HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS MAGAZINE
In This Issue:
10 Academic Athlete McKenzie Collins
Savannah Arts Academy
12 Junior Standout
Benedictine Military School
Statesboro High School
17 Player Spotlight Grayson Lowenthal
Savannah Country Day School
20 Player Spotlight Terica Harris
Sol C. Johnson High School
26 Sophomore Standout Gianna Ruiz
Savannah Christian Preparatory School
28 Robins Twins Taylor and Jordan Robins
Vidalia High School
Calvary Day School
30 Coach's Corner Jason Shell
On the Cover Baseball State Champs
32 Triple Jump State Champs
Jasmine Roberts Preston Smith
Southeast Bulloch High School
Optim Orthopedics The Injury-Recovery Cheat Sheet 15 Gentlemen Impact Players
Lady Impact Players
FCA: Inspirational Corner
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HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS MAGAZINE
Coastal Edition June/July 2014
Mark Dykes Kaitlynn Passmore
Megan Strickland Jennifer Alexander
Cover Photography Gil Werntz
Imagined by Chas Lisa Minick Photography Janice Hilliard Ginger Russell Photography
Rob Asbell Janice Hilliard Ruby Nicole Hilliard Robert Preston, Jr. John Wood
From The Publisher Summer has arrived, schools are out, and thus ends spring sports like tennis, track and field, and soccer. But not before local standouts like the Benedictine Cadets baseball team had a chance to shine. First, allow me to introduce myself. I am Shawn Smoak, the new publisher of the Coastal Edition of In the Game High School Sports Magazine. I have been publishing the Southeast Edition of In the Game for over five years, and when the Coastal opportunity presented itself, it just seemed like a natural fit. The two areas are so closely connected, the teams play each other, and in some cases are members of the same regions. I bring with me a team of award-winning writers and photographers that focus a positive light on our area's student-athletes and coaches. In this edition, we have nearly identical twins running the soccer field as well as a male/ female triple jump champion duo from another school. Preston Smith and Jasmine Roberts are seniors at Southeast Bulloch High School who each won the state championship in the same event on different days, one in boys the other in the girls event. Coincidence, or something in the water? Meanwhile in Vidalia, twin seniors Taylor and Jordan Robins look alike, but they are not identical. No matter, they are twin terrors on the soccer field for the Lady Indians. As team co-captains, the Roberts twins are honors students who also help organize food drives for the local animal shelter. Make a plan, and stick to it. Savannah Country Day School’s Grayson Lowenthal realized in middle school that hard work on the court could one day earn him a college scholarship. He was correct and has a national letter of intent with Christopher Newport University to prove it. He will play tennis for the Captains next year in Newport News, Virginia. Terica Jene Harris has aspirations that lead to Brazil in 2016. The senior at Sol C. Johnson High School finished third in the 100-meter dash at the state track and field meet for the Atomsmashers and will now decide where she plans to attend college next year. For now, she is concentrating on running in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics two years from now.
Battery Creek High • Beach • Beaufort Academy Beaufort High • Benedictine Military Bethesda School for Boys • Bible Baptist School Bluffton High • Bryan County High Bulloch Academy • Calvary Day School Claxton High • David Emanuel Academy Effingham County High • Emanuel County Institute First Presbyterian Christian • Groves High Heritage Academy • Hilton Head Christian Academy Hilton Head Island High • Hilton Head Preparatory Islands High • Jenkins County High • Jenkins High Johnson High • Memorial Day School • Metter High Pinewood Christian Academy • Portal High Richmond Hill High • Ridgeland Hardeeville High Robert Toombs Academy • Savannah Arts Academy Savannah Christian Preparatory Savannah Country Day • Savannah High Screven County High • South Effingham High Southeast Bulloch High • St. Andrew's • St. Vincent’s Statesboro High • Swainsboro High Tattnall County High • Thomas Heyward Academy Toombs County High • Vidalia High Whale Branch Early College High Windsor Forest High • Woodville-Tompkins
Our Academic Athlete is Savannah Arts Academy’s rising junior McKenzie Collins. The Panthers’ tennis and volleyball standout holds a solid 95 average in the grade books and has studied false labeling of sugar concentrations in fruit juices.
Crystal Hubbard Ashley Dailey Tiffany Allnutt
Shawn Smoak firstname.lastname@example.org Mark Dykes email@example.com
Website Manager Kaitlynn Passmore
SEGA Prep Sports P.O. Box 2960 • Waycross, GA 31502
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In our Coach’s Corner, it took Calvary Day Cavaliers head boys basketball coach Jason Shell three years to hit his stride, but since his fourth year at the school, the Cavs have been regular playoff contenders. Not bad for a team that had not made the GHSA playoffs before he arrived.
Shawn Smoak, Publisher
We also take a look at the State AA Baseball Champions. On Memorial Day, Savannah’s own Benedictine Military School took the third and deciding game to bring home the trophy, the first for the Cadets since 1961. How ‘bout them Kay-Dets! Summer is also prep time for football and travel teams in other sports. Our next issue will be our Preseason High School Football issue. We will feature schedules and outlooks from several teams in and around Savannah, covering the entire Coastal area and out to Vidalia and Toombs County. More big news is coming as we will soon begin partnering with WJCL-ABC 22/Fox 28 to bring you the In the Game Player of the Week with “The Big Guy” Frank Sulkowski. We hope you enjoy reading In the Game as much as we enjoy producing and publishing it. We are always open to suggestions as well as story ideas or ways you think we can improve our magazine. Please visit our website at www.inthegamemagazine.com and our Facebook at www.facebook.com/inthegamemagazine. We have an excellent opportunity for fundraising whether for your sports team, organization, or booster club. Please give us a call at 888-715-GAME or email us at email@example.com for details. While you’re online, don’t forget to nominate a deserving student-athlete or coach for one of our feature articles. You’ll be glad you did.
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In the Game High School Sports Magazine is published bi-monthly. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in part or in full without written consent from the publisher. SEGA Prep Sports LLC. makes no representation or warranty of any kind for accuracy of content. All advertisements are assumed by the publisher to be correct. Copyright 2014 SEGA Prep Sports LLC. All rights reserved. ISSN 1945-1458.
