Saint Stephen’s has announced the hiring of former collegiate All-American Sheri Hart to lead its swim/dive program in 2017. Hart was a standout at Worthington High School in Ohio, winning a team championship and three individual state titles. She finished her prep career as the national record holder in the 100 backstroke (a mark eventually broken by Natalie Coughlin) and went on to become an All-American at the University of Southern California (1990-91). Hart was an Olympic Trial finalist in 1988 and semi-finalist in 1992, and has set more than 20 masters swim records. Her coaching resume includes serving as an assistant on a state championship team at The Hockaday School, a girls’ college prep school in Dallas, Texas. Hart has also been Event Director for Swim Across America, raising more than $1.25-million for cancer research by hosting and preparing swimmers of all levels for Open Water Swim events. Hart takes over a Saint Stephen’s program that found success in and out of the pool in 2016. The boys team was recognized by the FHSAA as state Academic Champions with a combined grade point average of 3.785. The Falcons established four new school records and qualified for the state meet in two individual events and one relay.
Saint Stephen’s tradition of excellence on the tennis courts continued Tuesday, April 11, when the Falcons boys and girls captured their respective 1A-District 9 tournament titles. On Monday, SSES advanced to the finals in all 14 brackets (singles and doubles), and went on to win 13 of those matches the following day at the Saint Stephen’s tennis complex to leave no doubt. The Falcons will next host regional matches on Tuesday, April 18. The boys won their 14th district title and will be seeking their sixth regional championship. The Falcons also boast five state crowns, the most recent in 2015. The girls captured their 17th district title and have won seven regional and state championships. Their most recent state win came in 1992.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal/Niche.com has ranked Saint Stephen’s the No. 3 private K-12 school in the entire Tampa Bay area. Niche assessed 1,594 private schools throughout the country that offer grades kindergarten through 12th grade by looking at multiple metrics including test scores, percentage of seniors who go on to college, student-teacher ratio, and feedback from parents and students. Saint Stephen’s was given an A+ ranking and was listed behind only Tampa’s Berkeley Prep and Shorecrest Prep in St. Peterburg in the greater Tampa Bay area. You can view a complete list of the area rankings here.
On Friday, March 10, Saint Stephen’s celebrated the official opening of its Confucius Classroom, a collaboration with the University of South Florida Confucius Institute in Tampa. The partnership provides access to educational resources and funding to enhance the Mandarin language programs at Saint Stephen’s. SSES joins Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg, Pineview School of Sarasota, and Hillsborough County Schools among the Tampa Bay area Confucius Classrooms. Representatives from the USF Confucius Institute were on hand for a program of song, dance, and a martial arts exhibition that was preceded by the unveiling of a special plaque signifying SSES as a program partner.
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.