The Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) sanctioned its first state championship at the 1918 “Sweet 16” basketball tournament. Since that time, high schools throughout the commonwealth, both large and small, have competed for titles. From Ashland to Paducah, the trophy cases in these schools proudly display the championship hardware garnered by Kentucky’s student athletes and teams. Saint Xavier’s student athletes and teams have, without question, captured their fair share.
The 1926 Saint Xavier basketball team captured the school’s initial KHSAA state championship. This championship, the first of four in basketball, began the legacy of athletic excellence that has accounted for one hundred seventy-two team titles and countless individual champions over the years. Seventy-two years later, in 1998, the wrestling team added an exclamation point to the tradition of Tiger championship teams. By winning the team title that year, Saint Xavier accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning at least one state team championship in each of the KHSAA’s ten sanctioned sports. With this title, every banner in the Saint Xavier gym could now display the bold, gold numerals indicating a championship season. In 2001, the wrestlers made sure that those numerals would not be lonely when they added a second set of numerals to the list.
The Saint Xavier championship tradition counts a national record fifty-twotitles in swimming & diving, including consecutive streaks from 1947 – 1957 and the current record setting standard of twenty-eight that began in 1989. Marty O’Toole ’57, was an integral part of twenty-five of those championships, as both an All-American swimmer and coach of the Tigers.
The tennis program can trace its championship tradition to 1932. In that year, the doubles combination of Warfield Donohue ’33 and George Trakas ’33, teamed up for one of the many doubles and singles tennis titles awarded prior to 1982 when the KHSAA began its sanction of team victories. In the past thirty-five state tournaments, the Tigers have won twenty-five state titles, finished runner-up nine times, and finished third once.
While the tradition of Saint Xavier championship football can be traced to outstanding teams and great players in the first half of the 20th century, the first recognized championships occurred back-to-back in 1956 and 1957. The KHSAA began its sanction of a championship game in 1959, and the Tigers brought home the crown in 1962. More recently, the decade of the 1990s was one of tremendous gridiron success. Coach Mike Glaser’s squads won four state titles (1992, 1995, 1997, 1999) and appeared in five championship games. The Tigers have most recently won titles in 2004 and 2009. The end of an era came when Mike Glaser retired in 2013 and handed the reigns to former St.X and NFL lineman Will Wolford.
The Saint Xavier track team, golf team, and cross country team all earned championships in the 2001 calendar year. Golf and track repeated as champions in 2002, and the track team captured its third title in a row when it blitzed the field at the 2003 state meet. After a runner-up finish in 2003, the golfers took back the team title with a victory at the 2004 state tournament. Most recently, the Tiger Golf team has won the past three titles (2014-2016). The cross country squad brought home its third consecutive state championship, and fourth in the past five years, when it earned the title at the 2013 KHSAA State Meet. That same 2013 squad went on to run at NXN Nationals in Portland, and most recently, the 2016 Tiger XC team was able to do the same, placing 13th in the nation. Each of these teams can trace its championship tradition to the decade of the 1950s. The track team won its first title in 1950, the golf team triumphed in 1951, and the cross country harriers were victorious at the 1959 state meet.
The Saint Xavier baseball team, with seven championships, the first coming in 1942 and the most recent in 2016, now holds the KHSAA record for most state titles. The 1988 team, led by 2000 National League All-Star Paul Byrd ’88, finished 30-5 and reached the KHSAA final four, and the 1998 team, with former Major League Baseball player, Chris Burke ’98, finished the season at 33-2 as one of Saint Xavier’s best teams ever. The Tiger Baseball team has now won two of the last three titles since ending a 33 year drought in 2014.
The 1962 Saint Xavier basketball team, led by Olympic Gold Medalist Mike Silliman ’62, won the last of the Tigers’ four state championships. When the St. X basketball team won the 7th Region crown and reached the Sweet 16 in 1995 it was the school’s second trip to the state tournament since that 1962 championship season. The 2012 Tigers advanced to the finals of the always tough 7th Region. Most recently, the 2016 Tigers advanced to the finals of the 7th region, led by Connor McKim, St.X’s first Regional Player of the Year since 1970.
Since its inception, under the guidance of Bro. David Freely in 1969, the Saint Xavier soccer team has established itself as one of the premier soccer programs in the nation. Scott Budnick ’89 of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and Ray Burse, Jr. ’02 of FC Dallas are former Tigers who have made an impact in Major League Soccer. The Tigers have captured fourteen KHSAA championships including eight under current coach Andy Schulten. With the 2012 championship, the Tigers have now captured two consecutive titles and five of the past six, while going undefeated in their past 55 matches.
In recent years, Saint Xavier athletic teams have proven to be stronger than ever. Since the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year, Saint Xavier teams have won seventy-fourstate championships including nineteen by the swimming and diving team, sixteen by the tennis team, eight by the soccer team, nine by the golf team, nine by the cross country team, four by the football team, as well as three by the track and wrestling teams. Another thrity-nine state and national titles have been captured by Saint Xavier’s volleyball, power-lifting, hockey, rugby and lacrosse teams in sports not sanctioned by the KHSAA, the most recent being the rugby state title in 2013.
Saint Xavier athletic tradition is one that is unequaled. It relies on the hard work and dedication of athletes and coaches. It depends on the loyalty and support of families, students, and alumni. It is a tradition that is founded in the values of the Xaverian Brothers and in the unending pursuit of excellence.