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Cadets Grab First Baseball Title since 1961 by John Wood
It took a while for a 2014 to be placed directly above the sign from the 1961 State Championship, the first baseball title the Benedictine Cadets won. Winning that third game over Greater Atlanta Christian School, 7-2, after a two and a half hour rain delay was really special to Benedictine Head Coach Kevin Farmer. Farmer, who played on the same field, graduated from Benedictine in 1992. Playing in the Chain Organization, he went on to the University of Georgia, got a degree in psychology, and came back to Savannah and started coaching baseball across town at Calvary Day School. His Cavaliers baseball team became one of the best teams in Class A, winning state titles in 2005 and 2007. Two years after former Calvary Day Head Football Coach Danny Britt made the move to Benedictine to become head
photos courtesy of Benedictine Military School
football coach and athletic director in 2011, Farmer came back home. “These are exciting times at BC. We have young men that compete in GHSA sports, and they are challenged academically. These young men have an opportunity to learn about service to their country through JROTC and the importance and strength of faith through a strong Catholic education. To be able to bring this state championship home to the BC community, the alumni, and the fans is a great thing,” Farmer said. Tradition is not simply a buzzword for current Cadets and alumni; it is a way of life. Benedictine men bleed maroon and white, the schools colors. Current Cadets certainly respect the paths of those who came before them. The country was just entering John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier as a group of fresh-faced, buzz7
cut Cadets won their first state title in 1961. Charlie Moore coached that championship team, and on Memorial Day in 2014, Moore’s grandsons freshman Phillip Moore and senior Clay Moore were on the Cadets 2014 championship team. Phillip’s other grandfather, Charlie Russo, played on the 1961 state championship team. Player Brad Stewart’s grandfather is Jim Walsh, Sr., former head football coach and athletic director. Walsh made the Cadets one of the most dominant teams in Georgia from the 1960s through the 1980s, sending several players to Division I schools and the NFL. 2013 was Farmer’s first season as the Benedictine skipper. The Cadets finished in the Final Four, losing to the Lovett School. Because the Cadets made it to the Final Four the previous season, Farmer knew that the 2014 team had the ability to win a state championship, but they would have to become more focused and work harder. “At the end of last season, I knew we could be good enough, but we just had to really adopt a blue collar attitude and came to work every day. We had to have strict, focused practices. We also got involved in with some local charities and Col. La Rossa, our senior military instructor, helped us get hooked up with the Sixth Brigade at Hunter AAF, and we turned them over to them. They wore their practice shirts, and we issued them camouflage pants, and they went thru a complete obstacle course. It helped showed us that we are going to hit obstacles, but we just have to work through them together and we would be fine,” Farmer said. Benedictine is a small school with only 400 males, so everyone plays most the sports in addition to being a member of the Corps of Cadets and taking a very challenging aca-
demic schedule. Those multisport athletes are one of the assets that the school has. A bulk of the Cadet baseball players had been a part of the resurgence of the Cadet football program that lost in the state semifinals against Lamar County. “We have a lot of players that play more than one sport. Junior Brad Stewart plays and excels in football, basketball, and baseball. Stevie Powers who pitched for us also is the quarterback on the football team. Senior John Solitario played three sports and is going to Stanford in the fall. BC offers young men [the opportunity] to be the best on the field and in the classroom,” Farmer said. Benedictine plays in one of the better AA baseball regions with Metter, Jeff Davis, and Toombs County among others. Once the 2014 campaign got started, Farmer started to see his players elevating their play, and hard, disciplined practices were a visible benefit. The selfless attitude that had energized the Cadets to a region title was evident in the first rounds of the state tournament as they defeated strong Lamar County and Fitzgerald teams. Benedictine on the bottom left hand of the GHSA Class AA bracket knew what was coming. On the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, the Cadets had to fend off three Atlanta schools in a row. Farmer’s squad conquered the Lovett School, the team who knocked them out in 2013, and then swept Wesleyan which earned Farmer his 300th victory. Greater Atlanta Christian would meet them on the Benedictine campus to determine the Class AA State Championship. GAC grabbed the first game, but the Cadets battled back and forced game three on Memorial Day. It wasn’t just the other teams burning up
school at the Best of Preps banquet where sophomore pitcher Chipper Wiley was selected as Baseball Player of the Year. Stewart also won the Ashley Dearing award from the Savannah Sports Hall of Fame Committee. “I have always been a student of the game. The game changes, and you want to understand those changes. I want
to be able to give my players every resource I can so that they can be successful. I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with assistants that love the game of baseball and to help players have that same love for the game and not just to be great baseball players but great young men. This is so special to be able to bring a title back to the school that I played with [which has] such a supportive group of school administration, fans, and the entire BC community,” Farmer said. ITG
I-16 to try and best the Cadets; the players had to stay focused during the final rounds of the AA state tournament through final exams, prom, and even graduation. “We got to game three, and then hit the rain delay. But I we needed to play this game today. The game was tied 2-2 early because we made some base running errors, but we also were forcing their pitcher into a higher pitch count. We had to have a big inning, and we did in the sixth inning. Brad Stewart gave us the lead with a home run, and then we added a sac fly and then some more insurance runs in the seventh for the win,” Farmer said. Senior shortstop Mike Huggins, who was a three-sport athlete, will go on to play baseball at Darton State College. Junior pitcher Al Pesto has a verbal commitment to Duke University. Benedictine was the most-represented 9
Savannah Arts Academy
Savannah Christian Preparatory School
You Just Got Served by Ruby Hilliard
cKenzie Occiano Collins is a sophomore at Savannah Arts Academy where she not only is a tennis and volleyball star for the Panthers, but she is also a top student with a 95 grade point average. For this year’s season in tennis, she is currently undefeated. In volleyball last year, she was the only freshman chosen for the varsity team. This year Collins was a sophomore on the varsity team, and her team won in the region competition, defeating their rivals at Islands High School.
photography by Imagined by Chas
Collins became interested in tennis when, at about the age of five, she and her mother would play a game of keep away with her dogs. “We had this back pad where we parked the cars, and we would hit the dogs’ tennis balls over their heads. So that’s kind of how I first started playing,” says Collins. “I started training soon after that, and then when I was about ten years old I started playing in the USTA tournament circuit.” Last year, Collins’s tennis team won in the region’s division and made it to the Final Four.
