Saratoga Central Catholic was one of 19 schools state-wide to be honored this week as a School of Distinction by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
Schools earn School of Distinction status by having all of their varsity sports teams average 90 or better during their respective seasons. The NYSPHSAA's scholar-athlete teams must have 75 percent of their rosters with a grade-point average or 90 or above.
"This is something we're very proud of," Phonsey Lambert, Saratoga Catholic's athletic director and dean of students, said. "We're not just handing grades out. They are earning their grades."
Saratoga Catholic had 14 scholar-athlete teams during the 2016-17 school year. Section II had only one other School of Distinction, Fort Ann, which had seven scholar-athlete teams.
Lambert said the award is a byproduct of effective communication between teachers and student-athletes, the student-athletes' work beyond the classroom and the coaches urging of them toward academic excellence.
"We've won it three years in a row and five out of six years," Lambert said. "To have every sports team reach that academic level, I think we have a good reason to be proud."
Of the other 17 Schools of Distinction, seven represent Section VIII (Nassau County), four come from Section XI (Suffolk County), two come from Section III (Central New York) and Section V (Genesee Valley), and one is from Section I (Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester counties) and Section IV (Southern Tier).
Saratoga Catholic had scholar-athlete teams in baseball, softball, girls' volleyball, boys' bowling, skiing and golf, and boys' and girls' track/field, basketball, cross country and soccer. The Saints' skiing team consisted of only one student-athlete, junior Michael Halligan, who, aside from his academic achievement during the winter, placed fifth at the Section II Nordic Skiing Championships.
The Saints were newcomers to the Wasaren League in the 2016-17 school year and won its baseball championship, while sophomore Terel Tillman was named the circuit's most valuable player. The girls' volleyball team shared the Wasaren title with Hoosic Valley, and junior Grace Fornabia earned the league's MVP trophy. The boys' golf team finished as the league's runner-up. The Saratoga Catholic girls' soccer team set a program record for victories, and senior Kristen Maher set school records for goals in a game, season and career.
"Not too bad for our first year in the Wasaren League," Lambert, who coaches the baseball and bowling teams, said.
The School of Distinction award was initiated in the 2002-03 school year. The NYSPHSAA established a School of Excellence award beginning in the 2016-17 school year to honor schools that have 75 percent or more of their varsity teams earn scholar-athlete team status. The Section II honorees are Averill Park, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Fort Plain, Maple Hill, Mechanicville and Waterford-Halfmoon.