Marco Island Academy Manta Rays made magic happen

The Marco Island Academy athletic program recently completed perhaps its finest year in the history of the school.

New Marco Island Academy coach Damon Coiro addresses his team after practice.

The Manta Rays sent three individuals to state competition, while the team sports continued to make improvements with an eye on the future.

They also recently named a new athletic director, and it’s someone already familiar with the program; Damon Coiro, who took over as the Manta Rays’ football and track coach last year. Coiro is the school's third athletic director. Former AD Kelly Monnot recently accepted a job in Denver, Colorado, but has been helping Coiro with the transition.

“Exciting times here at MIA,” Coiro said. “We’re looking forward to the continued growth of the athletic program. Our student athletes understand the value of competition, but they also understand the importance of quality in the classroom, quality in the community. Just doing the little things right. There’s a thirst for winning in everything they do.”

Marco Island Academy is already well known for academic excellence, but Coiro would like to see that carry over to the athletic department, as well. He feels the program is headed in the right direction.

Olivia Watt finished 20th in the state cross country meet in the fall, while fellow junior Lisa Cottage-Ramnick placed 17th in the 100-meter breaststroke at the state swim meet in the winter.

Freshman Susie Linn became the first Manta Ray athlete to earn a medal in state competition, placing sixth in the 100-meter hurdles at the state track meet last month.

In team competition, the girls soccer program continued an upward trend when it hosted its first-ever district playoff game. The girls basketball squad won five games after going winless the year before. Coiro’s football squad won its last two games after an 0-7 start, with the Manta Rays competitive in many of those losses. And while the boys basketball team struggled due to inexperience, veteran coach Howard Brownstein is a proven winner who stresses fundamentals, so the program should be better in coming years.

Rays captain Cole Stretton battles for the ball in the academy’s big win over Oasis Charter. Stratton finished with 27 points.

One thing Coiro has always stressed, even before becoming athletic director, is a family atmosphere among the athletic programs. Last summer, Coiro hosted open workouts for not only his football team, but the entire athletic department.

“Our workouts are maybe a little different than other schools. Our kids all work out together. Being a small school with limited facilities, we have to take advantage of the facilities we do have, and bringing all the kids together to work out seems to be a much more efficient way of doing things," he said. "You get the boys and girls training together, and you really become more of a department that way. There’s that enthusiasm and that thought that we’re all in this together. Everyone needs to believe and embrace the process, of marrying that success in the classroom to what we do in the athletic program.”

Coiro said he’s thankful for the various contributions made by the community to help the athletic department. For instance, Marco Island Fitness, which is where the athletic department organizes workouts, offers free membership to Marco Island Academy students. MIA also has partnerships with the Rotary Club and Kiwanis, and the athletic department is involved with the youth Optimist program.

“We feel it’s important to be out in the community, so our football team has refereed football games with the Optimist program,” he said. “We’ve also helped them with their spring football program and have helped out with their soccer program. It’s also getting our name out there and making impressions on these young kids coming up. Our kids are special, and people in the community are seeing that.”