When it comes to prep athletics, the Edwardsville Tigers have enjoyed their share of success, especially in recent history.
They are in the midst of defending one state championship at the moment — boys’ track and field. EHS corralled the Class 3A state title in boys’ track at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium in the spring of 2015. That came on the heels of a second-place finish by the boys’ tracksters in ‘14.
Altogether, Edwardsville has snared 9 state championships in 7 sports in its history. Baseball (1990 and ‘98) and boys’ soccer (2000 and ‘13) boast two titles each to lead the charge. Boys’ track has one, while girls’ track earned a 3A state crown in 2012. Field hockey (1978), boys’ bowling (‘03-04) and girls’ golf (2004) own the other championships.
There have also been a slew of runner-ups in the state. Boys’ soccer (‘97, ‘01 and ‘08) and field hockey (‘76, ‘80 and ‘81) enjoy the most seconds with three each, while baseball (‘91 and ‘02), football (‘01 and ‘02), boys’ track (‘12 and ‘14) and boys’ golf (‘85 and ‘88) all have two runner-ups on their resumé.
Girls’ track (‘13), boys’ bowling (‘04-05), boys’ cross country (‘57-58), girls’ golf (‘86), softball (‘09), boys’ basketball (‘55-56) and girls’ basketball (‘11-12) all have finished second once in their histories.
There’s also individual success stories with athletes winning state titles in track, bowling and cross country.
Just by looking at the numbers it’s easy to see a lot of the success has come in the past 20 years and Edwardsville director of athletics Brad Bevis doesn’t believe that’s a coincidence.
“We’re fortunate enough to have great coaching staffs and have gotten great people in here to coach and at the same time we had a facilities growth and all that contributed to the success,” Bevis said. “The challenge is to continue to do those things, because if you talk to (baseball) coach (Tim) Funkhouser he’s probably seeing everybody’s best pitcher in the conference every game. That’s the way it goes and that comes from being successful and people wanting to knock you off the top.”
At the top of that prosperity has been the success within the Southwestern Conference. The Tigers have won the all-sports title in the SWC for 16 straight seasons. That award takes into consideration how each sports program within the school did in the league during a school year. It’s quite an impressive feat, especially since EHS had to claw its way to the top of the SWC after a long hiatus from the league.
Edwardsville was a founding member of the SWC in 1923-24 and competed there until it left in 1979. For 17 years the Tigers were out of the SWC, playing in other conferences — the South Seven and the now defunct Gateway East — and for a short time competing as an independent.
In 1996 they returned to the SWC with skepticism from some constituents at the school. Some people wondered if Edwardsville could match up with the competition in the SWC.
Bevis was a teacher in District 7 then and remembers the return to the conference and some of the hesitation.
“I think there was some hesitation just because it was an unknown, but it was the right time,” Bevis said. “At that time the district was starting to grow in enrollment numbers, the community was growing and going back it was always a school district that had good athletics. When we joined the conference we found we can compete with the Belleville schools, Collinsville, Alton and it turned out we could do that in every sport and we were successful. I think all our programs started to feed off the success of the other programs.”
Since then the community has flourished even more, the facilities have continued to improve and the good times have gotten better. The addition of the Jon Davis Wrestling Center and the Chuck Fruit Aquatic Center inside the District 7 Sports Complex have padded the boom.
And its seen other schools within the SWC follow suit and improve their facilities. Alton just christened its new baseball field on the Godfrey campus recently, as well as opening its new track and soccer field at the school. That’s just the newest example of growth within the league.
“I was here when we built the high school,” Bevis said. “We still call it the new high school even though it’s 19 years old and at the time we had the top facilities. Since then we’ve seen a new high school at Alton, a new high school at Belleville West, we’ve seen improved facilities at Alton on campus, East St. Louis has redone a lot of theirs, (Belleville) East redid a bunch of theirs, Collinsville put in turf and a track, so did O’Fallon. The facilities alone have gotten better, but unfortunately it’s not ‘if you build it they will come.’ It takes a little more than that, but it certainly helps to have good facilities.”
Now it’s just a matter of not becoming complacent and attempting to remain on top. Bevis said that’s the goal and it’s not an easy task with everybody trying to knock you off.
It’s just continuing to see the vision left by previous coaches and administrators and carrying it on.
“It all speaks to the strength of the administration at the time and the vision that (former District 7 superintendent) Ed Hightower had and coaching staffs doing it and doing it right,” Bevis said. “We’re going to have high expectations for our kids, not only on the field and courts, but as citizens and academically and good things tend to happen. It’s just the right environment for that and it has been for a number of years.”
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