TAMPA — If you’re looking for the secret to the athletic success of Tampa Bay’s winningest high school, Rob Nelson doesn’t really have anything earth shattering to reveal.
Just an extremely strong community, mixed in with a healthy dosage of school pride, a group of athletes — many of them third- and fourth-generation Panthers — and coaches who, well, expect to win.
“I don’t think there’s any special formula or special sauce,” said Nelson, Plant High’s principal. “It’s just kind of something you build over time.”
Over on South Himes, consider it built — and refortified. For the sixth consecutive year, Plant athletes have collectively earned the Tampa Bay Times’ All-Sports Award, given to Tampa Bay’s most successful school on the field, courts and pools.
Plant scored 705 points, edging Jesuit, which scored 670 without any girls programs, and East Lake, which was third with 582.5.
While Plant also won the award — which is determined by a formula that awards points to each school’s athletic teams based on district, region and state titles as well as postseason success — in 2002 and 1991, its recent run is unprecedented.
Only Jesuit (2005-07) and Bloomingdale (1993-95) have won the award three or more years in a row.
“There’s a standard that’s been set,” Nelson said, “and you don’t want to be the coach of the team or the student that didn’t get it done.”
The recent run of Panther success can be traced back to a revival in the football program, which won its first of four titles in 2006.
Nelson said he remembers growing up in Nebraska and how football success always seemed to dictate the mood around town.
“Football started the engine a little bit for us,” he said.
This year, Plant can thank its girls teams, which scored 405 of the team’s points because of high finishes at state in swimming, cross country and, of course, tennis. The girls tennis team was the school’s only state champion for 2012-13, scoring 110.
Nelson said the mix of great coaching and committed athletes — boys and girls — is clicking.
“Right now, it’s pretty close to being as complete a package as a principal could hope for.”
Despite being a boys-only school, Jesuit moved up a spot to second after consecutive third-place finishes.
The Tigers were the only school to have three boys teams score 100 points or more: cross country, basketball and tennis.
Baseball was close, with 97.5, and wrestling scored 85.
East Lake was the top Pinellas finisher, taking third.
The Eagles went into the spring only trailing Plant 505-500, but tennis, track and softball only combined for 30 points, dropping them.
Palm Harbor University was sixth.
Wolves appear, disappear
Newsome was a surprise in the fall thanks mostly to football, boys golf and girls swimming and cross country, scoring 432.5 points and tying Plant for first place.
But Newsome only managed 15 points each in the winter and spring to place seventh overall.
Winter is coming
The season of soccer, wrestling and basketball was kind to Tampa Prep, which was the top scorer in the cold months, picking up 250 points to edge Jesuit (247.5).
The Bulls were the best North Suncoast performers on our chart, topping last year’s No. 1, Nature Coast, by five points to finish 12th overall.
Up or down?
Point totals were down this year, thanks to fewer state titles for the local teams.
Last year, 13 teams brought home gold medals. This year, only seven.
Our champions: Brandon and Springstead (wrestling), Plant (girls tennis), Tampa Prep (boys soccer), Canterbury (softball), Jesuit (boys basketball) and Lakewood (boys track).
It’s hard to fathom that with the success of the football and girls basketball teams in recent years, Jefferson would finish tied for last with only 5 points (boys track) after scoring 97.5 last year, or that Gaither would only score 10 points (football) a year after scoring 297.5.
Points are awarded based on a team’s finish in state competition in its classification. (Only sports sanctioned, not recognized, by the Florida High School Athletic Association receive points.) A state championship is worth 100 points, second place 95 and so forth through 16th place, which is worth 25. When exact positioning cannot be determined, such as with state semifinal losses, points are averaged. Also, 10 points are awarded for district championships and five for district runners-up.
East Lake 582.5
Berkeley Prep 567.5
Tampa Prep 540
Palm Harbor U. 492.5
Clearwater CC 445
Wiregrass Ranch 395
Nature Coast 390
Tampa Catholic 352.5
Holy Names 342.5
Seffner Christian 285
St. Petersburg Catholic 282.5
Calvary Christian 247.5
St. Petersburg 217.5
Academy at the Lakes 207.5
Land O’Lakes 187.5
Carrollwood Day 177.5
Plant City 150
River Ridge 132.5
Indian Rocks Christian 130
Strawberry Crest 125
Cambridge Christian 117.5
Northside Christian 115
Admiral Farragut 70
East Bay 67.5
Wesley Chapel 65
Boca Ciega 57.5
Tarpon Springs 57.5
Tampa Bay Christian 52.5
Tampa Bay Tech 20
Dixie Hollins 15
Bayshore Christian 10
Pinellas Park 10
2012: Plant; 2011: Plant; 2010: Plant; 2009: Plant; 2008: Plant; 2007: Jesuit; 2006: Jesuit; 2005: Jesuit; 2004: Seminole; 2003: Seminole; 2002: Plant; 2001: Seminole; 2000: Berkeley Prep; 1999: Jesuit; 1998: Jesuit; 1997: Clearwater Central Catholic; 1996: Lecanto; 1995: Bloomingdale; 1994: Bloomingdale; 1993: Bloomingdale; 1992: Ridgewood/Berkeley Prep; 1991: Plant; 1990: Brandon; 1989: Lakewood