After a 10-year streak of winning the SPC Athletic Directors’ Cup, St. Mark’s lost the trophy to the Kinkaid School. For the first time since its inception, the cup will rest in the trophy case of another school.
It all started as a friendly rivalry between our athletic director and Kinkaid’s almost two decades ago. Who had the best overall athletic program in the SPC?
The score was soon settled. But then St. John’s, Greenhill and a few others wanted in on the competition. Just a friendly competition.
Soon the majority of the SPC caught on. Former SPC Director Cindy Goff decided to make it official. With a trophy, true scoring and a lot of pride.
The Lions took home the newly-minted boys’ Athletic Directors’ Cup in the first year after its inception. Then the second, the third and so on.
Nine years in a row, the Cup has sat in the trophy case outside the lunchroom, holding with it the pride of knowing 10600 Preston Rd. has the best group of boys’ sports teams the SPC has to offer.
For nearly ten years it sat. Unappreciated by many and nearly undisturbed.
The Cup still sits in its usual spot. But this year, it will not return after the spring meetings of all the athletic directors from SPC schools. Instead, it will be taken to Kinkaid for the 2017-2018 school year.
Over the course of the next year, teams will have the chance to contribute to the reconquering of the Cup. One team, however, will not be able to bring the Cup back to its resting place on its own. Athletic Director Mark Sullivan, who has worked here since the beginning of the 10-year streak, has come to understand that every team plays a huge part in an Athletic Directors’ Cup victory.
“The trophy itself is a reflection of quality across the board,” Sullivan said. “You could look through, say, the past 10, 15 years of this, and you could see where one team fell down a little bit, and another team really picked them back up.”
The scoring of the cup works as such: if a team wins first place in SPC for a certain sport, they receive one point, the second place team receives two, etc., all the way down the list.
If a sport’s SPC tournament is played in the form of either a 12 or eight-team bracket, schools that fail to make the bracket will receive one more point than the number of teams in the bracket. In order to make the 12-team bracket, teams have to finish the season in the top six seeds of their zone. If the sport has an eight-team bracket, they must make the top four in their zone.
Coming into the spring season, Lions teams had amassed 38 points in total. This put the school 11 points behind first place St. John’s School with a couple other schools also in the mix.
The first weekend of tournaments, lacrosse placed second and golf third, leaving a chance the Lions could reclaim the Cup. Despite another set of strong finishes by tennis, track and field and baseball of third, fourth and fifth, respectively, The Kinkaid School in Houston ended up taking the Cup by a mere one point, the closest finish in the history of the Cup.
Even though he thinks it is important that the trophy will not be returning to 10600 Preston Rd., Assistant Athletic Director Josh Friesen said he does not think the Cup will change how players and coaches approach the season next year.
“I definitely think the guys will try to win no matter what,” Friesen said. “They try their best every year. I think it may put [the Cup] out there to the kids more, but no matter what, our players and coaches are doing what they can to finish as high as they possibly can.”
Sullivan agrees, but he also thinks having the Cup as a yearly goal not only helps him bring new excitement into each school year, but also helps him and Friesen further strengthen their emotional connection with the program.
“In a sense, this is kind of my game,” Sullivan said. “I want to go into the spring meeting every year being the guy whose school won that trophy. There’s definitely ego involved and pride involved in doing that.”
Senior baseball captain Gordon Gunn thinks that the school’s athletic success in recent years deserves to be celebrated, especially given the academic rigor that comes in addition to work out on the field, on the court or in the pool.
“I think a lot of it comes down to school values,” Gunn said. “St. Mark’s tends to value academics and community engagement quite a bit, which personally I think is great, especially when our athletics always tend to be dominant whether we value them [as much as other schools] or not.”
Sullivan said he does not want motivation for competing to come from winning the Athletic Directors’ Cup. Rather, he hopes coaches will continue to instill in their athletes the values that can be taught through sports, and the rest will fall into place.
“I wouldn’t want the Cup, and what it represents, necessarily, to drive any individual team and their effort,” Sullivan said. “To me, the Cup will take care of itself. I hope our focus will continue to be learning the right things through athletics. Learning how to be a better person, or a better man, if you will, through athletics.”