TAMPA — The folks at Plant High have a motto.
Strength through unity.
Nowhere do those words ring truer than in the athletic arena. On any given day during the school year, one can find football players wearing pink shirts in support of the volleyball team, softball players in the stands shouting "Plant, Plant, Plant" at a basketball game or the coach of one team making public address announcements during the match of another.
"Everyone (at Plant) kind of networks," said outgoing senior Derek Winter, a standout wide receiver who is headed to Auburn on a football scholarship. "You always have friends on other teams and you want to support those people."
Lately, there has been plenty to cheer.
During the 2007-08 academic year, Plant's athletic program was ridiculously good. And because of it, the Panthers have earned the Times’ All-Sports Award for the newspaper's four-county coverage area (Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas).
"It just seems like all the sports are doing pretty well," said Plant girls cross country coach Roy Harrison, whose program has won eight state titles and placed fifth last fall. "Everybody is trying to do their own thing — and trying to win."
Here are some of Plant's 2007-08 highlights (and for the record, there are far too many to list them all):
• The nationally ranked volleyball team won its second straight state championship and fifth this decade.
• The girls tennis team was the state runnerup.
• Volleyball setter Kellie Catanach, a Duke signee, was named Gatorade State Player of the Year.
• Winter was the 2007 Guy Toph Award winner as the county's top football player.
• The boys cross country team placed fourth at state.
• Quarterback Aaron Murray, a rising senior who recently committed to Georgia, set the state record for touchdown passes with 51.
• The softball team was a region finalist.
• Harrison was named Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Coach of the Year.
• Tennis player Joel Samaha, who will play for Yale, was the state individual singles champion.
Plant's athletic success carried into the classroom.
During Hillsborough County's recent spring awards ceremony, the school's athletic program was honored for having a county-best 3.369 overall grade point average.
"When you see other teams doing well, you want to do well, too," girls tennis coach Lynn Vu said. "They feed off each other."
Why is Plant so good at so many sports?
Boys basketball coach Mike Phillips, who has been at the school 13 years and whose team won 25 games last season, pointed to five things: community support, dedicated coaches, solid feeder programs, a strong academic track record and, of course, good athletes.
"You've got to have the athletes," Phillips said. "We've been very fortune to have them. It cycles in high school sports. You can't go out and get what you want."