From Business First:
Clarence is well-known for its brainpower.
The Clarence Central School District has maintained a firm grip on second place in Business First's academic rankings since 2004. And Clarence Senior High School has held fourth place in the high school standings for the past four years.
But these lofty numbers don't tell the whole story. Clarence is also successful in athletics -- so successful, in fact, that it ranks No. 1 in Business First's latest analysis of sports programs at Western New York's public high schools.
"The athletics program does have a huge impact on our climate and culture here at the school," says Kenneth Smith, the principal of Clarence Senior High. "And yes, winning definitely does help."
Clarence wins with regularity. It has earned 15 sectional championships in team sports since 2006, a figure matched only by East Aurora throughout Section VI, which encompasses Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties, along with part of Orleans County.
But Clarence has enjoyed greater success than East Aurora during the past couple of years, giving it a five-point edge in Business First's rating system. Teams were awarded anywhere from one to four points for each sectional title, with victories during the most recent season receiving the greatest weight.
Clarence shot up from fourth place a year ago to take first place this time with 42 points. Last year's leader, East Aurora, follows with 37 points. Then come Fredonia with 33, Maple Grove with 32 and Frewsburg with 29.
Full details will be available in Business First's 2010-2011 Guide to Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands next Friday. Highlights are also available at the newspaper's website: buffalo.bizjournals.com.
Business First tallied the Section VI champions in 18 interscholastic team sports during the four-year span from the spring of 2006 through the winter of 2010. (That timeframe was chosen because champions for 2010's spring sports had not been determined by presstime.)
Six of the designated sports -- basketball, bowling, cross country, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball -- actually count as 12, since they are played by both genders. The rankings also include baseball, football and wrestling by boys, field hockey and softball by girls, and rifle by coed teams.
Excluded are sports such as golf, tennis and track and field, which crown individual champions, but do not award team titles.
Section VI splits schools into a variety of classifications, based on enrollment. These groupings can vary from sport to sport -- for example, from five divisions in basketball to two in boys volleyball. Winners in all classifications were given equal credit, resulting in a mixture of big and small schools in the top 10.
Among the smallest is Randolph, which has an enrollment of 276 from ninth through 12th grades. Its 11 sectional titles in six sports have landed it in eighth place.
"We are the center and focus of our community," says Kimberly Moritz, superintendent of the Randolph Central School District. "If our athletes are on the road, you'll find a long trail of Cardinals fans following along."
But Moritz says the benefits extend beyond the games themselves. She sees a correlation between success in athletics and in academics and other pursuits.
"Students feel a true sense of pride and also of possibility," she says. "There's a winning spirit, one that says, 'We can do this!' It affects how our athletes see themselves. And the entire community expects much of us -- on the playing fields and in the classrooms."
Business First's sports rankings do not include all of the high schools that it rates academically. Section VI is closed to private schools, and it does not extend to Allegany, Genesee or Wyoming counties. These excluded schools account for about one-fifth of the total high school enrollment in Western New York.
Sixty-seven high schools won a total of 297 team titles in Section VI during the four-year period encompassed by Business First's ratings. These are the 10 high schools that rank the best:
1. Clarence -- Soccer is Clarence's strongest sport. The Red Devils have won five soccer titles during the past four years -- three by the girls team and two by the boys -- including both Class AA crowns in fall 2009. Other multiple championships since 2006 have come in cross country (three for the boys, one for the girls) and baseball (two).
2. East Aurora -- East Aurora finished first in these rankings a year ago, but now slips to second place. The Blue Devils are fleet of foot, as shown by their seven cross country titles. The girls have swept all four since 2006, while the boys have taken three. East Aurora also has multiple championships in soccer (three by the girls, one by the boys) and lacrosse (one for each gender).
3. Fredonia -- Fredonia dominates on the mat and sparkles on the diamond. The Hillbillies have won four sectional wrestling titles in four years. They've taken three championships in softball and two in baseball during the same period. Added to the mix are three cross country wins (two by the girls, one by the boys).
4. Maple Grove -- Maple Grove's resumé is highlighted by a pair of sweeps. Its girls soccer team has won all four sectional championships since 2006, and its boys basketball squad has done the same. The Red Dragons also have a pair of titles in girls cross country to their credit.
5. Frewsburg -- The boys have led the way in Frewsburg during the past four seasons, winning three sectional titles in baseball, two in bowling and another pair in wrestling. The girls have added two basketball championships to the total.
6. Hamburg -- Five of Hamburg's nine Section VI championships have come in a single sport -- lacrosse. The boys team has won three of the past four titles, and the girls have added two. The Bulldogs also own a pair of volleyball trophies, one for each gender.
7. Forestville -- Don't mess with Forestville on the lanes. The Hornets are eight-for-eight in bowling. Both the boys and girls teams have swept their sectional championships since 2006. The girls are also strong in softball, winning two titles in that sport.
8. Randolph -- Girls have carried most of the load in Randolph, winning championships in five sports during the past four years, including multiple titles in bowling (three) and volleyball (two). The boys have added a pair of crowns in football.
9. Orchard Park -- Orchard Park is the only top-10 school where a single gender has scored all of the points. The boys have won 10 titles since 2006, while the girls have been shut out. The lacrosse squad has swept all four sectional championships. The Quakers also own three titles in football.
10. Eden -- Eden is synonymous with volleyball. The girls team has dominated its competitors, taking all four Section VI championships during the four-year period. The boys have been nearly as good, winning three volleyball crowns. The Raiders also hold a single title in baseball.
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TOP 50 HIGH SCHOOLS IN BUSINESS FIRST'S SPORTS RANKINGS
2. East Aurora
4. Maple Grove
9. Orchard Park
12. Williamsville North
16. Grand Island
19. Niagara Falls
22. Sweet Home
23. West Seneca West
23. Williamsville South
26. North Collins
26. Williamsville East
30. Silver Creek
33. West Seneca East
36. Pine Valley
38. North Tonawanda
43. Kenmore East
44. Cattaraugus-Little Valley
44. City Honors
49. Cassadaga Valley
NOTES: There were several ties for positions in the top 50. Rankings were confined to public high schools competing in team sports in Section VI.