By James Butler
It was a great year for athletics in Henry County in 2015-16 as county schools produced several state champions in both team and individual competition. Here is a look who made the grade for top honors in the county for 2015-16.
GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR:
The ELCA softball team notched their third-straight state title last fall when they defeated Stratford Academy for the Class A Private School Championship. The Chargers were dominant in the postseason as they pulled off their three-peat. ELCA ran through Mount de Sales, Christian Heritage, Prince Avenue Christian, and First Presbyterian Day before finally dismantling Stratford. Head coach Doug Campbell senior-heavy team proved one more time that they were best team in their classification.
BOYS TEAM OF THE YEAR:
Locust Grove Baseball
The Locust Grove baseball team’s performance on the diamond was likewise impressive as ELCA’s softball team. The Wildcats won 30-plus games and their first-ever state title after dethroning Buford to win the Class 4A State Championship. After being virtually unbeatable in the regular season, Locust Grove faced elimination in its first three playoff series and again in the finals after dropping the first game to the 2015 champion Wolves. However, the Wildcats responded each time with what they needed to do to win, whether that was hitting, pitching, or both.
GIRLS TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Abigail Rogers, ELCA Softball
The senior slugger powered ELCA to the state title this past school year. Rogers batted .524 and hit eight home runs as she was a slugging force. She heads to the University of North Georgia after being one of the state’s best players in each of her four high school seasons.
BOYS TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Charles Wiley, Stockbridge Football
Wiley was definitely a force for the Tigers on the gridiron this past fall. He registered 16.5 sacks to give him just under 35 for his last two seasons of high school, meaning what he accomplished as senior was done with a lot of attention being paid to him. The Ole Miss signee helped Stockbridge to the Class 5A Quarterfinals where they narrowly lost to state runner-up Glynn Academy.
GIRLS TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR:
Lonnie Wheeler, Ola Volleyball
Under Wheeler, Ola knocked off Area 8 Champion Gainesville in the second round of the Class 5A State Tournament to claim its spot as one of the final eight teams in the Championship Bracket. The Mustangs fell in the Round of 8 to eventual state champion Columbus, but Wheeler was able to help lead them to 41 wins and a county championship.
BOYS TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR:
Jonathan Gess, ELCA Football
ELCA picked up its second state championship by beating Aquinas 35-14. The Chargers ran through their Class A Private School competition all season long, as no Class A team came within 20 points of them all season and their three losses came to teams in higher classifications. As he once again illustrated in his ninth season at the school, Gess has built ELCA into a powerhouse.
GIRLS RUNNER OF THE YEAR:
T’Aja Cameron, ELCA
No stranger to state championships after winning three as a freshman and two as a sophomore, Cameron added another three state titles in her junior season by winning the 100-meter, 200-meter, and triple jump Class A Private School titles. Also, her 100-meter time of 11.74 broke a nearly 25-year old record for the state championships in Class A.
BOYS RUNNER OF THE YEAR:
Tie – Devin Dixon, Eagles Landing and Matt Moore, Union Grove
It was hard to decide between the Eagle’s Landing half and quarter-miler and the Union Grove hurdler, so they both get the nod due to their dominance this past school year. First, Dixon (pictured) won Class 4A state titles in the 400 and 800-meters. His 800-meter victory capped of a run of three straight in the event, and he picked up the 400 championship in his first year competing in the event. He also had a state-record time (149:52) in the 800. Add his sixth-place finish at the state cross country meet, and a pretty convincing case can be made for Dixon to take the honor of runner of the year outright.
However, considering Moore’s season as a 110-meter hurdler, you see he was just as dominant. He picked up his second-straight Class 5 A State Title in the event, while dropping his times by about a second to also notch a Georgia high school record of 13.33.
GIRLS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Megan Douglas, Union Grove
Douglas was another Union Grove athlete with impressive stats in track and field in 2016. She had a state-leading throw in the shot put of 47 feet and 7 inches, while also finishing state runner-up in the shot put and discus at the Class 5 A State Championships.
BOYS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Jamaine Chambers, Dutchtown
In improving on a top-5 finish from his junior season, Chambers took home the Class 5A State Championship in the high jump as a senior. Chambers also won a Region 4 Title in 2016.
GIRLS GOLFER OF THE YEAR:
Hannah Gasaway, Union Grove
Gasaway was the county’s top girls golfer this past school year. She finished 21st at the Class 5A State Meet after shooting an 86. She also had impressive showings at sectionals and region, as she shot 82 and 74 respectively. The 74 helped her get low medalist at region.
BOYS GOLFER OF THE YEAR:
Logan Perkins, Strong Rock Christian
Turning in a strong 2016 was Strong Rock’s Perkins. He was low medalist at state and region, carding a 68 and 67 in those two championships respectively. His performance helped Strong Rock win the Region 3-A Private School Title and finish fifth at the state championships.
RIFLERY ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Heather Brown, Union Grove
In turning in the best shooting performance in Henry County in 2016, Brown gets the nod. She helped lead Union Grove to a 14th-place finish at state, and her 20th-place finish individually was the county’s best.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Justin Ruffin, Union Grove
After winning the Class 5A 132-pound State Traditional Wrestling Championship as a freshman, Ruffin followed that up with a 145-pound state title as a sophomore.