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Plant High wins St. Petersburg Times' All-Sports Award

Plant athletes are well aware of the tradition they carry on. From left: cross country runner Didier Barjon, volleyball player Danielle Erb, football player Orson Charles, tennis player Amber Li, baseball player Jake Lowe and swimmer Hillary Hahmann.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Plant athletes are well aware of the tradition they carry on. From left: cross country runner Didier Barjon, volleyball player Danielle Erb, football player Orson Charles, tennis player Amber Li, baseball player Jake Lowe and swimmer Hillary Hahmann.

TAMPA — A stroll through the hallways of Plant High in south Tampa reveals floors worn by countless footsteps.

A lot of great athletes have moved through these corridors — Wade Boggs, Mike Williams and Robert Marve come to mind.

Since the doors opened in 1926, many others have helped fill a huge trophy case at the school's entrance.

And in the gymnasium, opposite the wall of an imposing mural of a black panther is another covered in black banners. Each is stitched with gold lettering that celebrates team accolades for one of the bay area's strongest athletic programs.

Plant can add one more banner to the wall after winning the St. Petersburg Times' All-Sports Award for the 2008-09 school year, given to the top athletic program in our four-county area (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando).

Plant also won in 2008, 2002 and 1991. The award celebrates the success of a school's athletic program in postseason play.

"To be honest with the year that we've had it was not surprising to me," Plant athletic director Laura Figueredo said. "This is my ninth year in my position and this is probably the most success our sports teams have experienced."

Some of the program's highlights from the past school year:

• The football team won the Class 4A state title, its second in three seasons.

• The volleyball team won the Class 5A state title, its third straight championship and sixth this decade.

• The girls tennis team won the Class 3A state title, the first team title in program history.

• The girls swim team placed third at the Class 2A state meet.

• Boys cross country was sixth in the Class 3A state meet.

• The baseball team reached the Class 5A state final four, its first state berth since 1990.

• Girls tennis player Amber Li reached the overall singles final at state.

• Pitcher Mychal Givens was selected in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft.

• Aaron Murray and Orson Charles signed football scholarships to play at Georgia.

• Murray also was named the Class 4A Florida Dairy Farmers football player of the year.

Figueredo said the award says a lot about the kids and coaches, and how well they work together.

"It's a great place to work and our coaches go above and beyond what's expected of them," Figueredo said. "… They work during the offseason and in season. I think that shows on the court, on the field and in the classroom."

Figueredo also stressed having strong academics, which was validated with Plant claiming Hills­borough County's comprehensive award for spring with the top grade point average (3.488).

"That just shows not only are they producing on the field or the court, but also in the classroom," Figueredo said. "That's probably even more important than producing outside. That can take them further than anything else and open more doors for them.

"They could be the greatest athlete, but if they can't make it in school nobody will want them."

Staff writer Keith Niebuhr contributed to this report. Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or (813) 226-3458.

About Plant

Opened: 1926

Enrollment (9-12): 2,229 (approximately)

Mascot: Panthers

Athletic director: Laura Figueredo

Team state titles: Baseball 1988; boys basketball 1941, 1958; girls cross country 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002; football 2006, 2008; boys golf 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1936; boys tennis 1944, 1961, 1965, 1970; girls tennis 2009; volleyball 1975, 1976, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008

Well-known alumni: Wade Boggs (Class of 1976, baseball Hall of Famer); John Hudek ('85, five major-league teams, 1994 All-Star); Vernon Korhn ('63, Guy Toph Award winner, became Hillsborough County AD); Mike Williams ('02, NFL receiver)

Notable: Established in south Tampa 83 years ago, the school is named after Henry Bradley Plant, who was responsible for much of the area's growth in the late 1800s (he built the famed Tampa Bay Hotel, which today is part of the University of Tampa). … Famed comedian Leo Gallagher attended Plant in the 1960s. … Plant made Newsweek's annual list of the country's top 100 schools in 2009 for the fifth straight year.

Plant High wins St. Petersburg Times' All-Sports Award 06/15/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 15, 2009 8:33pm]
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