The 2018-19 high school sports year was rife with new challenges for Frisco ISD which made the move to District 9-5A as part of a 10-team, all-Frisco district. The result was a parity-heavy athletics campaign from many of the top Class 5A programs in the Metroplex.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 9-5A’s 10 schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2019-20.
With that said, here’s the first installment of Five Questions for District 9-5A.
1. Which 9-5A school had the most impressive athletics year in 2018-19?
I harped on this question quite a bit over the last few weeks and expressed a more in-depth look in a column last week.
Despite terrific athletics years all across the board from each of the 10 schools in Frisco, this debate ultimately came down between Wakeland, Lone Star and Liberty.
Lone Star dominated in various team sports such as football, baseball and boys and girls basketball, as all four programs reached at least the third round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Wakeland and Liberty featured multiple teams and individuals competing for state championships and even earningsome hardware along the way. Wakeland girls cross country brought home a state title, while various Redhawks placed first at state in wrestling and track and field.
But Wakeland earns the claim of having the best athletics year because of not only its achievements in cross country, but the Wolverines also made the postseason in six of eight standings-based sports and made deep runs in volleyball and boys soccer.
2. What lies ahead in 9-5A cross country in 2019?
Wakeland has dominated cross country for nearly a decade with the boys team qualifying for state in the last eight years, as the boys and girls programs have reached Round Rock in each of the previous three seasons.
Although Wakeland graduated its top overall runner on the girls side in Isabella West and Nick Hendrix on the boys side, expect the Wolverines to be back in the mix this fall.
However, the top individual runner next season should be Colleen Stegmann of Reedy, who finished second at regionals and state behind McKinney North superstar London Culbreath.
3. Which sport best showcased the depth of 9-5A in 2018-19?
From top to bottom, there is probably no tougher 5A district in the state when it comes to boys and girls soccer.
Since 2015, three different FISD programs - Centennial girls, Wakeland boys and Wakeland girls - have all won state titles, while the Wakeland boys have reached the state final in each of the last four seasons.
Despite dominant runs this decade from those powerhouses, others like the Centennial boys and Independence girls have also won district titles despite competing in the same district as the defending state champions.Then last season, the Centennial boys failed to reach the postseason and placed fifth after sporting the best district record just the year before.
On the girls side, the playoff picture was not decided until the final week of the season with half a dozen squads still in the mix for a bid in the big dance. In fact, Liberty and Lebanon Trail squared off in a play-in game to decide the fourth and final playoff spot.
Not to mention, the Wakeland and Heritage boys teams each reached the regional tournament, while the Independence girls advanced all the way to the regional final before falling to state champion Highland Park.
4. What was the biggest surprise from the first year of this 9-5A grouping?
With the addition of two schools that did not feature any seniors enrolled at Lebanon Trail and Memorial, it was expected that both sides would experience countless growing pains against the rest of 9-5A.
Although that was the case in some sports, a pleasant surprise was how well some programs from both schools fared.
The first that comes to mind is the Lebanon Trail girls golf team not only dominating the rest of the district competition, but steamrolling through regionals en route to a second-place finish at state.
The Lebanon Trail girls soccer and volleyball teams also made magical runs though the district slate to clinch a playoff berth, while the Memorial girls basketball team showed plenty of promise by nearly winning a playoff game with mainly underclassmen.
5. What did you enjoy most about covering the first year of 9-5A?
As an avid basketball fanatic, I’d be remiss to mention the thrilling battles on the hardwood this season between Liberty and Lone Star on both the boys and girls sides.
The Rangers and Redhawks stood head and shouldersabove everyone else in the standings and were named co-district champions at season’s end.
Perhaps the most enjoyable battles occurred between the Lady Redhawks and Rangers, as the two rivals faced off three times in 2019.
In the first meeting, Lone Star erased a double-digit deficit in the second half and escaped with a thrilling 36-34 overtime victory back on Jan. 4. Liberty made sure history did not repeat itself in the rematch just a few weeks later when the Lady Redhawks took care of business in a 48-39 triumph on the road.
It was only fitting that the two state juggernauts met again in the regional final with a trip to state on the line, as Liberty took the rubber match in another down-to-the-wire finish.