A state championship for the football Falcons provided a storybook ending to not only a record-setting campaign on the gridiron, but to the entire fall athletic season at Saint Stephen’s. It was a story of unprecedented success. Of the eight varsity teams competing in the fall, five won district titles, three were regional champions, and six qualified to compete at their respective state championships
One year earlier on the same field at The Master’s Academy, the football Falcons had been humbled in a shutout loss to Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic in their first-ever trip to the Sunshine State Athletic Conference Championship Game. The second visit appeared to be headed in the same direction until SSES scored three touchdowns in a span of 6:02 of the fourth quarter, turning a 14-point deficit into a 21-14 victory over Vero Beach Saint Edward’s School. The win earned Saint Stephen’s its first independent state football title and capped a thrilling 11-1 season.
The boys golf team completed an undefeated regular season in dominating fashion, winning by an average of nearly 22 strokes per match. They then went on to win their sixth overall district championship, third consecutive and fifth overall regional championship, and finish third at the state tournament. The Falcons also captured the Manatee County Golf Championship for the first time, with junior Ryan Kinkead taking the individual title. Junior Massimo Mbetse shot 69 to take medalist honors at the regional tournament in Fort Myers for a team that looks primed for the future. On the girls side, the Falcons won their fifth consecutive district and regional titles and finished 13th at the state tournament. Senior Vanessa Yan paced the team all season to finish her stellar career as one of the best all-time at Saint Stephen’s. She shot 72 to finish second at the regional and posted her third straight top-30 individual finish at state. The regular season included lopsided tri-match victories against Braden River and Cardinal Mooney (by 37 strokes) and Manatee and Out of Door (by 36).
The cross country teams made school history by winning district championships for the first time in both boys and girls meets. They then followed that up by finishing second (boys) and sixth (girls) at the regional run to qualify for the state championships. The Falcons eventually placed 17th (boys) and 19th (girls) in Tallahassee. Senior Andrew Csubak was a standout throughout the season and became the first Falcon to win two events in the same campaign, leading the pack across the finish line at two of the biggest meets of the year – the Venice Invitational and the District Championship.
Under first year Head Coach Jeff Logsdon, boys swimming broke four school records and qualified for the state meet in two individual events and one relay. The Falcons finished the season in 29th place at state.
Saint Stephen’s hosted, and its teams finished 1-2 in the fourth and final Manatee County Academic Team Challenge competition of the season on Tuesday, Dec. 6, once again earning SSES the county championship. Four Falcons – seniors Vanessa Yan, MaryAnn Placheril, Alex Siegal and sophomore Matthew Thomas – finished among the top six high-scoring individuals for the season, qualifying them to represent Manatee County at the state competition. Earlier this year, the Manatee County team featuring five SSES students and one from Lakewood Ranch High won the state title. The new group will be seeking a repeat when they travel to compete next April.
Saint Stephen’s tallied three touchdowns in a span of 6:02 of the fourth quarter to turn a 14-point deficit into a 21-14 victory over Vero Beach Saint Edward’s School in the Third Annual Florida Bowl at The Master’s Academy in Oviedo on Nov. 19. With the victory, Saint Stephen’s claims the Sunshine State Athletic Conference Championship billed as the Florida Independent State Championship. Junior quarterback Fred Billy led the way for the Falcons, rushing for 206 yards on 25 carries, including 112 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He also passed for 74 yards and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The victory put a cap on a historic season for SSES. After losing their opening game, the Falcons won 11 straight on the way to their first-ever championship.
After an extensive search that began in May, Saint Stephen’s has announced the hiring of Jeff Cole as the new head coach of its boys lacrosse program. Cole is a graduate of St. Lawrence University in New York, where he played lacrosse and football. In 2014, he was hired to lead the Manatee Lacrosse Club. Cole took over a floundering program that in his first season finished 2-13. Two years later, the team went 13-2. For his efforts, Cole was named the Florida Gulf Coast Lacrosse League Coach of the Year in 2016. Saint Stephen’s will enter just its fifth season as an FHSAA-sanctioned program in 2017. The Falcons finished 6-11 in 2016. Cole continues to play lacrosse competitively and travels throughout the year to play in tournaments throughout the state. He lives locally in Bradenton with his wife Cynthia and is a retired U.S. Secret Service Agent.