That feat and her outstanding statistics won her 2013 Girls Tennis Player of the Year Award by the Savannah Morning News. “It was awesome. When I first found out, I was so excited and then, only being a freshman and being awarded Player of the Year, it made me ten times more excited,” says Collins. Collin’s coach, Karin Best says, “Collins is a well-rounded athlete and a positive influence on the team. She’s never had a mean word to say to anyone, and when switching sides during her match, she will cheer on her teammates
on the other courts. She consistently works at improving her game. She’s had an awesome serve. She just knocks the stew out of it. I’ve also never seen anyone else as good as her at reading her opponent’s weaknesses. I was very pleasantly surprised at how smart of a player she was at outwitting her opponent.” “Whenever we are warming up, I look at my opponent’s attitude on the court. I hit them different kinds of balls to see how they react to them. It gives me a sense and feel for the person,” says Collins. “As we build the points, I keep looking for weaknesses. The first four games are very crucial in learning your opponent and sizing them up.” “She works hard to get where she is,” says her mother, Beth Occiano. “Watching her play is amazing. She’s got an attack game. That’s just her style. Her coach says she’s got a Sharapova-type attack. She uses her height to her advantage, especially at the net. She’s also an excellent doubles player. It’s rewarding in the sense of team environment because it isn’t just her on the court. I’m her number-one fan.” Adds Collins: “I like travelling and getting to see my friends from different states at the tournaments. At the tournaments there’s a doubles option, so last tournament, I got to play with a girl from Atlanta and made a new friend. It’s really fun.” Collins has been an accomplished athlete and student since middle school. She earned a high ranking in both the Southern and the Georgia divisions of USTA Junior Girls Tennis. She also won the William Bell Award in 2012 from Hancock Day School. Collins says this is her most sentimental award because it speaks for who she is as a person. “It’s an award given to only one person that embodies the values of the school and the characteristics that William Bell, the president of Hancock Day School, had envisioned as the perfect student. That school will always be a part of me, and that award meant a lot to me,” says Collins. Collins is a participant in various clubs and a member of multiple honor society groups. She also volunteers her time with the Savannah Area Tennis Association, teaching kids to play tennis at afterschool programs and summer camps. “It was really special because you see a big smile cross their faces when they hit the ball over the
net, and they enjoy it so much,” says Collins. She recently won first place in the Medicine and Health Science category for the Savannah Regional Science and Engineering Fair. “I worked with a great group of girls. We were all kind of perfectionists about it. The experiment was about the sugar concentrations of apple juice and false labeling, how that can be tied to childhood obesity and diabetes. One of our questions was ‘Is it healthier to drink soda?’ What we found was they both had the same amount of sugar. We determined that if you are going to drink apple juice, that freshly pressed, all natural, organic juices had far less concentrated sugars in them and are better for you.” She is participating in the communications major at SAA. In alliance with the Future Business Leaders of America, her team placed third
in the FBLA Region Leadership Conference under the marketing category. “The FBLA is such an awesome organization. Even though we didn’t make it to the state competition, it got me really interested in the field of marketing as maybe something I’d like to explore in college. It taught me a lot about social media marketing and real world applications of marketing. I personally like that field a lot. It was fun.” When asked about what her goals were for the rest of the tennis season Collin says, “I want the whole shebang. I wanted it last year. I want it this year. I want it every year. I think we’re capable of winning state. If we can make sure everyone is on the same page, if we all give one-hundred and ten percent, and we are all invested in it, we can do anything.” ITG
McKenzie's Favorites: Women’s Tennis: Eugenie Bouchard Men’s Tennis: John Isner or Roger Federer Who would you most like to meet: the men’s slopestyle skiing team that swept the podium at Sochi Where would you most like to travel: Anywhere and everywhere. I love adventure. Superpower: I would want some kind of levitation so that I wouldn’t have to pick up the tennis balls by hand after practice. 11
Junior Standout sponsored by:
Blakely Brown Statesboro High School
Blakely's Favorites Food: Steak Subject: History Superpower: Fly Inspiration: Father Team: Atlanta Braves Player: Chipper Jones Person to meet: Chipper Jones Place to travel: Arkansas to hunt 12
Blue Devils Hurler Headed to University of Georgia in 2015 by Robert Preston Jr.
aseball has always been Blakely Brown’s sport. He knew it from the first time he picked up a bat and ball. It was a Wiffle ball set, and the bat was bigger than he was. But something special happened when that bat and ball met his hands, something special that is still going on to this day. Over the years, Brown tried a few other sports, including football. He wasn’t a bad football player at all. He just didn’t have a passion for the gridiron. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he was always thinking about baseball. “My passion was baseball,” he recalls. “I was hoping my future would be in baseball. I knew I would have to work hard and stay committed to the game.” These days, Brown is a pitcher and middle infielder for the Blue Devils. He’s a natural athlete who can play just about anywhere on the field. With his solid command of four pitches (fastball, change-up, curve, two-seam fastball) and a velocity north of 90 miles per hour, he makes his most significant contributions on the mound. “I just try to do everything I can to help our team win. I try to play to the best of my abilities,” he says. It’s one thing to be able to rock back and sling a baseball. It’s another thing entirely to know how to pitch, to remain calm in difficult situations, and refuse to let opposing batters intimidate you. Brown has all of those qualities in spades. Take, for example, a playoff game last year against West Laurens. It was the decisive game three, and neither team could put up much offense. Heading into the seventh and final inning, the score was knotted at zero. In the top of the seventh, Statesboro scored a run to take a
photography by Lisa Minick Photography
slim 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Head Coach Jim Simmons chose Brown to close the game. Brown remained calm and never got into any trouble during the inning. He shut down West Laurens relatively easily to preserve Statesboro’s advantage and move on to the next round. “I try to compete as best I can. I just want to give everything I can,” he says. Brown has continued to play well and is a big reason the Blue Devils were 13-3 and in contention for a region title at press time. It’s also a reason the University of Georgia took interest in Brown. And once the Bulldogs, who were recruiting Brown to pitch, came calling, Brown’s college search was over. “I grew up following the University of Georgia. Once I went there on a visit, I fell in love with Athens. I knew it was the place I wanted to be,” he says. He committed in December, leaving him two full seasons to focus on baseball and nothing else. “I wanted to make my decision on college and get it over with. That way, I can spend all my time trying to get better.” While committing to Georgia was a big step for Brown, his journey is far from over. There is still his junior year to finish, then his all-important senior season next year. He knows he hasn’t developed fully as a baseball player and still has a lot of work to do. Over the next 12 months or so, that will be his primary goal - to get better, to throw harder, to pitch smarter, to do whatever he can to help the Blue Devils be the best team they can be. “My personal goals at the end of the road keep me motivated and working hard. What I want to accomplish will take a lot of work, but if I keep working hard and putting in the time, they are achievable,” he says. ITG
Over the years, Blakely Brown has amassed an impressive array of awards, including AllRegion last year, 2012 Georgia Dugout Club Top 40 Sophomores, 2013 Georgia Dugout Club Top 100, and 2013 Perfect Game USA High School Underclassmen All-American. The awards motivate Brown to play better and validate the dedication he has shown to baseball since he was young. “I am proud of each award. They make me want to keep working to improve,” he says. 13
Grayson Lowenthal Savannah Country Day School
Savannah Country Day Senior Finds Peace in the Solitude of Tennis by Robert Preston Jr.
rayson Lowenthal, a 5’9," 145-pound fireball tennis player, is in the short rows of a stellar high school tennis career. He has lost just five matches in nearly four years. He is a two-time Savannah Morning News Player of the Year. He has been named Country Day’s Most Valuable Player each of his previous three seasons. He went undefeated as a sophomore and is in the middle of an undefeated season this year. And he has signed with the Christopher Newport University Captains to play tennis at the next level. It’s been a charmed tennis existence for Lowenthal over the last three and a half years, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. One might be tempted to think Lowenthal has enjoyed a life of luxury with the Hornets.
