Great year to build expectations

Published July 13, 2007

For a program in its infancy, the list of accomplishments for Seffner Christian Academy's athletic program during the 2006-07 sports season is staggering.


- Five of the program's seven sports won district championships. In the three previous seasons that Seffner Christian had been a full-fledged member of the Florida High School Athletic Association, the school won just two district titles total.

- The school has three all-state players. Haley Tanner and Jordan Raburn, both seniors, are first-team selections in softball. Freshman Derek Self is a third-team pick in baseball. They are the school's first athletes to win such honors.

- While fielding teams in fewer sports than most of their competitors, Seffner Christian finished 10th among all Class A private schools in the chase for the FHSAA Sunshine Cup.

- The softball team was named the FHSAA academic team champion and awarded $3,000 for having the highest GPA (3.79) among all classes.

Needless to say, Seffner Christian athletic director Andy Holmes is quite pleased with the direction his young program is headed.

"I expected us to have some success, but not to this degree," said Holmes, who was athletic director at Temple Heights Christian for a year before coming to Seffner Christian two years ago. "We're extremely proud of the way our athletes have performed. We want to get our school's name out there on a wider scope because we have great athletes."

A number of factors account for the drastic upswing in the program's maturation, including the scheduling of bigger schools during the regular season and more experienced players suiting up for the Crusaders. Holmes, however, points to a different element.

"A lot of it is the coaching staff," he said. "They put in an incredible amount of time. During the summer, we have camps, conditioning and different tournaments to keep us going in the offseason. They're a hard-working group."

Raburn, who spent three years at Seffner Christian playing basketball and volleyball in addition to softball, has seen the program's growing pains firsthand. But she has also witnessed a noticeable change in the athletes playing beside her.

"We have more variety with our players now," said Raburn, who led the Crusaders' softball team with a .479 batting average and 23 RBIs. "And we had a lot of players who were young and inexperienced when we first started but have grown as the program's grown."

Holmes feels that the momentum from this season should carry over to next season and beyond.

"A lot of our teams were filled with underclassmen," he said. "Next year, we have pretty big expectations. We hope to keep reloading. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on our teams."

Holmes will continue building on the recent successes by adding more sports in the near future.

"What's good about our school is the quality of the programs that we have," he said. "We're trying to add a sport each year. Last year was girls soccer. This year, we're trying to add boys and girls cross country."