The local teams provided fans three individual state champions, five team region champions and six individual region champions this school year. Two teams — Faith Christian Academy Lions football and Spalding High Jaguars baseball — finished as state runners-up.
Jenna Wesley, the most decorated female runner in Spalding High’s history, had some company in the state title department this season. Wesley, a senior, won the 2011 state championship in the 800 meter run for the second straight year. But this year, she was also joined by Spalding High freshman Abbie Argo, who not only won the 2011 state title in the shot put (for adapted athletes), she set a new state record at 19-6, obliterating the old state record of 17-1. Across town at Griffin High, led by individual state champion William Cross, the rifle team won the school’s first-ever state championship in the sport on April 2 in Columbus, Ga.
The rifle team’s state title was the only team title for Griffin High this year. Amazingly, Spalding High claimed all five team region titles this season, starting with the girls cross country team in the fall and ending with the Jags baseball team in the spring.
The other SHS region titles were won in girls soccer, boys golf and girls track and field.
The six individual region champions this season were: Wesley in the 800 and 1600 meter runs in track and a first-place run in cross country, Argo in the shot put, Spalding’s Mary Owen Howell in the pole vault, Griffin’s Chandler Worthy in the 200 meters and the Griffin High boys 4x100 relay team of Worthy, Corey Moore, Aaron Mathis and Darrius Davis, in addition to Spalding High’s Henry Mabbett Jr. in golf, who captured the region championship for the second year in a row and the third time in four seasons.
The school year started with three of the five area teams qualifying for the state playoffs in football (Griffin, FCA and Griffin Christian).
FCA, behind an outstanding season from do-it-all senior Robert Jackson and other impact players, got hot in the postseason and made it all the way to the ICSGA 8-man league title game. The Lions hit the road for the playoffs, defeating the Colonial Hills Rams 46-42 and the CrossPointe Christian Cavaliers 44-36 to advance to the league championship game against Trinity Christian, which FCA lost 52-22.
Griffin High, the Region 3-AAAA runner-up in football, crushed Lee County 41-13 in the first round of the state playoffs before being ousted by Statesboro 34-28 in the second round while GCHS lost to No. 1 Deerfield-Windsor 38-14 in the first round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs. It was a testament to the GCHS players and coaching staff’s hard work that the Crusaders were the only non-Macon football team in Region 2-AAA to make the playoffs.
In cross country, the Spalding High girls team won the Region 4-AAA title with Wesley winning her second straight individual cross country title. With the 2010 team region title in tow, the Lady Jags qualified for the state cross country meet for the ninth consecutive year. At state, Spalding’s girls finished 12th out of 36 teams, with Wesley placing 6th overall and winning a top-10 medal.
In basketball, the Griffin Christian Crusaders won 20 games for the second straight year and nearly won the GISA Region 2-AAA title, losing to a tough Mount de Sales Academy squad. Competing in GISA Class AAA for the first time, they won their first GISA state playoff game ever, a 56-38 thrashing of The Weber School, before falling to Bethesda Day in the second round.
The FCA boys and girls teams both qualified for the ICSGA basketball playoffs as the fourth seeds, but they both fell in the first round to North Georgia Christian. The Lions were led by several football players like Jackson, Willie Kennedy and Brandon Ray and newcomer Kelveyun Newton in their 2011 playoff season.
The spring semester pretty much belonged to Spalding High, as at least one of the school’s teams made state in nearly every spring sport.
In tennis, the Jags and Lady Jags qualified for the state tournament, with the boys getting Region 4-AAA runner-up with a 3-2 loss to Eagle’s Landing. The Jags lost to Americus-Sumter in the state second round while the Lady Jags lost to region foe Drew High in the Elite 8.
In soccer, the Spalding Lady Jags had another banner season, winning the Region 4-AAA title at Eagle’s Landing 1-0 and shutting out Perry (4-0) and Harlem (10-0) to advance to the Elite 8, where they lost to Allatoona 2-0 at Memorial Stadium. They finished 15-4 overall and had six players make the All-Region 4-AAA team. Junior Myra Fisher was named region Player of the Year while Lady Jags head coach Wayne Gardner was named region Coach of the Year.
In golf, the Jags won the Region 4-AAA championship for the second straight year (shooting a school-record 289) with Mabbett capturing the individual region title again as well. The Jags looked to make 2011 the year they won the state golf title, but they finished fourth in the state for the second straight year.
In track and field, the Lady Jags finally captured the region crown in 2011 — a title they barely missed for three years straight. The SHS 2011 girls track and field team scored 128.5 points to run away with the region championship. The 4x800 relay team of Li Anne Harris, Meg Ward, Emma Johnston and Emily Kaufman qualified for state, along with Argo, Howell, Nykerria Conley (pole vault) and Harris again (3200 m run).
The last Spalding High region champion was in baseball where the Jags had a monster year. They started the year ranked No. 7 in Class AAA, dropped to 9th after their 13-4 loss to Mary Persons High early in the season and then went on a school-record 21-game winning streak to jump from No. 5 to No. 1 in the state. Along the way, they smashed then-Class AAAAA No. 1 East Coweta 13-1 and 10-0, run-ruled several opponents, hit 50-plus home runs — including 7 grand slams in the regular season (with 2 slams in one inning against Stockbridge on April 19) — and won the most games in school history (32).
The Jags’ 2011 baseball season ended in the state AAA finals where they lost to defending champion Columbus, but their grit and determination will always be admired and respected by all for years to come. The same can be said for the neighboring Pike County High Pirates baseball team, which won its fourth straight region title in 2011, beat East Coweta and rode good hitting and pitching all the way to the Class AA state finals vs. Buford High.
The Pirates lost their state finals series in the third game, but with several players coming back next season, they hopefully will be a force in 2012.