By Sports Staff
The highlights for local high school sports programs this past spring on area tracks, tennis courts, golf courses and soccer fields included quite a few standout performances, and quite a few team accomplishments, too.
Dalton’s girls and Northwest Whitfield’s boys took home Region 7-4A track and field titles. Dalton’s girls tennis team and both of the school’s golf teams also won region championships. North Murray’s girls golf program captured the Region 5-3A championship.
All of those honors and the individual athletes who helped make them possible are worth celebrating.
Here’s a look at The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Spring Team — all-area baseball and boys soccer honors were announced earlier — as picked by the newspaper’s sports staff based on input from local coaches:
• William Duffie, Dalton: As the season went on, it was hard to predict who would register a counting round for the Catamounts from tournament to tournament, but Duffie was a constant throughout the year from tee to green. He had the lowest tournament stroke average on the team and the senior seemingly came through at the biggest moments. His 3-over-par 75 at the Region 7-4A tournament at Dalton Golf and Country Club was key to the Cats winning the title, and he was also the medalist at the Warrior Invitational this year, carding a 74.
• Colby Hipp, North Murray: A standout for the past three years, Hipp capped his senior season with a 1-over-par 73 at the Class 3A state tournament to finish fourth overall. He was the medalist of the Region 5-3A tournament and was also the medalist at the Nob North Invitational as the only player in the field under par. He was on the Fields Ferry Invitational all-tournament team, and he will play collegiately at Emory University.
• Silas Ledford, Northwest: A senior, Ledford had his best year on the fairways and greens. He put a season-best 1-over-par 73 on the scoreboard at the Apple Mountain Invitational early in the schedule and continued his strong play throughout the year. Consistently in the high 70s, Ledford was on the all-tournament team at the Nob North Invitational after firing a 76. He had scores of 79 in the Warrior Invitational and the Packer Invitational. He shot a disappointing 82 in the Region 7-4A tournament, but improved by four strokes on the same course during the state tournament.
• Sam Speights, Northwest: Speights had a strong senior season at the top of the lineup for North-west. His low tournament score came at the North Georgia Invitational at Adairsville’s Barnsley Gardens with a 3-over-par 75. He was a member of the all-region team after shooting a 79 in the 7-4A tournament, and he shot a 78 in the Class 4A state tournament. Speights also made the Packer Invitational all-tourney lineup after shooting a 77 in the early event.
• Cole Townsend, Christian Heritage: A four-year starter for coach Gary Whaley, Townsend is an all-area selection for the third straight year. He was the most consistent scorer for Christian Heritage with a stroke average of 79. His best score of the season in tournament play was a 75 at the Georgia Invitational in Athens. He also broke 80 in six of the nine tournaments the Lions competed in during their first season of Georgia High School Association competition and was the medalist at the Nob North Invitational.
• Honorable Mention: Christian Heritage — A.J. Hooper, Kyle Stanley; Murray County — Dylan Hubbard; Northwest — Ethan Hayes.
• Marlee Bingham, Northwest: The leading shotmaker for the Lady Bruins this year, she was the key to Northwest making the state tournament on its home course at Nob North. An all-area selection for the second year in a row, the junior led the team with a 90 in the Region 7-4A tournament and shot a 92 at state. During a stretch at the middle of the season, she shot consistently in the mid-80s.
• Megan Collins, Southeast Whitfield: One of the best all-around athletes at Southeast in recent years — perhaps for all time — Collins was The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Spring Athlete of the Year as a sophomore and the All-Area Volleyball Player of the year as a junior. She was selected for both of those teams the past three years, and she is also a two-time honoree for All-Area Girls Basketball. She shot an 81 to finish tied for third in the Class 4A state tournament and was the medalist of the Region 7-4A tournament with an 82.
• Mable McKone, Dalton: McKone was the most consistent scorer for a Lady Catamounts lineup that had a lot of parity. McKone, fellow sophomore Ashleigh Peters, junior Olga Fouche and freshman Carson Roberts all led the team in scoring at one tournament or another through the year, but McKone was the steadiest. She made the all-tournament team at the Lady Bruin Invitational, the Lady Catamount Invitational and the Region 7-4A tournament. Her 91 at state helped the Lady Cats to a third-place finish.
