Shen sports tops in state

DAILY GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Shen’s state title in field hockey contributed mightily to the school winning the Kerr Cup for overall athletic excellence.DAILY GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Shen’s state title in field hockey contributed mightily to the school winning the Kerr Cup for overall athletic excellence.

Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — For the third year in a row, Shenendehowa has won the Kerr Cup All-Sport Championship for overall excellence as a high school athletic program.

Each year, the recipe for Shenendehowa to win the award from the New York State Sportswriters Association has been a little bit different.

“I’m really proud that over the last three years we’ve had something like 21 of our 29 programs score points for us in the competition,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said Wednesday. “It’s not the same teams for us every year. We’ve had different teams contributing each year.”

The NYSSWA program awards points to schools based on how their teams finish in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s season-ending meets and tournaments. Points are awarded on a 15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1 basis.

Shenendehowa finished the 2016-17 competition with 59.17 points, while runner-up North Rockland of Section I totaled 52.33 points. Also from Section II in the overall top-10 was Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, which finished in fourth place with 49.50 points.

Shenendehowa largely won the 2015 competition on the strength of its boys’ programs, while its 2016 championship featured fairly even points between its boys’ and girls’ teams.

In 2017, Shenendehowa won after a dominating school year from its girls’ programs, which scored 75 percent of its points. Notably, its field hockey team won a state title, while both its girls’ volleyball and girls’ basketball teams made it to the state semifinals.

Culnan heaped credit upon the head coaches of those varsity teams — field hockey’s Jeanne Frevola, girls’ volleyball’s Lori Kessler and girls’ basketball’s Joe Murphy — for sustaining continued success.

“Those coaches have incredible programs,” Culnan said. “They run very structured, systematic programs where it’s not as much talent-driven as it’s program-driven — and, then, when you have the talent, you can make a run at a state championship.”

The school’s field hockey and girls’ volleyball teams had entered their seasons expecting to make deep runs in the state playoffs. Meanwhile, the girls’ basketball team returned only two players a season after making a trip to the state title game.

“So you lose basically your whole team and you wind up in almost the same exact spot you left off the year before,” Culnan said. “That’s incredible.”

Shenendehowa also scored Kerr Cup points in boys’ Alpine ski, boys’ swimming, boys’ volleyball, co-ed cheerleading, girls’ Alpine skiing, girls’ outdoor track and girls’ indoor track.

Several programs had entered their 2016-17 seasons after graduating a star player or more. Culnan said not seeing the school’s teams fall back after that was rewarding.

“When you lose Kevin Huerter and Ian Anderson and Carly Boland and Kevin Parker from your programs, who were four generational athletes for us all in the same class, to have the class behind it follow it up is great,” Culnan said. “So this year’s championship is very rewarding for us, because it shows what type of programs we have and what type of coaches we have.”

During its three-year run atop the Kerr Cup, Shenendehowa has won 40 Section II championships. The Plainsmen are likely to grow that total during the 2017-18 seasons.

“All I would say is I see us having a good year next year, too,” Culnan said.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.