The most memorable thing about the 2010-11 prep sports season wasn’t the winning.
Yes, there was plenty of that. At least one area team made the final four during each of the three sports seasons, while wrestlers, weightlifters and track athletes left state meets with medals.
But the best part was how tradition-rich stalwarts were mixed in with the programs who reached rarefied air.
We had Manatee’s football team getting back to the state final four for the fourth time in six years, months before Manatee’s baseball team made the state final four for the first time in 48 years.
Lakewood Ranch’s girls cross country team finished second in the state in Class 3A for the second straight year, months before Braden River’s softball team won its first regional title.
Saint Stephen’s boys soccer team clinched its second state semifinal berth in three years the same night Lakewood Ranch’s boys soccer team played in a regional final for the first time.
And Manatee wrestler Quinn Tibbetts wrestled for his first state championship the same night his teammate, Alex Doran, won his fourth state medal.
There is something to be said for consistent success, for staying entrenched in the state championship conversation. One of the most difficult things to do in sports is to win when everyone expects you to.
And there is something to be said for doing something for the first time. The one thing all the great programs and teams have in common is all they are started somewhere.
Tradition isn’t born, it’s made. That’s what makes the prep season so special. The year didn’t end the way the baseball Hurricanes and softball Pirates wanted it to -- each team lost by a run in the semifinals -- but they got there.
Manatee got to step on the big ballfield at Digital Domain Park and play in front of a nearly 700 people. If the Hurricanes had some jitters, perhaps they won’t there next year should they make it that far.
Ditto for Braden River’s softball team.
Whether you want to see greatness furthered along or you pull for the team that comes out of nowhere and makes a spirited run toward a state championship, this year had something for everyone.
So now we turn our gaze toward the summer, where most of this past season’s runs were built.
Then we look toward 2011-12.
How far will Manatee’s football team go? How fast will Lakewood Ranch’s girls run? Will the Falcons fly back to the soccer final four? Will the Mustangs join them?
Will the Hurricanes and Pirates doing themselves one step better next spring?
Right now, no one knows. But if this past year was any indication, finding the answers to those questions promises to be a lot of fun.
John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2097.