When it comes to athletics at Venice High, the stories practically write themselves.
Now just over a year into my time as sports editor with the Venice Gondolier Sun, my first season of high school sports in Venice has already been bookended by two Venice baseball state titles.
For my first assignment as Venice sports editor in 2018, I watched the Indians knock off Pace High late into the night in extra innings for their fifth state title. This past weekend, I found myself back at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, watching another storybook ending to a Venice High sports season as the Indians rallied for their sixth championship.
“We’re one high school in a small town and it’s a pretty amazing thing how these guys have just continued to rise up and step in and replace the next guy who leaves every year,” Venice coach Craig Faulkner said after winning the 2019 7A state tournament Saturday night.
“It’s pretty special. I’ve got a pretty special group of coaches who volunteer and are there every day, pouring into these guys. They do it in the classroom, on the field and in the community.”
Last year, the baseball team’s championship marked three team titles — volleyball, football, baseball — for the Indians in one school-year. It was the first time Venice High had ever achieved such a feat.
Well, this year the Indians did it again.
Boys swimming, boys tennis and baseball each won a state championship in the 2018-19 school-year to make it back-to-back trifectas.
What made it even more special was that it was the first-ever titles for boys swimming and boys tennis — showing that Indians athletics is much more than the “Big Three” of volleyball, football and baseball.
All I have to say to this success is: Thank you.
As a community sports writer whose primary job is simply to cover the athletics of Venice High, the Indians really make my job fun. There’s always a heartwarming story waiting to be written about. An athlete to profile. A championship season to cover.
I’ve gotten a front-row seat to all of it, and it’s something that I try not to take for granted.
I’ve seen the hard work all these athletes put in. There’s hours upon hours of summer and after-school workouts. Teams routinely spend weekends volunteering in the community. And they’re all supported my coaches and fans who truly care about them.
I think it goes without saying that the sports phenomenon in Venice is special. If you need any proof, just look at the hundreds upon hundreds of Indians fans who traveled over an hour on their Saturday nights to support the baseball team — dwarfing the “crowds” any other state tournament team brought with them.
It’s not only the athletes who Venice can be thankful for, either. There’s the coaches — headlined by state champions in Craig Faulkner, Brian Wheatley, John Peacock, Wayne Robertson and Jana Minorini.
These people have dedicated years (if not decades) to the young athletes in this city, and the entire community is better off because of it. Their impact can easily be seen by the countless Indians stars who return to the school to teach, coach and help future generations.
With the athletic season going back into a hiatus for the next two-plus months, there won’t be any new championships for me to write about, but in a city like Venice, there’s plenty of stories left for me to tell.