photography by Imagined by Chas Mills
He doesn’t practice very often with the team. And he hasn’t had a lot of trouble out of his opponents. In three years, Lowenthal’s record was 595. As of press time, he hadn’t lost a match as a senior, but that doesn’t mean Lowenthal’s road has been easy. He spends 16 or more hours per week working on his game. He has played countless tournaments on the various junior tennis tours — year-round tournaments when most other high school tennis players were doing anything except playing tennis. Why has he spent so much time playing tennis? Because he loves the game and wants to be the best at it. And it doesn’t hurt that he figured out pretty early that he had tremendous natural talent for the game. 17
“When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I realized that if I kept working hard and making the right decisions, I could play tennis in college. That’s when I got really serious about tennis,” he recalls. Lowethal played several other sports at that time - baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling - but began to see that if he wanted to be an elite tennis player, he needed to spend all of his time on the tennis court. “So I stopped playing my other sports. I devoted everything to tennis.” When Lowenthal was playing the junior tours regularly, he was ranked as high as third in the state and 35th in the South (he was in the 14-and-under age group at the time). He played the junior tournaments to gain exposure to the college coaches and scouts. The interesting thing about Lowenthal is the reason why he
munities. That means that players the caliber of Lowenthal won’t be challenged much throughout the year. It’s also easy to lose touch with the team. Elite players often spend their practice time with their private coaches instead of their high school teams. “My coach has been pretty cool with me. I go to practice a couple of times a week so I can hit with my teammates. But I do most of my practicing away from the team,” he says. For several years, Lowenthal has employed the services of Paul Thoesen, a local tennis coach who works with the best players in the area. Lowenthal has remained undaunted in his pursuit to become the best player he possibly can be. His 59-5 record is a testament to the work that he’s put in. So is the scholarship he landed at Christopher Newport University. He
Throughout his career, Grayson Lowenthal has learned a number of lessons playing tennis. The most significant is the dividends that hard work pays. “It has taught me how to truly earn something without the help of someone else. Because tennis is so individual, I could pull up and relax any time I wanted to. But I’ve been motivated to keep working. I’ve driven myself to go out every day and practice year-round,” he says. sought a college scholarship. It wasn’t that he couldn’t get into college without tennis. He always planned to go to college and would have had no problems getting in without being an athlete. Instead, he wanted to play tennis in college because he loves the game, and it was the next progression of a sport he wasn’t ready to give up. “I love tennis because it’s just me out there on the court. I’m completely in charge. If I do something right, it’s because of me. And if I do something wrong, there is no one to blame but me. It’s very rewarding due to the individual aspect of it,” he says. As successful as Lowenthal has been, for an elite player, competing on a high school team can be a mixed bag. There is often a wide range of talent found throughout the high school ranks. Some teams have some really good players while others might not have much talent, particularly those schools found in the smaller com-
had never even heard of the school when an assistant coach contacted him. He was intrigued by the conversation and took a visit to the university. When he arrived on the campus in Newport News, Virginia, he instantly fell in love. “The campus is beautiful and so is the area,” he says. Christopher Newport is a Division III program that is also a fine academic school. For Lowenthal, it was a combination that fit precisely into what he planned to do in the future. And speaking of the future, he plans to play four years of college tennis then call it a career. Lowenthal has no dreams of attempting to play competitively beyond his college years. “At one time, I thought I might try to play professionally but not anymore. I would like to pursue a career in business or law. I doubt I’ll ever completely give up the game, but as far as competitive tennis goes, it will end after college,” he says. ITG
Grayson's Favorites: Subject: English College team: University of Georgia College player: Todd Gurley Professional team: Denver Broncos Professional player: Knowshon Moreno Person to meet: Mahatma Gandhi Sport you wish you could play: Football Superpower: Mind reading Inspiration: Father and grandfather 19
Player Spotlight 20 20
Terica Jene' Harris Sol C. Johnson High School
Olympic Dreams by Ruby Hilliard
erica Jene´ Harris, a senior at Sol C. Johnson High School, is a track and field star for the Atom Smashers. In addition to track and field, Harris also plays basketball, where her team was part of the Elite Eight this year. She is a high honor roll student in the top ten of her class, is already going to college, and has sky-high goals for her future. She is currently trying to choose from the many colleges that are scouting her based on their track and field programs, as well as their programs in medicine as she would like to study to be a nurse or a pediatrician. Harris has been running for a team since middle school but says she learned to love running long before that. “I knew this was my sport when I was in elementary school and when, at recess, I would race all the kids, even the boys. I was fast and beat them all! When I started running in middle school for the track team, I started winning a lot, and I loved it!” says, Harris. For the Atom Smashers, she runs the 100-meter, the 200-meter, the 400-meter, is on two relay teams, and just started the long jump this year. She’s been the track and field MVP for both her sophomore and junior years. Her team was All-Region, First Team for both her sophomore and junior years and in addition, Harris has also won the 200-meter event at the regional level for the past two years. In the state championships, she placed third in the 100 meters with her best time ever of 12.1 seconds and fourth place in the 200meter with another best time of 25.1 seconds. In the nationals, she qualified fifth in the 100-meter, fifth in the 200-meter, and third in the long jump. In her most recent city
photography by Imagined by Chas
championship event, Harris won the long jump event with her longest jump ever, 17 feet. When asked how running a race is different from the long jump, Harris says, “When I’m jumping I have to think more. I have to run and jump. I ask myself am I going to start out fast, or start out slow then gain my speed. Then I have to think about sticking my chest out, push my body forward, and how my leg thrusts in the air. There’s a lot more thinking with the jumping than the running. When I’m getting ready to race, I’m telling myself ‘Push out of the block, push out of the block!’ That’s the only thing on my mind. To beat everybody at the block is my main focus. Then when I come out of the block I tell myself to move my arms. I know if I beat them all at the block, I have a great chance of coming in first.” Harris’s coach, Michael Moore, says, “She’s a natural at running. I took her and the other teammates to some upper level track meets outside of school to get them in better shape. We’ve got a lot of other girls on the team that also have a chance to go to school, so we wanted to get them in league with some good competition. When colleges look at your times, they also look at whom you are running against. So the more track meets we go to, the more exposure they get. We’ve got some talent this year, and we’re trying to show it off.” Harris’s inspiration in her life is her mother. “She’s my number-one supporter, and she is always there for me. She encourages me to be the best I can be and never give up. She believes that if it’s possible, I can do it,” says Harris. Harris’s mother, Jennifer Marshall, is very proud of Harris, not only for her athletic ability but her character. “She was always a good kid. She always listened. She’s well-mannered and very humble. I feel like I could put her in any
Terica Jene's Favorites: Subject: Biology Snack: Grapes Healthy food: Baked chicken College Team: Oregon State Track & Field Pro Team: Philadelphia Eagles Superpower: Superspeed environment, and she would excel.” Moore agrees. “She’s a great student, a great person. She’s very quiet, but also a popular person that gets along with everyone. She takes racing and life very seriously.” Harris has aspirations of running in the 2016 Summer Olympics and has dreamed of it for years now. “She realized when she started running in high school that she was faster than a lot of people. When she won her regional meet in tenth grade she came home and said, ‘I want to run track in college. I can do this. I want to be in the Olympics.’ So I said, ‘Okay then, we need to start preparing and get ready.’ There’s one in Brazil in two years, and we’re al-
ready planning,” says Harris’s mother. Harris has her pick of numerous schools to choose from and is trying to decide which can best help her fulfill her goals. Her mother says, “It’s up to her. Whatever makes her happy.” She says that Harris is silly, likes to sing, dance, and make up songs with her family. It’s those moments she’s going to miss the most when she leaves for college. “She likes to play a lot and have fun. She’ll make up a song, and before you know it, everyone else in the house is singing it. It’s going to take some adjusting for her eight-year-old sister and myself when she leaves, but we’re looking forward to getting to see her do new things.” ITG
Impact s Player
John Solitario, Senior Benedictine Military School
Salvador Calderon, Freshman Calvary Day School
, Senior Windsor Forest High School Soccer Mascot: Knights Height: 5’1” • Weight: 150 Position: Outside-back Righty or Lefty: Right Recognition and Awards: Savannah Morning News 2013, two-time “Best of Preps First Team,” Region 3 5A First Team, and Region 3 5A Second Team Years playing this sport: 13 years Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I enjoy watching it. Sport you wish you could play: Basketball Most influential person: My parents have been the most influential people in my life. They have taught me not to be judgmental towards others and to work for what you want. Person you would like to meet: Richard Branson
Favorites: Snack: Tacos Healthy Food: Mango id Pro Team: Atletico Madr z de an rn He vi Pro Player: Xa
Football Mascot: Cavaliers Jersey: #11 Height: 6’2” • Weight: 182 Position:Quarterback Righty or Lefty: Right Nickname: Sal
Football, Swimming, and Soccer Mascot: Cadets Jersey: #13 Height: 5’11” • Weight: 170 Position: Right Midfielder, Free Safety Righty or Lefty: Right Stats for 2013: 10 Goals and four Assists
Recognition and Awards: Second Team AllRegion Defensive Back
Recognition and Awards: 2013 All-Area Honorable Mention (Soccer), Coastal Empire, Junior All-Star Selection (Soccer), 2013 GHSA AA Preseason All-State Academic Football Team, 2013 Region 2AA Special Teams Player of the Year (Football), 2013 All-Region 2AA Academic Football Team, and 2013 All-Greater Savannah Defensive Second Team (Football)
Most memorable moment: The most memorable game is the Eagles Landing game.
