The pride was splashed all over Hiawatha Collegiate High School social media for days after the big games. Trophy emojis, team photos with plaques, and the biggest smiles you’ll ever see on a group of absolutely spent athletes who left it all on the field.

The first weekend in October, both the girls and boys varsity soccer teams had won their Twin Cities Athletics Conference tournament finals.

“It’s the best feeling ever. I feel like a boss,” said Tania, class of 2019. “We worked hard this season, and it paid off.”

The big wins were especially exciting given the fact that varsity soccer is so new to Hiawatha Academies. The 2017-18 school year marked an incredible benchmark for athletics programming at Hiawatha Academies. It was the first year Hiawatha competed at the varsity level in all Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) offered activities.

For years, students in the network played soccer as part of the Minneapolis Park Board. When the high school opened in 2015, they joined the Twin Cities Athletics Conference (TCAC) and the MSHSL to expand programming opportunities.

Because the upper grades of the high school had yet to populate, students played junior varsity until last year when varsity-level games/matches were added to the regular schedules.

Now the network offers boys and girls soccer, basketball, cross country, track and field and flag football; and girls volleyball and badminton. The middle schools also offer boys and girls soccer and basketball.

Tony Andrade, network athletics director, said the varsity teams and expanded sports programming are important for a variety of reasons. Students who engage in sports stay connected to our schools. Great teams also serve to attract new students who want to play sports on winning teams.

Sports also foster teamwork, instill a drive to perform well academically to stay eligible for sports, and encourage students to set goals to play sports in college.

Andrade said Hiawatha’s core values are evident in all aspects of team development, especially in how the athletes conduct themselves at practice and during games. Teams push themselves to improve, and they are most certainly stronger together.

“Our coaches teach through optimism. They try to get the best out of every player in every situation,” Andrade said. “There are lessons learned regardless of the outcome. By and large, you try to make sure there’s something fruitful at the end of every game and practice.”

Another exciting development for next season will be the first soccer games hosted at Hiawatha Collegiate High School when the soccer field is finally ready.

“So, for example, we’ve always had to rent fields for our home games, fields that are often different and that our soccer players never get to practice on,” Andrade said. “We have never had home-field advantage.”

With such great energy in and around all of the teams, Andrade is excited to see what the future holds for Hiawatha sports.

“Our coaches and our captains and all of our athletes continually strive to improve,” he said. “Our students are buying in. Our students want to be a part of this. They’re growing, they’re representing themselves well, and they’re representing their community well. It’s fun to see.”