By Will Johnson                                                                                                                                                                       Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Even though the 2016-2017 school year has officially drawn to a close for high school students, the competition for the best of the best high schools in the state is coming down to the wire.

Every summer, since the end of the 1997-1998 school year, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has presented an award known as the Lone Star Cup to one high school in each of the six (originally five) UIL classifications – 1A through 6A – based on the overall team achievement in sanctioned UIL Athletic/Academic championships.

“This is something the UIL started – it’s been awhile now – that the UIL started to identify schools that perform well in all areas. It’s a combination of athletics, academics, band and the one act play,” Grapeland Athletic Director Wayne Mahaffey said.

While the results will not become official until July 3, the final update provided by the UIL on June 16 showed Grapeland High School in 15th place overall in Class 2A with 40 points.

The AD explained the competition is based on a points system compiled by the UIL over a year-long period and predicated on a team’s success at both the district and state levels.

“I’ve been at some places where we finished as high as third, but this is the first time since I’ve been here where Grapeland has been in the identified range. Now, I’ve only been here three years this time and they may have done something in previous years,” Mahaffey said.

Grapeland tied for eighth place during the 2010-2011 school year with 44 points. GHS also tied for tenth in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 with 40 and 41, respectively.

“To me,” he added, “it’s a recognition of the overall quality of the school. The UIL tried to balance the award between athletics and other activities to try and give a good overview. It can be heavily weighted. Your athletics can carry you a long way, but so can your academics. You can’t win it though, without a combination. Having said that, if you win a state championship in every sport you can certainly win the Lone Star Cup – but that doesn’t happen.”

The final tabulation is determined by the points awarded to both boys’ and girls’ programs in the following team sports: basketball and soccer for both boys and girls; baseball for boys and softball for girls; and football for boys along with volleyball for girls.

Individual sports are also included in the final numbers. For example, if a team captures the team title in a sport like track and field or golf they are awarded a certain amount of points. The individual sports taken into consideration for both boys and girls are: cross country; golf; tennis; track and field; swimming; and wrestling.

In the non-athletic competitions, the areas include marching band, one-act play and the state academic meet.

Prior to the release of the June 16 tabulation, Mahaffey said the Sandies and Sandiettes were one of the few schools from the East Texas area represented in the Class 2A standings.

“Union Grove is sixth (36 points) and Tenaha is tied with us (34 points) for seventh. The next one from this area is Price Carlisle who is tied for tenth (with 32 points). Centerville is 20th with 26. It doesn’t divide into Division I or Division II. It’s all just Class 2A,” Mahaffey said.

Mahaffey said he believed focusing on a good showing in the Lone Star Cup “… might be motivation for all programs to try and contribute. If you make the Lone Star Cup a big deal, I think the quality of your school can’t help but to go up because you are trying to achieve excellence in all areas.”

“Whether it’s in athletics, academics, one act play or band, if you try to promote and encourage the different areas to achieve a little bit more, it helps the way we look as a school,” he said. “Hopefully, this can help to lay the groundwork for our students to want to do a little bit more and get back up there again next year.”

According to the UIL website, “The winning schools in each classification will receive the UIL Lone Star Cup trophy and a $1,000 scholarship, also presented by the UIL.”

The top 25 schools in class 2A as of June 16 were: 1. Sundown with 72.67 points; 2. Lindsay – 64; 3. Mason – 60; 4. Crawford – 54; 4. Shiner – 54; 6. New Deal – 52; 7. Muenster – 48; 7. Weimar – 48; 9. Albany – 44; 9. Gladewater Union Grove      – 44; 11. Evadale – 42; 11. Forsan – 42; 11. Mart – 42; 11. Windthorst – 42; 15. Archer City – 40; 15. Grapeland – 40; 15. Price Carlisle – 40; 15. Thorndale – 40; 19. Bells – 38; 19. Post – 38; 19. Woden – 38; 22. Harper – 36; 22. Iola – 36; 22. Martin’s Mill – 36; and 22. Refugio – 36.

As a side note, as of June 16, Slocum High School stood fourth in the Class 1A rankings with a total of 52 points.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.