St. Mary's School for the Deaf Athletic Director Jim Carmody and girls basketball and track coach Bryan Brooke both teach physical education at the Buffalo school. They've both continued a tradition by lining the hallway to gym class with a living history of the program's athletic achievements.
There are glass-encased bulletin boards with newspaper clippings on each side, documenting all-star teams, photos and articles. When students make a right turn to the gym, they see a glass shelving unit holding basketballs adorned with the names of the school's 1,000-point scorers.
All of that history is there for a reason. It's there to let the students know that -- never mind what kind of school they are attending, or what size it is -- that there is plenty for them to achieve.
Which is just what happened this year.
St. Mary's School for the Deaf, a school that has just 22 high school students, won a national championship in girls basketball, then followed it with the school's first Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association championship in girls track.
"It's one of the best girls teams we've ever had," Carmody said.
Said Brooke: "It's been a wonderful experience. We knew we had a special group in basketball. We didn't know what level we could achieve, but we wanted to win as much as we could and we were going to do whatever it took. We always have high expectations for our girls, but I'll be honest, never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate winning track."
"It's been an amazing season, with great memories," senior standout Crystle Marion said -- and signed -- during a recent interview at the school, one held in the history-laden hallway leading to the gym.
"It feels surreal," senior Sarah Flowers said of the team's accomplishments. "I felt like I was dreaming. I was so proud of my team -- it was amazing."
Marion, of Buffalo, and Flowers, of Cheektowaga, were members of both teams, as were sophomore Shakenya Ward-Brassell (Niagara Falls), senior Sauda Abdulkadir (Buffalo), freshman Vaughntasia Hawkins (Buffalo), junior Andrea Lewis (Niagara Falls), sophomore Dinahliz Quinones and junior Rebecca Swiatek (Snyder). Monica Burger (Lackawanna) was on the track team while Jessie O'Brien (Olean) was on the basketball team.
The standout of both seasons was Marion, who became Western New York's all-time leading scorer in basketball this year with 2,527 points. She averaged 25.3 points and 15.5 rebounds to lead the Lady Bison to their third consecutive ESDAA championship (the league comprises 12 schools from Maine to Maryland).
She was also named the National Deaf Interscholastic Athletics Association's National Player of the Year as St. Mary's earned the national championship of the NDIAA, which includes about 25 schools. It is the school's first national title since 1986-87. Marion also scored eight points while competing against the area's best during this year's Cheektowaga Lions Club All-Star Game.
The humble Marion never thought her senior year would go so well. "Sometimes I would dream about it," said Marion, who wants to play in college, either at Erie Community College or Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C.
Brooke said the basketball team's mission was forged three years ago, during Marion's freshman year. St. Mary's came back from a 20-point halftime deficit but would lose by one to the Rochester School for the Deaf in the semifinals of the ESDAAs -- which were being hosted by St. Mary's.
"Rochester ended up winning the tournament, and we stood at center court and we watched Rochester cut down our nets," Brooke said. "Collectively we said, 'This will never happen again.' Since then, we've gone 14-0 against deaf schools."
On the track, Marion owns the longest shot put throw in Western New York this season at 41 feet, 2 inches. At the ESDAAs, she broke the meet record with a throw of 36-7 1/4 while she also won the discus.
Other winners on the track were Ward-Brassell, who won the high jump and 100 hurdles; Flowers (3,200) and Burger (1,600).
"I wanted to be up there," Flowers said of the wall. "It feels good being up there. [It just shows] it can happen -- anything is possible."
Park's Frank rows to title
Eliza Frank, a senior at Park School, won the girls senior single at the prestigious Stotesbury Cup regatta in Philadelphia on May 19. The Stotesbury Cup, held on the Schuylkill River, has been held since 1927 and is billed as the world's oldest and largest high school rowing competition.
Frank, of Buffalo, rows out of South Niagara Rowing Club in Ontario. She won the event in 5:45.36, more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Jen Sager of Philadelphia's Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
> On the web
There will be live blog coverage of today's softball finals and Saturday's boys lacrosse regionals. Tweet updates and observations with the hashtag #preptalkscores or to @KeithMcSheaBN.
Watch video interviews from coaches and players from the Section VI lacrosse championships at the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com.