• Honorable mention: Dalton — Ashleigh Peters, Carson Roberts; Murray County — Amber Lewis; North Murray — Tillie Hughes; Northwest — Alicia Cole.
• Andrea Garcia, Northwest: A Lady Bruins forward, the sophomore scored five goals from the first round of the region tournament to the end of the season. She recorded three in the first-round win versus Cedartown and two more in the victory against Cass for third place. She finished with three hat tricks for the season and competed with Gomez for leading scorer honors on the team.
• Juliana Gomez, Northwest: The junior forward recorded five postseason goals — including four in a first-round win versus Cedar-town in the Region 7-4A playoffs — and she led the squad to its first state tournament appearance. Northwest finished 11-4 and lost in the opening round of the Class 4A bracket. Gomez finished with double digits in goals for the season and scored four goals in a game twice.
• Nayeli Jacobo, Murray County: A senior midfielder for the Lady Indians, Jacobo averaged two assists per game on her way to 35 assists for the season. She scored 17 goals, second-most on the team, and earned the team’s MVP honor following Murray County’s 9-9 season — 9-7 in Region 7-2A — in which the Lady Indians narrowly missed the Class 2A state tournament.
• Cheyenne Sancho, Murray County: A senior forward, Sancho led the Lady Indians in scoring with 21 of their 59 goals, and that was without playing the final three games of the season due to a knee injury. Additionally, coach Mandy Ledford said Sancho served as an informal assistant during some of the junior varsity games this season, showing her ability to lead.
• Honorable mention: Dalton — Ale Salaises; Morris Innovative — Itzel Moreno.
• P.K. Bhatter, Dalton: A senior, Bhatter was part of the No. 2 doubles tandem with Will Alderman and tallied 11 wins against only two losses as the Cats finished second in Region 7-4A and advanced to the second round of the Class 4A state tournament. He had a four-year record of 55-9.
• Jake Mathis, Coahulla Creek: A junior, Mathis went 13-1 while playing No. 2 singles for the Colts, who finished fourth in the Region 5-3A tournament and reached the state tournament for the first time. He is also a member of the school’s swimming and diving team, which had its inaugural season this past winter, and the Colts will no doubt look to his leadership on the court next season.
• Drew Mosteller, North Murray: As the Mountaineers’ No. 1 singles player, Mosteller finished 15-4 as the program finished second in Region 5-3A and returned to state for the second year in a row. He lost three times to Cartersville’s No. 1 player and once in the Class 3A state tournament to North Oconee’s No. 1 player. He finished with a four-year record of 43-11.
• B.J. Rowland, Dalton: The senior had value both in singles and doubles for the Cats. Rowland was part of the No. 1 doubles tandem with Thomas Delay, but when he wasn’t doing that, he could be counted on at No. 3 singles. Also a starting center for the football team in the fall, he finished with an overall record of 15-4 this spring.
• Honorable mention: Dalton — Will Alderman, Shazman Ali, Nathan Bryant, Thomas DeLay, Jacob Johnson; North Murray — Dylan Davis, Alex Ellis, Jacob Ledford, Mark Lents.
• Gabbie Bordelon, Murray County: The Lady Indians’ No. 1 singles player, Bordelon finished 12-2 in her sophomore campaign. She went 9-2 against Region 7-2A opponents — and 2-1 in the league tournament — as Murray County advanced to the Class 2A state tournament.
• Allison Jones, Murray County: A junior, Jones finished the season 12-2 overall and 9-2 against league foes while playing No. 2 singles for the Lady Indians. She’ll bring back experience as the Lady Indians look for even better results and a return to state next season. Jones finished 2-1 in region tournament matches.
• Courtney Morton, Dalton: The senior handled the No. 1 singles duties for the Lady Cats as the team won the Region 7-4A title and reached the quarterfinals of the Class 4A bracket, their deepest run since reaching the same round in 2007. Morton finished the season with a 15-5 mark.
