We are on the cusp of witnessing a surge in talent in prep sports.
I admit I might be embellishing a little. But, the fact remains.
The Washington girls swim team’s state championship is proof of that many good things still are to come in high school sports.
As I was following the results online Saturday night, I reflected on our fall sports season.
Two volleyball teams advanced to the region tournament for consecutive years. Three golf teams advanced to state tournaments (joined by four local golfers from four different schools). And six schools were represented in three state cross country meets.
To top it all off, four more schools will enter swimmers in the Class 3A state championship meet this weekend.
There’s no way around it — we’re experiencing a boom in high school sports.
Peek your head into the Gulf Breeze gymnasium during one of their volleyball playoff games, and you’ll see that the energy level is high and the stands are filled with standing, screaming fans.
Let me repeat: Standing. Screaming. Fans.
A lot of that is tied into the success Gulf Breeze has had as a team, advancing to the state title game three years ago. People know the Dolphins are going to consistently field (or attempt to field) a quality team. And the squad is able to do that because the interest is there.
Look at Catholic, Washington and Pace’s volleyball teams and you’ll see the same thing: The programs have experienced success in recent years and that success is spurring growth not just in their attendance but also in the talent on their teams.
As Pensacola area teams continue to succeed, they could spur even more interest in their sport.
The same thing applies to swimming now that the Washington girls nabbed the Class 2A team championship to become the first girls squad in the history of Escambia or Santa Rosa county to accomplish the feat.
And take a look at the competition they have to face locally before ever reaching the state meet.
In the past, big schools in South Florida have dominated the postseason, but some of the best talent in the state now can be found here in the Panhandle.
Look at Gulf Breeze sophomore Tori Bindi, repeating as state champion in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events. Or Pace’s Olivia Weekley, the Region 1-3A champion in the 100 butterfly who will compete at state herself this weekend.
The influence of our high school athletes can’t be understated. Every time they go out and compete, they are ambassadors not just for their school or the Panhandle, but for their respective sports.
After all, the next generation of prep stars could be watching from the stands.
As our young men and women continue to succeed, they’re planting the seeds for the teammates that come after them.
And I can’t wait to see what’s harvested from that.