More than two months after the Oakton High girls basketball team earned the program's first state championship trophy, the Cougars are receiving national recognition for their efforts.
In a pep rally at Oakton High School on Friday, MaxPreps and the Army National Guard honored the Cougars with a national ranking trophy as part of the fifth annual MaxPreps Tour of Champions. Only 10 girls basketball programs across the country are honored with this recognition.
The Cougars finished the season as the No. 31 ranked team in the country by MaxPreps, a California-based company that ranks more than 20,000 high school girls’ basketball teams.
The Cougars won the school's first AAA Virginia High School League girls basketball championship with a on March 9.
"It's a great honor to be only one of 10 teams recognized," Coach Fred Priester said to the crowd at Friday's rally. "... It does seem like a long time ago that we won, but it also seems like yesterday. It's really nice to have all these accolades still coming in. For me personally, it's been really nice to hear from so many of my former players because the win was for them, too."
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Castro of the Virginia Army National Guard presented the trophy and banner to Priester and the Oakton Cougars. Before the ceremony, Castro talked with the girls about their achievements this season.
"I was expecting them to show off a little, but that was not the case," Castro said. "Every single word out of their mouth was, 'We did this as a team. We did this because of our school. We did this because of our teachers.' It was all for you guys."
Before the MaxPreps presentation, Pat Full, director of student activities at Oakton High, took time to recognize the school's other athletic achievements so far this year. The girls swim and dive team was presented with their state championship trophy, which they earned in February for the first time in the program's history.
The many accomplishments of Oakton High athletic programs at the state level this year has put the school at the head of the pack for the Wells Fargo Cup, previously named the Wachovia Cup. The Wells Fargo Cup recognizes "the state champions of state champions, the school in each group that performs best in state‐level competition across all sports," according to a March news release from the Virginia High School League.
Oakton entered the spring season with a lead of about 100 points over the second-ranked Frank W. Cox High (Virginia Beach), which has won the cup 12 times since 1990. Oakton is vying for its first Wells Fargo Athletic Cup in the school's history, though it has won the sportsmanship award twice before.
"It's definitely, definitely within reach," Full said. "We were very close in 2005, but this is the first time we've had the lead heading into the spring season. We've got some really good spring teams, so I think we have a really good shot at it."