• Erin Orem, Coahulla Creek: A sophomore who is also a key contributor for the school’s volleyball program, she finished 12-2 this season as the Lady Colts’ No. 1 singles player. She helped the team finish third in Region 5-3A and advance to the state tournament for the first time.
• Kara Pendley, Dalton: A senior and the Lady Cats’ No. 2 singles player, she put together an impressive 17-2 record to help the Lady Cats in their run to the region crown and state quarterfinals. She was also a volleyball standout this past fall.
• Honorable mention: Christian Heritage — Tegan McEntire, Sarah Pippin; Dalton — Rachel Bakker, Caroline Calfee, Mackenzie Creswell, Sheridan Fromm, Anna Grace Wilson; North Murray — Kara Deal, Hannah Hensley, Lindsey Ray, Alex Westmoreland; Northwest — Sara Richards.
Boys track and field
• Brody Cook, Northwest: One half of the Cook twins duo that helped carry Northwest cross country and track and field the past four years, Brody’s senior season highlights included a second-place finish in the 3,200-meter run at the Region 7-4A meet and a fourth-place finish in the 1,600 at the same meet, performances that pushed him on to sectionals in both events. He then advanced to state in the 3,200 with an eighth-place finish at sectionals but struggled in Jefferson after battling a stomach virus.
• Parker Cook, Northwest: Like his brother, Cook is bound for Dalton State College, where he’ll be part of the first Roadrunners cross country team. Like his brother, he has a strong high school career to reflect on in the meantime. At the Region 7-4A meet, Parker took third in the 3,200 and sixth in the 1,600 to help the Bruins to the team title, earning a spot at sectionals in both distance events. He also earned medals at the Northwest, Rotary and Walker Valley invitational meets this season.
• Josh Foxx, Coahulla Creek: Foxx took a big leap forward during his sophomore season. At the Region 5-3A meet, he medaled in the high jump (second), long jump (third) and triple jump (fourth) to advance to sectionals in all three events. He was fourth in high jump at sectionals to secure his place at state, where he took eighth and become the first to win a medal there for the second-year Colts.
• Ethan Fromm, Dalton: A team captain and four-year letterman, the senior competed in the 200 and 400, the 300 hurdles and was part of both relay lineups this spring for the Cats. He finished third in the 400 at the Region 7-4A meet to earn a place in sectionals, where he came up short of a trip to state, but finished with a legacy as a strong contributor and leader at Dalton.
• Servio Martinez, Murray County: Coach Sam Young will no doubt be hoping for a strong senior season from Martinez, who impressed this year as a junior. A talented distance runner and the Indians’ leading scorer for the season, he claimed third-place finishes in both the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Region 7-2A meet, was eighth and seventh in those events at sectionals and then took 13th and sixth at those distances at state. His latter performance gave the Indians their first state medal in “a while,” Young said.
• Jordon McKinney, Dalton: McKinney, who also plays basketball and football, gave a hint of his athletic potential with an outstanding freshman season in track and field. A participant in the triple jump and 300 hurdles as well as a member of both relay lineups, he scored the most points for the Cats at this year’s Region 7-4A meet — he took second in the 300 hurdles — on his way to earning the team’s Outstanding Freshman Award for the season.
• Isaac Pacheco, North Murray: A dedicated and talented distance runner who will be part of the first cross country team at Dalton State College — he earned back-to-back nods as The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year the past two seasons — the senior swept the Region 5-3A titles for the 1,600 and 3,200 before taking sixth in both events at sectionals. At state, he was seventh in both events and finished his high school career with five state medals. He has already become a success on the local road race circuit and figures to be a top-level competitor for quite some time.
• Jayro Perez, Southeast: Perez was a reliable scorer for the Raiders this year — he went undefeated in discus during the regular season — and he enjoyed success in the postseason as well. He claimed the Region 7-4A championship in discus to set up his fifth-place finish at sectionals, then just missed a medal performance at state — he took ninth in Jefferson, one spot shy of the medal stand. He also excelled in football and played for the Peach State in the recent Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Classic on the gridiron.
• Alex Reynolds, Northwest: This is the second all-area honor of 2013 for Reynolds, a junior who also earned a place in the wrestling lineup this past winter. On the track, the Bruins counted on him in the 300 hurdles, where he won the Region 7-4A title and took seventh in sectionals to secure a place at state. He didn’t medal in the year’s last meet, but should be among those who look for a return to Jefferson next year.