Most memorable moment: Beating Atkinson County my junior year 2-1 to claim the region championship.
Years Playing: 11 years
Years playing this sport: 13 years
Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I enjoy making music.
Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: When not playing sports, I thoroughly enjoy kiteboarding and surfing on Tybee Island. Most Influential person: The most influential person in my life has definitely been my father. He has taught me everything that I know, from riding a bike to having respectful manners. My dad has always been there for me, and he continues to help me throughout my life with important decisions.
Most Influential person: Robert Griffin, III, because he came from a small school, and he was an underdog all of his college career and became the number two pick in the draft. Person you would like to meet: Robert Griffin, III
Favorites: s Snack: Oatmeal Cream Pie ges an Or rin nd Healthy Food: Ma on cti Hobby: Music Produ Movie: Coach Carter University College Team: Clemson rs Pro Team: Pittsburg Steele III n, Pro Player: Robert Griffi a Place to Travel: Australi 14 2k Video Game: NBA
Favorites: ndwiches Snack: Peanut Butter Sa gurt Healthy Food: Chobani Yo Hobby: Kiteboarding d of Ron Burgundy Movie: Anchorman: The Legen rsity of Georgia College Team: The Unive Pro Team: Atlanta Falcons Pro Player: Tom Brady ly Place to Travel: Rome, Ita
, Junior Benedictine Military School
Jacob Simmons, Junior
Savannah Christian Preparatory School
Rekwan Cooper, Senior Sol C. Johnson High School
Football and Track & Field Mascot: Atomsmashers Jersey: #7 Height: 5’9” • Weight: 175 Position: 100-meter, 4x100 relay, Running back, Corner back Nickname: Coop or Zoom Most memorable moment: Competing in the Bob Hayes Invitational in Jacksonville, Florida, against Kermit Whitfield and Kendall Williams. Years playing this sport: five years Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I enjoy spending time with family. Sport you wish you could play: Baseball
Favorites: Snack: Granola bars Healthy Food: Pineapples ing, and Hobby: Working out, draw dancing Movie: We Are Marshall College Team: Clemson Pro Team: Seahawks Pro Player: Tyson Gay, rian Peterson Marshawn Lynch, and Ad Place to Travel: Europe all 2013 Video Game: NCAA Footb
Track and Cross Country Mascot: Raiders Height: 5’8” • Weight: 185 Righty or Lefty: Left Recognition and Awards: Made it to state the last two years Most memorable moment: The most memorable moment for me was when I cleared 12’ for the first time last year. It was exhilarating. Years playing this sport: three years Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: Weightlifting is my favorite pastime. Sport you wish you could play: I wish I had gotten into competitive weightlifting. Person you would like to meet: I would like to meet Ben Haggerty, known as Macklemore. Unlike most of the music you hear nowadays, Macklemore’s songs contain meaningful and clever lyrics.
Favorites: Snack: BBQ chips s Healthy Food: Clementine Hobby: Weightlifting Movie: Hot Rod nd Place to Travel: New Zeala
Lacrosse Mascot: Cadets Jersey: #24 Height: 5’10” • Weight: 175 Position: Attacking Midfielder Righty or Lefty: Right Nickname: Zach Recognition and Awards: two-time SCILL AllState, Top 200 Class of 2015 Student Sports Lax, 2014 All-Tournament Team Decatur High Tournament Years playing this sport: 12 years Most memorable moment: Winning back to back state championships. Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I enjoy golfing with my dad and little brother. Sport you wish you could play: Curling Most Influential person: My sister Alexandria Scott; she is a 2010 graduate of USMA (West Point). She influences me and inspires me to constantly work hard despite the obstacles I may face. Person you would like to meet: Jim Brown
Favorites: Snack: Cliff Bars Healthy Food: Watermelon Hobby: Fly Fishing Zohan Movie: Don’t Mess With the Devils College Team: Duke Blue triots Pro Team: New England Pa y Pro Player: Tom Brad Place to Travel: Hawaii all 14 Video Game: NCAA Footb 23
Cross Country, Track & Field, Swimming, and Equestrian Mascot: Cavaliers Height: 5’4” Recognition and Awards: My freshman year (2012) in track, I made it to the state championship for the 3200-meter and finished 11th. I also was region runner-up in 2012. Most memorable moment: Competing in the state championship in 2012. Years playing this sport: three years Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I love to hang out with my friends, play guitar, and go to the beach. Sport you wish you could play: If I could do any sport, I would love to try skiing! Person you would like to meet: I would love to meet Hunter Hayes!
Calvary Day School
Favorites: Snack: Fruit s Healthy Food: Raspberrie onion chips and am cre r Junk Food: Sou ogs llege Team: Georgia Bulld Hobby: Playing Guitar • Co es Jon er • Pro Player: Chipp Pro Team: Atlanta Braves travel Europe. been, but I really want to er nev I’ve Place to Travel: ok: Water for Elephants like to Movie: Forest Gump • Bo think it’s fun, and I really orite subject because I fav my is lish Eng t: jec Sub read and write.
Tennis Mascot: Panthers Height: 5’6" 2013 Stats: 60 wins and 32 losses Recognition and Awards: Prince Hot 100 Most memorable moment: Winning the K-Swiss Kiawah Island tennis tournament after beating a tough opponent. Years playing this sport: five years Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. Sport you wish you could play: Softball and volleyball
Savannah Arts Academy
Favorites: Snack: BBQ chips k Food: Dark chocolate Healthy Food: Berries • Jun els Hobby: Reading lverines and UNC Tar He els (Tennis), Michigan Wo College Team: UNC Tar He an (Football) (Basketball), and Michig ic Pro Player: Novak Djokov sco nci Fra San Place to Travel: Hunger Games The ok: Bo • e acl Movie: Mir to learn about many te subject because we get ori fav my is y log Bio t: jec Sub attention with animals in well as getting hands-on interesting organisms as the classroom.
