High School Year in Review: Hampton Roads Academy is the athletic program of the year

The Daily Press' athletic program of the year is not a traditional powerhouse.

At Hampton Roads Academy, the school's web site notes that all 74 graduates are headed to college, continuing the school's 100-percent record of college acceptance. And six seniors earned mention from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for their academic excellence.

That's one of the things that attracted Marvin Hedgepeth to HRA after he taught and coached at Menchville High School for many years.

"Really that's part of the whole reason I've enjoyed my first year at HRA, because there is so much emphasis on academics and the classroom," said Hedgepeth, who teaches science and coaches the girls and boys tennis teams.

Virginia is one of a handful of states where public and private schools do not mix in athletic divisions — private schools have their own statewide league, the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association.

HRA won three Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II state championships, was runner-up for another title and put three other teams in the state semifinals.

Hedgepeth's girls tennis team won the state championship in the fall, the school's fourth girls tennis title in seven years. Then the boys and girls swim teams repeated their state championships in the winter.

The girls volleyball team was state runner-up and the boys lacrosse, and girls basketball and field hockey teams were semifinalists.

Perhaps the most dominant of the teams was girls tennis, which finished 16-1 and lost only to Cape Henry Collegiate.

In the state tournament, the Navigators won their three matches 6-0, 5-0, 5-0 and won 173 of 200 games. That means not one of their matches even went to doubles.

"It is a well-run program," Hedgepeth said, pointing to athletic director Max Gillespie. "Athletics at the school are important to the kids back to middle school. And I'm impressed that some of our administrators are involved in coaching, too."

The swim teams repeated their championships in the unique format where all schools, large and small, swim in the same races, then the scores for the smaller schools are broken out.

HRA's girls finished fourth overall and the boys sixth, but both teams were the best in Division II for the second straight year.

The volleyball team was top-seeded in the state tournament and won its first two matches before losing to arch-rival Peninsula Catholic 3-2 after beating the Knights twice during the regular season.

"Athletes seem to be more committed here and I've never had more supportive parents," Hedgepeth said.

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