• Brady Swilling, North Murray: The senior was a standout athlete in football and basketball — he was the starting quarterback each year of his high school career and was part of back-to-back trips to the state tournament for hoops — but was just as impressive in the spring, when he established himself as an exceptional high jumper. This year, he took first in high jump at the Region 5-3A meet — he was also third in shot put — took second in the event at sectionals and was runner-up at state, claiming his third state medal in as many seasons. He will walk on with Georgia Tech’s football program this fall. He was last year’s All-Area Spring Team Boys Athlete of the Year.
Girls track and field
• Bekah Houston, Dalton: Once she got to high school, Houston quickly became a standard bearer for girls distance runners in this area. The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, Houston was also a key contributor for the Lady Cats on the track each spring. This year, she helped the team to a 4x400 relay title at the Region 7-4A meet while also finishing second in both the 800 and 1,600. In the latter two events, she was eighth and third, respectively, at sectionals to qualify for state. Her time of 5:18 in the 1,600 broke a 12-year-old school record. She has signed with Georgia College and State University.
• Susan Meinders, Dalton: Although unable to repeat the state championship she claimed in the 300 hurdles as a junior, Meinders’ senior season was anything but a disappointment. She still won championships in that event at both region and sectionals and took fifth in the event at the Class 4A state meet. She also took fourth in the 100 at region and ran the anchor leg for the victorious 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams at the meet. She has signed a scholarship with the University of Northern Colorado. She was one of two All-Area Spring Team Girls Athletes of the Year last spring.
• Caroline Norman, Dalton: Another key senior performer for the Lady Cats, Norman took second place in pole vault at the Region 7-4A meet to help the host Lady Cats claim the team championship. She took second in the event at sectionals and was fourth at state, joining teammate Massey Swanson as the first from their program to win state medals in pole vault.
• Shea Pendley, Murray County: One of just two state qualifiers this season for the Lady Indians — Caitlyn Wilson (discus) was the other — Pendley, a shot putter, kept improving even toward the end of the season. After finishing eighth at the region meet, just earning a place at sectionals, she claimed sixth the following week to ensure her season would include a trip to Albany for the Class 2A state meet. The Lady Indians knew they could count on her meet in and meet out, however — she was the team’s leading scorer this season.
• Wendy Perez, Southeast: As she enters her senior season, Perez holds status as one of the top all-around athletes at her school. After solid seasons in both volleyball and basketball, she moved to the shot put circle in the spring and was equally talented. She lost just once during the regular season and also enjoyed postseason success, taking second at region and eighth at sectionals to secure a trip to state. She didn’t place in Albany but could be a contender to do so next season.
• Megan Pittman, North Murray: Despite only being a sophomore, Pittman has already become a key contributor for the Lady Mountaineers in basketball, softball and track and field. In the latter, she has been a steady force in discus and shot put. This season, she took third in discus and fourth in shot put at the Region 5-3A meet to set up a fifth-place finish in discus and an 11th-place finish in shot put at sectionals. At state, she took fifth in discus. The Lady Mountaineers are undoubtedly glad she’ll be around for more two years.
• A.T. Smith, Coahulla Creek: For the second straight year, Smith led the way for her team. At the Region 5-3A meet, the sophomore speedster won titles in both the 100 and long jump and took second place in the triple jump while helping the 4x100 relay team to a fourth-place finish. She moved on from sectionals in both the 100 and long jump, finishing eighth in the latter event to become the second-year Lady Colts’ first state medalist.
• Massey Swanson, Dalton: Swanson enjoyed an outstanding senior season, helping the Lady Cats win a region title for the first time in coach Pam Brackett’s 11 years leading the program. At region, she scored points in the 100, helped the 4x100 relay team to a first-place finish and won the pole vault by beating out a tough competitor — her teammate, Norman — by six inches. She was third to Norman’s second at sectionals, but took third at state, again one place ahead of her teammate. She also tied Norman’s 9-foot record in pole vault this season.