Basketball and Track Height: 5’9” Position: Power Forward Righty or Lefty: Right Nickname: Tay or TayBaby Recognition and Awards: This year I was rewarded with the opportunity to compete with the best of the best in the U.S. for a spot on the USA Youth Olympic World Team. Locally, I was recognized as one of the greater youth of my age with an article in the Savannah Morning News, introducing my trip or journey, or as I call it “Road to China.” Most memorable moment: In 2103, at the Disney AAU National Championships, I jumped my personal best with a jump of 19’3." I felt like an angel soaring high above in the air. The rush was the best I ever felt, especially since I came out with a bang. Years playing this sport: nine years (track) Sport you wish you could play: LaCrosse Person you would like to meet: Allyson Felix; to me she just gives off that vibe to pursue your dreams, despite the many obstacles you may face. I love watching her run as she puts her all into each race. I could just watch her run all day. It’s amazing to see a women run that fast. If I ever met her, I would be speechless.
Favorites: li with sautéed tilapia lthy food: Grilled brocco Snack: Honey buns • Hea vie: The Blind Side holes • Subject: Math • Mo nut Do de Pri ers Bak d: Junk Foo new outfits and shoes, states and shopping for Hobby: Going to different race or after. especially NIKE, before I Minnesota Vikings nder, Chicago Bulls, and a Pro Team: Oklahoma Thu Team: University of Florid e leg and Allyson Felix • Col t ran rida Du Flo in and Kev a, : rni yer ifo Pla Cal Pro d, Paris, England, dri Ma as, am Bah a, aic Place to Travel: Jam
Track & Field Mascot: Raiders Height: 5’10” Position(s): 100-meter, 4x100 relay, long jump, and high jump Righty or Lefty: Right Recognition and Awards: State Championship 2013 High Jump and Long Jump Most memorable moment: Competing in high jump for the first time at the area track meet. Favorite thing to do when not playing your sport: I enjoy hanging out with friends. Sport you wish you could play: Volleyball Most Influential person: My grandma because she has strong Christian values and has taught me a lot about life. Years playing this sport: one year Person you would like to meet: the Pope
Sophomore Savannah Christian Preparatory School
Favorites: Snack: Smoothie s Food: Chick-fil-a or Zaxby’ Healthy Food: Fruit • Junk ogs lld e Team: Georgia Bu Hobby: Modeling • Colleg nning als • Pro Player: Peyton Ma din Car a Pro Team: Arizon is k and Par Place to Travel: New Yor es • Book: The Hunger Gam Can I You if Me ch Cat : Movie labs are interesting, and the e aus bec I like chemistry Subject in High School: understand the subject. 25
Gianna Ruiz Savannah Christian Preparatory School
Subject: Spanish Snack: BBQ Chips Best Score: 37 on nine holes Favorite course to play: Savannah Harbor Course you hope to play: Pebble Beach Where would you most like to travel: Italy, because of my Sicilian heritage. Superpower: Mind reading Who is your inspiration: My dad because he inspires me to be a better golfer. 26
Girls Can Drive by Ruby Hilliard
ophomore Gianna Ruiz is a golfer for the Raiders at Savannah Christian Preparatory School. Ruiz has a bubbly and comedic personality and has impressive skills on the golf course. So far this year, she and her team are undefeated. Some of her awards include: SCPS MVP, Team City Champions two years in a row, Individual City Champion two years in a row, Savannah Morning News Player of the Year 2013, Savannah Junior Girls’ Golf Player of the Year 2013, and Savannah Junior Golf All-Star in 2012-13. Ruiz’s mother, Donna Ruiz, recounts how her daughter got her start in the game: “She got started in it because her dad was obsessed with it, and she went out to play with him and his buddies. Her dad was like, ‘Ah! She wants to play golf,’ so when she was about six, he bought her some clubs. The first time he took her to the driving range she hit the ball a couple of times then spent the rest of the time wandering around picking up tees, and then he was like, ‘Oh, well. Maybe not.’ But she stuck with it. “She liked being outside, running around, and she loved hitting golf balls. She would use my clubs and look kind of silly, but she wouldn’t leave until she hit four or five in a row,” says her father, Michael Ruiz. “Then she joined The First Tee and did a couple of years with them. One of those years some Senior Tour players had an exhibition over at the Crosswinds Par 3 course where she got to play side by side with some really good players. They were really impressed with her poise, how she set up to the ball, and how she made some pretty good shots for a kid around six or seven.” In middle school, Ruiz tried out for the golf team. “In seventh grade she tried out for the middle school team which was coed and only had eight spots for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. She didn’t make it. I think right then she was like, ‘I need to start getting serious about this if I want to do it.’ So she did, and she made the team in her eighth-grade year. From then on she’s been playing a lot more seriously,” says Ruiz’s mother. “I knew this was my sport when I got to middle school and started competing with the boys. It became a lot more challenging. My coach now, Beth Sasser, saw me play in middle school and had me come practice with the high school team. She already had her eyes on me before I got to high school and was excited for me to be on the team,” says Ruiz. Sasser is quite proud of her young star. “Gianna is very consistent. She’s been
photography by Imagined by Chas
playing golf for a long time. I guess the best I can say about her is, besides being an excellent golfer, she’s a really sweet girl and a nice person. It’s so nice to see a kid with such a good nature and sense of humor. She also has a good competitive spirit. She really loves golf and wants to be great at it, so she’s a really great kid to coach,” says Sasser. “She doesn’t really seem to feel any pressure. Of course, I think she puts pressure on herself to be good, but I don’t think she feels pressure from other people. Last year in the city individual championship, she tied with an older girl, and they went into an individual playoff to see who would win. It was as if she felt no pressure at all. You would think she would have seeing how she was a freshman playing a junior, but she didn’t. She acted like it was no big deal, went out there, and won.” Ruiz’s favorite memories formed around her bond with her father and grandfather on the course. “I love playing with them. They’re really funny, and I learn a lot from them,” she says. Ruiz’s father has more to say on that subject. “She’s a prankster and a jokester. She’s a genius at commenting on social maladies, and I would love being around her even if she weren’t my daughter. When we go out to play golf together, we always go out there to have a good time, but the minute it gets competitive, it can get obnoxious kind of quick. She’s the kind of girl that doesn’t back down from a challenge. Never in a malicious way, but the more you tell her no, the more she wants to do it,” he says. “She tries to outdrive you, tries to beat you, and if she can’t do it, she’ll go out into the middle of the fairway and stomp your ball two inches into the muck, so you can’t find it. It’s pretty funny and competitive. Also, when she plays with us, we make her hit off the men’s tees. We try to get her used to playing a longer game like she would have to on a bigger course to get her driving farther. She doesn’t mind it, and it makes her game better.” Sasser says Ruiz’s drive is her strength on the course, and she has her father’s teaching to thank for that. “Her father has been teaching her for a long time,” says Sasser. “It doesn’t surprise me that her dad makes her play from the men’s tees. Her father is a really good guy. He tries a lot of different things with her, and I think that is what helps keep the pressure off of her because she thinks, ‘I’ve gone out there before, and I’ve done this already from farther away, so, what’s the big deal? I can go out there and do this from the girls' tees,’ and she does.” ITG 27
Taylor & Jordan Robins Vidalia High School
It Takes Heart by Janice Hilliard
aylor and Jordan Robins, seniors and captains of the Vidalia High School soccer team, are forging their way not only on the soccer field but in their community. As nearly identical twins, the sisters might cause the opposing team to do a double take when the captains are introduced in a match. The girls come from a sports family. Their father, Mike Robins, played college baseball 28
photography by Ginger Russell Photography
at Troy State and coached college baseball at Brewton Parker for fifteen years, winning a national championship in 1977. “The girls were playing softball since they could walk, and even now if you put them in a batting cage, they can hit 75mph fast balls,” says their father. “Their love of soccer started at about eight years of age, and they went totally into soccer in high school.”
