Twenty-seven Section II athletic programs were recognized by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association for academic achievements by their respective sports teams during the 2021-22 academic year, with several programs setting themselves apart.
There were 11 high schools in the Capital Region that had athletic programs in which each varsity squad had a combined GPA of 90.0% or higher — recognized as Schools of Distinction.
Athletic programs that had 75% or more of its programs reach the 90th percentile mark were recognized as Schools of Excellence by NYSPHSAA.
“We fell just shy last year and ended up with school of excellence,” said Broadalbin-Perth athletic director Tucker Gifford, whose program was one of 11 in Section II to earn School of Excellence status. “I think we had two teams that had an 89, just fell short. This year, we really amped it up.”
According to Gifford, the Patriots have made the honor list — either School of Distinction or School of Excellence — each of the last four years.
“School of Distinction is a goal that we strive for every year,” Gifford said. “I talk about it at our meet the coaches night with the parents. This is our goal.”
All 21 Broadalbin-Perth varsity teams reached the 90% honor mark. Guilderland had the most teams in Section II in the School of Distinction category with 31 squads, followed by Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake with 27. Christian Brothers Academy, CBA, Duanesburg, Galway and Saratoga Central Catholic were among the 11 top-honored programs.
Gifford plays an active role in assisting athletes that may be struggling in classes throughout the school year.
“I run the athletic study hall,” Gifford said. “If anyone is failing one subject, on any team, they’re going to the athletic study hall for a few weeks to get their grades back up.”
This was the first School of Distinction award for Galway athletic director Elise Britt-Gaeta, in her third year in the position.
“We’re an education-based athletics department so education comes first,” Britt-Gaeta said. “I think all of our coaches and teachers know that we’re pushing for academic excellence. I think it’s awesome that NYSPHSAA recognizes when schools do have outstanding student-athletes.”
Ballston Spa, Canajoharie, Mayfield, Mohonasen, Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa and Waterford-Halfmoon were among the schools in Section II recognized with the School of Excellence award.
Duanesburg athletic director Catie Wilson recognizes the commitment the Eagles varsity teams have had in the classroom to achieve School of Distinction honors.
“At every preseason meeting that I have with our coaches, academics is always our first priority,” Wilson said. “They share with the athletes exactly what they need to achieve academically in order to continue with their season. It’s important because they’re not only representing themselves or their team, they’re also representing their school.”
Wilson admires the commitment from the Duanesburg varsity athletes.
“As student-athletes there’s more than just their physical ability,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to help them become the best people they can be. When you know that you have a team that does really well and then find out that they’re doing well academically, it’s just a wonderful thing.”
The challenge for any championship team or program is to repeat the following year.
“I just presented to the board of education [last week] how proud I was for the program getting that award and now we have an expectation,” Britt-Gaeta said. “It’s a point of emphasis heading into our meet the coaches night this fall. It’s great to achieve this now, and I hope to be back in front of the board of education and say `Hey, our kids are pretty awesome.’ “
Section II Schools of Distinction
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
Christian Brothers Academy
Saratoga Central Catholic
Section II Schools of Excellence