives all season behind News Player of the Year and Connolly Cup winner Jake Sisson at quarterback. The Red Raiders’ lone loss was to Aquinas, 48-34, after a second-half shootout in the Far West Regionals.
While my pick was Canisius, the final New York State Sportswriters Class AA poll had Jamestown fourth and Canisius fifth (although both should have been at least one spot higher since No. 3 St. Anthony’s of Long Island lost its season opener at St. Joe’s).
So it is most fitting that the two outstanding teams remain linked together here as well.
And we certainly can’t leave this alone. Hey guys, the 2014 football schedule is wide open.
Both teams lose some key players while returning several others. Jamestown returns three first-team All-Western New York players, Canisius returns two.
Let’s get a Jamestown-Canisius game scheduled for next season.
6. East Aurora cross country. As is the case every season, both programs were among the best in Western New York. The girls were at another level, winning the Section VI Class B title before going on to finish sixth overall at the ultra-competitive NYSPHSAA meet (third in Class B). The EA girls finished ranked fourth in the Class B NYSSWA poll before its runners finished third in the Nike Cross Nationals New York race. The boys finished second to Sweet Home at sectionals on a tiebreaker.
7. St. Mary’s girls volleyball. Fell short of New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association title after winning the last two, but all season clearly showed it was the best team in its sport, lodging wins over top local teams, including a home-and-home sweep of Eden. The Lancers were unique in that they were considered the top girls volleyball team for the duration of the season – other than Clarence swimming, there were not many teams that were similarly singular standouts.
8. Eden girls volleyball. Another perennial power in Western New York – any sport, any season. The Raiders won their fifth straight New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship and 11th overall as it roared to the Class C title.
9. Williamsville North football. Accomplishing some history in storybook style certainly helps when it comes to making the last few spots in the Power 10. The Spartans put together one of the most memorable postseason runs local fans can remember: They were the No. 7 seed in Class A, but won twice to earn the program’s first appearance at Ralph Wilson Stadium, then won their first title by ending the six-year reign (and 69-game Section VI win streak) of Sweet Home before winning twice more to end up as state runners-up at the Carrier Dome.
10. Holland girls soccer. The state champions in Class C after a 2-1 victory over Haldane. How would Holland fare against the rest of Western New York’s top girls soccer programs? Tough to say, but the Dutchwomen are the only ones with a plaque shaped like New York State.
Around the halls
• See which other teams (more than 40) earned Power 10 high honor roll and honor roll recognition at the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com.
• Canisius basketball will be the guest for tonight’s 7:30 episode of PrepTalkTV. The Crusaders were bumped from last week’s scheduled show, which was postponed due to a snowstorm last Thursday.