Eighth grade Social Studies teacher Mary Louise Sternberg was recently named the History Teacher of the Year in Florida by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York. The award recognizes outstanding K–12 American history teachers across the country and includes a $1,000 prize and an archive of classroom resources. Mary Louise received her honor at the Florida Council for the Social Studies annual conference in Orlando at the end of October and was presented with the award by Lynne Jackson, great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott. Click this link to view then entire list of state winners.
Saint Stephen’s cross country made school history on Thursday, Oct. 20, as the boys and girls teams both captured their first-ever district titles at G.T. Bray Park to qualify for regionals on Oct. 28 at Holloway Park in Lakeland. Senior Andrew Csubak (pictured) and junior Henry Howell finished first/second overall for the boys as the Falcons outdistanced 11 other schools for the championship. It was the second individual title of the season for Csubak. The boys will be looking to make their third straight state meet appearance and improve on last year’s fifth-place finish at regionals. Junior Baylee Barker was third overall to lead the Falcons on the girls’ side. Saint Stephen’s placed five girls runners among the top 13 at the meet to advance.
The Saint Stephen’s boys and girls golf teams once again notched bids for the state championships with regional tournament victories on Monday, Oct. 17. Both followed up district titles from the week prior with strong outings to outpace the field. The girls have now captured five consecutive regional titles. The boys have won three straight. Junior Massimo Mbetse shot 3-under-par 69 to record the low individual score and pace the boys at the Verandah Golf Club in Fort Myers. The Falcons scored 299 as a team, 12 strokes better than Community School of Naples. The girls were dominant on their home course at the Bradenton Country Club, winning by 37 strokes over second-place Fort Myers Canterbury. Senior Vanessa Yan shot 72 and finished second overall. Both teams advance to compete in the Florida State Championships at Howey in the Hills, Oct. 28-29.
GIRLS RESULTS: Class 1A-Region 6 Tournament
At Bradenton Country Club
Team scores: Saint Stephen’s 349, Fort Myers Canterbury 386, Community School of Naples 407, Fort Myers Bishop Verot 410, Naples Neumann 467, Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian Academy 488
Saint Stephen’s: Vanessa Yan 72, Maria Huang 88, Kendall Miller 94, Catherine Huang 95
BOYS RESULTS: Class 1A-Region 6 Tournament
At The Verandah Club, Fort Myers
Team scores: Bradenton St. Stephen’s 299, Community School of Naples 311, Bishop Verot 312, Seacrest Country Day 314, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 326, Sarasota Out of Door 333, Canterbury 362, Evangelical Christian 365
Saint Stephen’s: Alan Klenor 83, Massimo Mbetse 69, David Gao 74, Ryan Kinkhead 77, David Hu 74
Saint Stephen’s won the Manatee County Golf Tournament and placed three players on the five-person All-County team on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Buffalo Creek Golf Course. Led by individual champion Ryan Kinkead, the Falcons finished at 286, 13 strokes better than runner-up Lakewood Ranch. Kinkead shot a 3-under 69, two strokes better than any other golfer and three better than last year’s winning score. SSES’s Alan Klenor finished in a tie for second with 71, and Massimo Mbetse (pictured) shot even-par 72 to finish fourth. Kinkead’s day was marked by consistency. He only bogeyed once and dropped in four birdies. Considering wet conditions and an afternoon storm that ended some golfers’ day early, Kinkead was pleased mostly with his putting. He sunk a 25-footer on 16 with a putt that drifted three or four feet from left to right. It was the longest putt of the day for the junior and the cap on a historic day for the Falcons.
A crew from The College Board was on campus Sept. 15-16 filming in Mr. Whelan’s history classroom. Whelan’s ability to connect, combined with a strong love and grasp of history, earned him the honor of being one of only three teachers across the United States – the others are in Texas and California – featured in videos aimed at helping AP world history teachers engage their students with the material. Whelan was chosen by officials who run the curriculum and instruction departments for the Advanced Placement programs, administered to high school students hoping to earn college credit by the College Board. Later this fall, three “modules” filmed with Whelan and students from Saint Stephen’s will be available to help AP world history teachers across the country. Whelan has taught AP for 21 years and has worked with AP before, attending workshops and summer institutes to better both himself and fellow teachers.
Read more about Mr. Whelan and why The College Board chose SSES in the Bradenton Herald.