The person who introduced them to soccer and has coached them for the last nine years on a travel team called The Pitch, was family friend and coach, Fletcher Corbin. “Both have developed into outstanding players and leaders and have matured into fine young ladies,” says Corbin. The Robins twins are the middle children in the family. Their older brother Brooks is a student at Georgia Southern University and was also an athlete in high school, playing at Vidalia High School and Robert Toombs Academy. Charlie, their youngest brother, is six years old and is a big soccer fan. Their mother, Jennifer Gillenwater says, “Charlie loves to hang out with his sisters and their friends and has already decided that soccer will be his sport, continuing the tradition.” Everyone who knows the twins will tell you they are great athletes and are balanced in everything they do. “Jordan and Taylor’s training extends off of The Pitch with each excelling in academics, leadership in their youth group, and community involvement,” says Corbin. Both girls are in the top five of their class and are looking at academic awards at graduation. Both picked math as their favorite subject and laughing and swimming as ways to pass the time. Both girls hold their belief in God at the center of their lives and volunteer with their youth group at First United Methodist Church in Vidalia. Their volunteer spirit can be seen in their daily lives as they are active in the National Honor Society’s service projects, volunteering their time at The Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and visiting the elderly in nursing homes. One particular event they participate in is SOAPS, (Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society) where they “Cram the Van” to get donations of supplies needed at the local animal shelter. Brooks Robins says, “One of my favorite
Taylor memories will always be how my sisters organize Bible studies for their teammates and the prayer circle at center field after every game to thank God for his protection and the opportunity they have been given as soccer players to share their faith. They are pretty awesome—two of the greatest young Christian athletes I have ever seen in high school or college.” “When it is all said and done, they have good hearts. I have always tried to encourage them to keep their focus on God and not conform to the world,” says their mother. The elephant in the room is that, for the first time in their lives, the twins will be taking different paths after high school. Taylor decided to continue her athletic career and will be attending Middle Georgia College, playing soccer in the fall. Jordan will pursue academics at Mercer University. “This will be a really big change for them as they are very close and have never been apart from each other,” says their mother. How do the girls feel about this? The twins gave the exact same quote, sticking true to their twin talk, “I am looking forward to being myself, no one will really know I am a twin.” While both girls are looking forward to the individualism in their future, “they have already mapped out the route to each other’s school,” says their mother. “They are going to do great. They already juggle honors classes, sports, and have a steady mind on community needs,” says their older brother. “The girls are great: great students, great athletes, but much better Christians, and because of their faith they are much better people. I am blessed; they are the best,” says their father. “To sum these two young ladies in a phrase: they are uniquely different while demonstrating strong leadership qualities through their faith, attitude, and example,” says Corbin.
"Jordan and Taylor Robins have been a key part of our success over the past four years. Our team is currently ranked sixth in state through eurosportscoreboard. com. They are leaders and do a good job keeping the team together. They have a passion for the game, and it shows at practice and in each match. This is a key part of who they are. Taylor and Jordan have traveled to every JV match both their junior and senior years, knowing they will not play, but wanting to be there for the younger girls. They are team players." - Coach Ham 29
Calvary Day School
Cavaliers Enjoy Over a Decade of Success Under Coach Shell by Robert Preston, Jr.
oaching isn’t something I thought I would do when I was in high school. I wanted to go into the medical field, most likely physical therapy. Then I took my first chemistry class at the University of Georgia and changed my major. After that, I gravitated toward a health and physical education degree,” says Calvary Day Cavaliers boys head basketball coach and assistant principal Jason Shell. After a quarter on Science Hill, Shell became increasingly interested in health and PE. As he pursued this degree track, he thought more and more about coaching. “I loved basketball. It was my passion. I also loved being around kids. As I moved through college, I realized that I wanted to become a basketball coach,” says Shell, who played basketball and baseball at Westfield School in Perry (his Hornets won a region title in basketball his junior year and played for a state title; a year later, the baseball Hornets won a region championship of their own). Health and PE jobs are notoriously difficult to find. When Shell graduated from UGA after doing his student teaching at Cedar Shoals High School, he began searching for a job. Nothing materialized, and he was about to return to school to work on his master’s degree when he learned about a PE opening at Windsor Forest in Savannah. He got the job and was supposed to serve as assistant girls basketball and assistant baseball coach. However, when he arrived on campus (two weeks after school had already started), Shell was told that the boys basketball coach had resigned. He was being named interim head varsity boys basketball coach for the year. When he took over the Windsor Forest program, the Knights weren’t very good. That year, the Knights went on a run and made the state tournament, upsetting a Glynn Academy team that included future first-round NBA draft pick Kwame Brown. Shell remained at Windsor Forest for two more years before moving to Calvary Day.
