This week, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) announced that the Mustangs were the winners of the coveted Wachovia Cup for group A, an award that recognizes the efforts of George Mason’s prestigious athletic teams, many of which enjoyed some of their best seasons ever during the past school year.
“One thing you notice about schools that win is that there is a high level of consistency in all sports,” VHSL Information and Communications Specialist Mike McCall said. “They are very consistent that they keep the level of competition gets them to where they’re playing for a state championship. That’s clearly what you see with Mason this year. It was consistently playing for championships, which shows the commitment of the coaches and athletes that this school has.”
The Mustangs captured state championships, worth 50 points in the Wachovia Cup’s intricate scoring system, in cross country, girls basketball, girls soccer, and boys soccer this year. They also scored points in boys cross country, boys tennis, and girls track.
“There’re a lot of angles to take when talking about winning,” Mason Athletic Director Tom Horn said. “Winning it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve done anything differently, but having opportunities for our kids and our coaches to be recognized as the top for the first time in 15 years feels great.”
With 360 points, Mason edged out defending Cup champion Radford High School (330), who the Mustangs defeated in both soccer state finals earlier this month. Clarke County, a member of the Bull Run District with Mason, finished fifth, just years after winning four consecutive Cup titles. According to Horn, securing the Cup was something that has been brewing in the waters at Mason for some time.
“Winning is never the product of one day or in that case one season,” Horn said. “The state championships are not won by teams that were flukes or one-in-a-decade type of things. These are established programs with athletes that commit to working year-round and coaches that are dedicated.”
On Nov. 8, the Mustangs secured their first state title when the girls cross country team won for the first time in school history, edging out Clarke by three points at Great Meadows. Mason then followed it up in the ensuing season with a championship in girls basketball. The Mustangs, who were bounced from the state tournament by Floyd County the year before, exacted revenge in the finals, winning 53-46.
George Mason’s girls soccer team defended its state championship during the first weekend in June, sliding past Radford High 3-2. Just hours later, the boys squad earned the state title in its first appearance in the final game since 2005, downing two-time defending champion Radford 1-0. It was a win that mirrored the final results of the Wachovia Cup standings.
“The year started out great in the fall, when you win with cross country in the first time everyone has a chance to win something,” Horn said.
It is often said that sportsmanship triumphs over athleticism. Luckily for Mason, they have both facets wrapped up.
In addition to the Wachovia Cup, the Mustangs were recently awarded the 2009 Claudia Dodson VHSL Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award, along with 16 other schools in the state, earning 50 points toward the Wachovia Cup standings.
This recognition, Horn said, means more to him.
“It is a new emphasis for us, but not meaning we haven’t been doing it right,” Horn said.
“It’s more because of the coaches we have now. A couple years ago when we did the strategic plan, we wanted to take away some of the randomness of our character, we wanted to make it systematic.”
He continued, “We wanted our teams to display class, have integrity and play by the rules. It certainly won’t be the last time, now it should be easy for us to win.”
Earlier in the spring, Mason was awarded the Region B Principal’s Cup, an award that Horn said was assumed to go to Clarke County, a school that had dominated the postseason in single A for a long time. However, when the Region B principals got together to name the winner, it came down to Mason and Altavista High School.
The Wachovia Cup winners will be recognized during VHSL Day at a University of Virginia football game this fall.