A pair of Central Coast Section titles were just the tip of the iceberg for Aptos High in the 2018-2019 school year, as the Mariners achieved tremendous success at the section level, adding on to a rich history of success as mainstays of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League.
After winning 16 league titles in the 2017-2018 school year, and narrowly missing out on the top public school award issued by Prep2Prep, Aptos was back at it this past school year, but took its success to a different level, this time taking the entire section by storm.
CCS titles were had in football and girls basketball, with the former occurring in an Open Division, but success found its way into nearly every nook and cranny of the Mariners’ athletic department.
The boys’ basketball and girls volleyball teams reached the CCS finals, while baseball, girls soccer, girls water polo and softball all reached the section semifinals. On top of that, the boys wrestling, girls wrestling and boys track teams all finished in the top 20 at the CCS Championships. Of all varsity sports combined, just two did not reach the section playoffs.
“It starts at the top. We have a principal and administration, which value athletics. They see athletics as an important co-curricular program, not as an extra-curricular program. They understand that athletics play an important role in our students’ lives, both now and down the road,” said Aptos athletic director Mark Dorfman, who recently retired after 30 years guiding the Mariners’ athletic department. “We have built a culture over the years. We emphasize participation and high expectations, and our coaches buy into that philosophy. Multi-sport athletes are the norm, not the exception, and our goal in every sport, every year, is to win a league championship.”
Since the start of this century, Aptos has never won fewer than six league titles. And this past year, the Mariners’ football team became the first program in Santa Cruz County history to reach a CIF regional football game.
“Our football team had a special year due to both a successful and exciting season, but also because our group was full of great young men. They were well liked by the school because they were humble and treat people the right way,” commented Aptos football coach Randy Blankenship. “We also had the best rooting section since I have been here, and our principal (Peggy Pughe) had a big hand in allowing the student body to get rooter busses. After the season, our players joined the rooting section for the other sports, which continued our spirit.”
The deflection of credit by both Dorfman and Blankenship also seems to be a trademark of many successful athletic departments, and the Mariners certainly fit the mold. Dorfman referenced the ability of his coaching staffs, and the fact they have attended multiple Positive Coaching Alliance and Joe Ehrmann Inside-Out workshops. Blankenship, meanwhile, credits Dorfman for being the type of leader who the students never wanted to disappoint.
Yet, with all the high expectations, all the success at the local, regional and state levels (the Mariners had three individuals qualify for CIF Championships), Aptos continues to stick to a basic foundation for success for all student-athletes.
“Fun is a very important factor here,” Dorfman added. “Our kids work hard, and our coaches want to win, but at the end of the day, if kids aren’t having fun, they won’t participate and they won’t work hard. Fun comes in all sorts of shapes and colors, and winning brings its own sort of fun, but our coaches know that having fun is an important part of our athletic philosophy.”
In the 2018-2019 school year, as with many years before, the Mariners certainly had fun in the athletic arena. As a result, we are pleased to recognize Aptos as the Prep2Prep Northern California Public School of the Year.
Story By Nate Smith, Prep2Prep Senior Contributor. For more info, visit prep2prep.com
Photos Credit: Denise Russo Photography