He’s a guy who knows a little about champions. Joe Filoteo sits daily in front of a screen-saver displaying a picture of the tableau from his last season as head coach of the EHS basketball team, from one of three Sweet 16 appearances the Runnin’ Bobcats made under his tutelage.

So when he talks about the best the city has to offer in athletics, his cred is intact. Filoteo, now director of athletics, was proud to present the second annual ECISD All-Sports Champion Award recently, which went to Edinburg North in a close battle with EHS, as the Cougars captured the crown for he second straight year.

When swimming and track and field results were tabulated, North edged ahead of its rival by a nose to take it.

 “This is the continuation of an idea we started last year, and I think it is a good one,” he said. “It offers a challenge to each of the three high schools to strive to not only be competitive, but to achieve success in athletics. To win this award takes a total campus and school effort as all the sports compete for each program.”

The tabulation of points toward the award takes into consideration individual team efforts in the postseason but also individual advancements to state. Filoteo compiled a list of performance from last August to this May, and totaled up the showings of each school.

EHS, led by district titles in boys’ basketball, softball and golf, was neck and neck with North for 2009-10, though the Coogs had numerous success stories as well.

“We wanted to add incentive and motivation beyond the city championship, and to give our city athletic effort some publicity and recognition in the Valley at large,” said Filoteo, who noted that at last week’s school board meeting, a handful of big winners for the season were recognized for their accomplishments. “We plan on giving out this award when the new school year begins, at an in-service meeting in August with all the district coaches attending.”

The AD suggests that 2009-10 was perhaps the best sports year in city annals, an opinion that has been expressed in multiple quarters as the seasons have unfolded. Starting with Jenyse Vazquez of North going to state in cross country in the fall, Edinburg teams and athletes have been at the fore of winning across the area. Two volleyball teams made the playoffs, plus five of six soccer teams each from girls’ and boys’ ranks.

Filoteo said that he thinks the crystallization of how tremendous the year has been for the city came in the early spring, when the North and EHS girls advanced to the regional hoops tournament in San Antonio.

“That was a classic doubleheader over at Pan American, Harlingen versus Edinburg, and we got the bragging rights in both of those games,” said the AD, who came to the Valley in the early 1980s and spent 25 years coaching the Bobcats. “I cannot recall a year in which we were consistently so excellent.”

Earlier, North had made it to the AlamoDome in football, with a third-round appearance that marked the school’s further penetration in history. The spring sports performance has been equally exemplary, with Luis Serrano of North (track) and Jessica Tamen of EHS (golf) advancing all the way to state. The EHS softball group’s superb journey all the way to the regional semifinals this month capped the city effort.

“What we are after is a consistent attitude across all sports and schools, where they expect to achieve great things, and I think the community can be proud of the season we have had,” Filoteo stressed, adding that he has put up pictures of the champions on what is known as The Wall of Champions outside his office at Cats Stadium. “The coordinators of each program have played a prominent role in all this and they are to be congratulated. It takes three things: staff, equipment, and facilities, and I think we have been able to provide the best of all these aspects, ensuring that our student-athletes have the best chance they can get to be successful.”

With the Valley gaining more legitimacy as a sports contender, and with the advent of regional tournaments in the area – Edinburg hosted the first regional golf tourney in Valley history this spring – Filoteo thinks that the sky is the limit for the city and the area.

“Now we have to see how we do when The Monitor’s sports awards deal comes off June,” he stated, of the June 15 All-Sports Awards banquet in Harlingen. “Maybe we can get some awards there, too. I think we have a good shot at something because this has been one super year for us.”

NOTES: Apologies from the Review for originally listing EHS as the champ; we strive to report the news accurately and in a timely fashion, and in this case fell short of that mark. All three city programs deserve a pat on the back for a truly amazing sports year.