• WCHS sophomore Catie Craig won the Class AAAA golf title last spring, becoming the second player in the family to win the state crown. See Page 3B.
  • WCHS senior Rachel Gearing posted a three Top 5 finishes at the state track meet, helping the Lady Warriors finish 10th in the Class AAAA standings.
  • Matt Jenkins posted a third place finish in the 138-pound division last winter at the Class AAAA tournament.
  • The Lady Warriors soccer team had a historic spring, advancing to the Elite 8 for the first time in program history.
  • The Truett McConnell women's soccer team made a mark on the national level during 2018, earning conference titles and competing in NAIA tourmament play for the first time in school history.
  • The Truett McConnell softball team made a mark on the national level during 2018, earning conference titles and competing in NAIA tourmament play for the first time in school history.

The Best of 2018 part 2

A lot of good things have happened over the past 12 months for White County's middle school, high school and college athletes. In the last two editions, the White County News has taken a look back at the Top 10 individual and team performances during 2018. In today's edition, the Top 1-5 preformances are featured. The Top 6-10 performances and achievements were included in the Dec. 27 edition of the paper.

#1 Craig wins state golf championship

For the second consecutive year, White County High School produced a state champion on the golf course. WCHS freshman Catie Craig made a dramatic debut on the high school scene by winning the Class AAAA individual title. Craig posted a round of 74 to claim the state championship in May at  Innsbruck Golf Club in Helen. Craig’s state title is the second in school history, and the second for the Craig family. Junior Caroline Craig won the 2017 state championship, and finished sixth in this year’s field. Behind the Craig sisters, the Lady Warriors finished third in the team standings behind state champion Woodward Academy and runner-up Central Carrollton in the 20-team field. Craig won with consistency, finishing the round with 16 pars and a pair of bogeys to hold off Woodward Academy’s Ayanna Habeel, who finished one-shot back at 75.  Catie Craig was the only player in the field without at least one double bogey or higher. “Catie is like a little machine,” WCHS head coach Darrell Dorsey said. “She played extremely well and I’m so proud of her,” Dorsey said. “Shooting a 74 on this course is an excellent round. She was off to a good start (on Tuesday) and I would have liked to see what would have happened if we had gotten to finish the (second) round.” Habeel finished at 75 for the runner-up spot, while Woodward’s Morgan Ellison was third at 77. Ainsley Cowart finished in a tie for fourth place at 78 with her sister, Loralie, followed by Caroline Craig at 79. “Caroline competed at a high level again,” Dorsey said. “She’s such a consistent player. To compete at a high level two years in a row is impressive. She’s a great player.” Dorsey said it’s special to have players to win back-to-back state champions, and a little unusual to have pair of sisters pull off the feat. “To have back-to-back state champions by a pair of sisters is pretty neat,” WCHS head coach Darrell Dorsey said. “I’m not sure that’s ever been done before. They are both great players and great kids. Central Carrollton also had a pair of sisters finish in the Top 7, and I doubt there’s ever been two sets of sisters do that in the state tournament.” Erin Dorsey, another freshman, posted a round of 90 to finish 18th overall, while Rachel Brock completed the Lady Warriors’ contingent with a 103 to tie for 35th place. In the boys' state tournament freshman Jacob Adams posted a round of 87 to tie for 79th place with Cartersville’s Jake Benefield, Perry’s Hunter Bowen and LaGrange’s Trent Smith.

