At Vandegrift High School’s homecoming parade Oct. 5, 2016, the school was presented UIL’s Lone Star Cup, an award that recognizes the best overall athletic, fine arts and academic programs in Texas. This was the Vipers’ second year in a row to win this award at the Conference 5A level.

Vandegrift HS earned a total 115 points, with state championships in Boys Swimming and Boys Golf, Girls Tennis Doubles, and Math in Academic UIL. In addition, the Vipers tallied points in the following categories: Boys and Girls Golf, Team Tennis, Marching Band, Boys and Girls Soccer, Volleyball, Boys Swimming and Diving, Academics, Football, and Boys Basketball.

“It truly takes all of us to do this,” Sanders said. “If only one program was good, we wouldn’t even be in the Top 20. There have been some programs that have won state championships, to programs that have contributed with deep playoff runs.

“But for me,” he added, “what I think of is everyone chipping in and everyone taking pride in the other one’s success — whether it’s the soccer coach being at the football game cheering or me being at the basketball game or going to a track meet — it’s all of us supporting each other.”

Camaraderie amongst the different programs of the school was bolstered in the pursuit of the Lone Star Cup, a whole-school award.

“It’s about respecting everyone’s craft,” Sanders said. “I’ve never been more into listening to our Academic UIL results, but here I am asking about One Act Play and robotics.”

Mike Howard, the Vandegrift HS band director, said it was a great honor for the school to receive the Lone Star Cup in consecutive years.

“We’re excited about all of the accolades we’ve received, but the focus with the students is to build great individual musicians, to build great citizens, to build great young adults and to teach students how to work hard,” Howard said. “And typically, if we focus on those goals and we accomplish those goals, then a lot of times the accolades and things like that take care of themselves.”

There’s a tangible sense of school spirit at Vandegrift, said Jen Hardy, the Vandegrift HS girls’ athletic director and head girls soccer coach. She credited Sanders and the school’s principal, Charlie Little, for picking very specific people that have a different energy and drive.

“There’s just something about the people who stay here,” Hardy said. “There’s just a passion and dedication to what we do that it just exudes through us to the kids and to the school.”

“It’s a credit to Charlie,” Sanders said of the Vipers’ principal. “He has done an amazing job grabbing special people. And he has a great vision for what he desires a school experience to be — he calls it the Vandegrift experience. I think it’s real. Me and Jen have both been here since the doors have opened, and we’ve seen it grow. We had this dream, and we’re actually living out our dream right now.”

Having the staff work together for what’s best for the kids has helped enable the school to reach such heights.

“That attitude pervades throughout the whole coaching staff,” Sanders said. “I’ve worked in a lot of different places, and a lot of times, it’s a very compartmentalized feeling — ‘this is my team’ or ‘these are my players.’ And I think we have a unique spirit of: ‘if you want to play four sports, I’m going to have to sacrifice a little bit as a coach, but go do that. Go achieve.’

“That’s one of the first things I say to my coaches: ‘This is about their high school experience; we’ve already had ours,’” he added. “’And we want them to feel great about whatever they want to do.’”

This feature story was included in the LISD School Spotlight of Vandegrift High School. These School Spotlights will be used to showcase student life and the vibrant culture at every school in Leander ISD – through stories, photos and videos. Check it out!