photography by Janice Hilliard
Like Windsor Forest, the Calvary Day basketball program was lagging when Shell took over. The Cavaliers weren’t known for basketball, and they hadn’t made the state playoffs or won a region championship since becoming a part of the Georgia High School Association. The first three years were tough, but in Shell’s fourth year, the Cavaliers found their stride. They won over 20 games, the region title, and went to the Elite Eight. The following year, they went back to the Elite Eight. Since 2005, Calvary Day has made the playoffs every year but one. Along the way, the Cavaliers have won four region titles, they’ve played for seven and, this year, went to the Final Four. “First and foremost, we’ve been blessed by God. We’ve had some good players and some great assistants. We have a great support system here, and we have some people here who really love this school. Then of course when you start winning, it gets contagious,” he says. Over the years, the Cavalry Day players have responded well to Shell’s system. He wants his players to play hard, with intensity, and with aggression. However, he also requires them to play controlled and disciplined. He doesn’t employ one set system; he uses multiple schemes so he can adjust to what his opponents give him. “I want my players to play aggressively, and I also coach aggressively. I expect a lot out of them, and I want them to play hard all the time. You can’t go wrong if you play hard,” he says. Each year, Shell’s goals remain the same. He wants his players to support what the team does and give their best. Exactly how the team plays from year to year often changes. “The team and personnel change from one year to the next. We adjust to our personnel. We never take away from the fundamentals, but we always adjust to what we have and play to the strengths of our team. Not every team we have is the same,” he says. Shell is quite happy with his position at Calvary Day. He has developed a successful basketball program and is now an administrator. His support staff, parents, fans, and administration
are behind him every step of the way. For him, it’s a perfect situation. “We’ve got everything we need to be successful right here. It’s why I’ve been here for 13 years,” he says. ITG
The demands coaching places on a family are high. In the past, Jason Shell also coached golf and was an assistant football coach. His coaching duties are now limited to boys basketball. His wife, Heather, supports him every step of the way. The daughter of a coach (her father was the head baseball coach at Windsor Forest when Shell coached there), she knows full well the lifestyle of a coaching family. “I’m truly blessed. Without the love and support of my family, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” he says. Shell and Heather have two children, a son, Staten (first grade), and a daughter, Sutton Gray (two years old). 31
Triple Jump State Champs
Preston Smith Southeast Bulloch High's Triple Jump Duo
Southeast Bulloch High School
by Rob Asbell
erhaps there is something in the water in Brooklet or maybe just a geographic phenomenon. How else can it be explained that not one, but both Georgia AAA triple jump champions are from Southeast Bulloch High School? Seniors Jasmine Roberts and Preston Smith took the girls and boys championships, respectively, on different days at different meets. The triple jump is one of the three jumping events in track and field along with the long jump and high jump. It is similar to the long jump in that the competitor gets a running start and hops, bounds again, and then jumps into a sand
photography by Imagined by Chas
pit. The jump is measured from the start of the first hop to the end of the jump. Roberts claimed her trophy first in dramatic fashion at the GHSA Girls AAA State Track Meet in Albany. Initially nervous, she calmed the butterflies after her first jump was not to her liking. Roberts got it together on her next jump to hit a mark of 37’-9.75” and claim the girls state title. Southeast Bulloch Girls Track Coach Jolie Britt’s last minute advice just before Roberts jumped was simple: “Take a deep breath, and jump your best. Lift your knees.” Roberts was an asset to the Lady Jackets team this year because she added much needed
experience. She has competed in track all four years of high school and each of those years SEB has won region. She started triple jumping in 10th grade and has qualified for the state track meet in each of the last three seasons, finishing fourth her sophomore and junior years. Roberts will graduate with a 3.4 grade point average and plans to attend Texas State, majoring in health and fitness management. Although still unsure, she said she may try out for either basketball or track when she gets to college. Roberts enjoys jumping and practices hard using several different jumping drills. Her speed coupled with powerful leg muscles allow her to
get great distance on her jumps. “She can consistently jump 37’ or better,” Coach Britt says. “Not too shabby.” “Jas,” as she is known to friends, is also a point guard on the Lady Yellow Jackets basketball team and also plays volleyball. She also competes in the high jump, 100-meter, and relays for the track team. It was a very long week between Roberts winning her title and Smith getting the chance to win his. “Once she won, there were a lot of jokes like, ‘Now you HAVE to win,’” Smith said. Once he got the opportunity, Smith was able to get the job done. It was a long journey according to Boys Head Track Coach Jeremy Gantt who has coached Smith for the past three years. After seeing him play basketball as a freshman, he realized he had a natural ability and asked Smith to come out for the track team. Smith initially declined to join the Yellow Jackets but finally gave in his sophomore year. “I told Preston that he needed
to come out and compete in the three jumps— long jump, triple jump, and high jump—and if he did not enjoy it he could quit.” Smith agreed and was good enough to qualify for the state meet his first year and finished sixth. He continued to improve and went back to the state meet as a junior where he took third in the triple jump and fourth in the high jump. He saved his best for his final season, however, winning all three jumps at the region meet and earning the High Point award by scoring 30 points by himself. This season, Smith broke Southeast Bulloch records in all three events, going 6’-6” in the high jump, 21’-8.75” in the long jump, and 47’-1” in the triple jump, breaking his own record at this year’s state meet. “You could see that he was focused that morning, and he was on a mission, so I just got out of his way and told him to go do what he does best and jump,” Coach Gantt said. Smith had already taken a turn in the high jump and
was in the second heat of the triple jump. He felt good about the jump and knew he had done well. “When I heard them say 47,’ I was confident that I had won.” He would be correct as the next closest jump was still four inches shy of Smith’s. His performance at the state meet has caught the eyes of college recruiters, Coach Gantt says. “Preston is able to do things that just make you shake your head and ask yourself, ‘Did he really just do that?’” Smith is also a standout in the classroom with a 3.96 grade point average and a number seven ranking as an honor graduate in his class at Southeast Bulloch. His plans are to attend either Georgia Southern or Cornell and major in information technology. Roberts and Smith are friends away from the track but admit they have only practiced together on one occasion. “He helped me once in practice,” Roberts said. ITG
Who Inspires You? Jacob Simmons
A “YouTuber” named Elliott Hulse primarily makes weightlifting videos, but he also gives great advice on all of life’s problems which provides me with daily motivation.
My mom is definitely my inspiration. She’s always there for me. She played sports in college, and I want to do that, as well. My friends are also a big inspiration in my life. They always help me be true to myself, and I can always rely on them. I know they will always be there for me.
My mom; she is my number one supporter, and she is always here for me. She encourages me to be the best I can be and to never give up. She believes that if it’s possible I can do it.
The most influential person to me is my uncle, Clifton “Nate” Albritton. Through any and everything he has taught me to keep a positive attitude towards everything and to keep Christ as the head of my life. He also taught me to work hard for what I want in life, letting no one stop my drive for success.
Sara Putman Coach Jason Shell
From a coach’s aspect, John Wooden because of his spiritual faith in God and his ability to help young people succeed.
Many people have influenced my life in tremendous ways, so it’s hard to choose just one. Mary Bennett Moon, my area FCA Representative, has challenged me to be a better athlete, Christian, and worker with her perseverance and unwavering trust in God through all circumstances in her life. She frequently helps out with pre-game devotions and is an integral part in preparing our team for competition.
The most influential person, or people if you will, to me is my team. In the position I play, goalkeeper, I see every play, not just the goals or the outstanding plays. Watching girls that are so close to me give their all the entire game, and not for themselves, for each other, is a powerful thing.
My mother because she inspires me to take every day one at a time, make good decisions, and focus on the important things to help me achieve my end goal and be the person that I want to be in the future.
My Mom and Dad. Mom guides me in a lot of ways from not only sports but how to be a smart young lady. Seeing her with a huge smile on her face brightens my day. It also makes me feel like she loves me despite all my flaws. She always cheers me up and spoils me, not just with her blessings, but the joys she brings each and every day to my heart. She influences me a lot to forgive and have an open heart towards anyone I meet because you never know their situation. She teaches me how to be brave so I can explore my horizons and show my talent and charms not just to her, but to the world and any other person’s life that I may impact. My father is very dedicated to being a “track dad,” from taking me to practice, preparing me for competition, buying all my supplies, and guiding my way for a brighter future and pursuing my dreams and aspirations. My father teaches me how to practice what I preach and pushes me to be greater than I am. He is a great father and provides me with the necessary things and loves me for making him proud in as many ways as possible. 35