#2 Gearing leads stellar effort for track teams at Class AAAA state track meet

The WCHS track teams had another stellar spring, culminating in a pair of Top 20 finishes for the Warrior squads at the Class AAAA meet in Rome. The Lady Warriors finished 10th among 34 team in the girls’ division, while the Warriors placed 17th among 35 teams.“We had a tough sectional that kind of whittled down the numbers we took to the state meet,” WCHS head coach Jake Cantrell said. “The level of competition this year in 4A was so good that we just didn’t have the sheer number of kids this year. The ones that we took (to Rome) did very well.” In the girls' division, senior Rachel Gearing wrapped up her stellar high school career with three Top 5 finishes. Gearing was the state runner-up in the 400-meter race, finished third in the triple jump and was fifth in the long jump. She also was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that captured sixth place. “She is the most competitive girl I’ve ever coached,” Cantrell said. “She wants to win and she’ll put everything out there to win. She is one of the most well rounded athletes in the state in any classification.” In the 4x400-meter race, Gearing combined with Jaelen Alexander, Kiernan Schmidt and Ellie Gearing to earn a sixth place spot. The foursome turned in a time of 4:00.14. Alexander had a chance to defend the 800-meter state championship she won last spring, but came up a little short in her attempt for back-to-back titles.Oconee County’s Nicole Pachuta grabbed the lead midway through the first lap and went on time win the state title with a time of 2:16.76, while Westover’s Shamia Jones was the runner-up at 2:18.88. Gilmer County’s Naomi Coombs was next at 2:20.53, followed by Marist’s Nora Solomon (2:21.69), Chapel Hill’s Ilene Soleyn (2:21.87) and Alexander (2:22.90). Rachel Lovell competed in the long jump finals, finished ninth with a height of 5-00, while Evelyn Vanderbunt made her first appearance at the state meet, competing in the shot put competition. Vanderbunt had her best throw of the season, landing a mark of 32-10 to finish in 11th place. In the boys’ division, the Warriors had three athletes in the field – Noah Rapert, Michael Baker and Grant Pullium. All three posted Top 6 performances in their events. Rapert led the way with a tie for third place in the triple jump. Rapert had a PR of 44-05 to tie with Burke County’s Damari Kelly for third place behind Thomson’s Marcus Cade (46-10) and Sandy Creek’s Nicolas Toomer (46-09.50). Baker jumped into the Top 5 in the long jump with a career-best effort. Baker landed a jump of 22-03.25 to finish just ahead of Central-Carrollton’s Kamaron Brown (22-02.25) to end up in the Top 5. Pullium also came up with a season-best effort at the right time, setting a PR in the pole vault to grab a sixth-place spot on the podium. Pullium, along with Cartersville’s Nick Bebko and Heritage’s Wes Lozano all cleared 12-06 to finish in a three-way tie. Bebko was fifth thanks to the number of misses, followed by Pullium and Lozano.

#3 Lady Warriors make historic run

The WCHS girls' soccer team made the greatest playoff run in the history of the soccer program last spring, winning a pair of state playoff games and advancing to the Elite Eight of the Class AAAA tournament. The Lady Warriors knocked off North Oconee and Northwest Whitfield in the first two rounds of the the tournament before falling to Spalding in an Elite 8 contest. Spalding ended the Lady Warriors' season with a 5-4 win on penalty kicks in a quarterfinal matchup. The two teams played to a 0-0 tie through 80 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime, before the Lady Jaguars secured a spot in the state semifinals with the win during the penalty kick phase. “It’s heartbreaking to lose when you are so close,” WCHS head coach Megan Runkle said. “We would have loved to have another shot at Marist. It was a tough way to end the season, but it was probably one of the best games we’ve played this season.” The Lady Warriors finished the post-season without allowing a goal in regulation and overtime (270 total minutes) in three games. The playoff run is the deepest run in a state tournament for any WCHS team since the 2010 softball team claimed a state championship. The loss ended the high school careers for six seniors – Rachel Gearing, Alyssa Lovell, Kayla Dockery, Kendra Reddy, Emily Sherman and Derrica Rohmeyer. “We couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Runkle said. “We have a lot of younger girls coming back and we’ve got some good ones coming from middle school. We will use this year as a stepping-stone for next year and the future years. I don’t think this will be the last time White County gets out of the first round of the playoffs.”

#4 Jenkins medals at state tournament

The WCHS wrestling team sent six wrestlers to the Georgia High School Association Championships last winter, and Matt Jenkins capped off a sensational junior season with a third place finish in the 138-pound division. Jenkins (45-3) put together a 5-1 run during the three days of competition to take his place on the medal podium. Jenkins’ Top 3 finish is the best state performance since Andrew Poston finished third in the 2015 State tournament. Jenkins had to battle his way through the wrestle back portion of the 16-man bracket after suffering a loss in the quarterfinals, but he managed to maneuver his way through the consolation bracket, winning four consecutive matches to earn the third place spot. "After he lost, Matt pretty much controlled the rest of his matches," head coach Patrick Lowendick said. "He dominated the rest of his matches. Even though the third place match went into overtime, it never felt like Matt wasn't in control." DeeJay Fleming went 2-3 in the 285-pound division, while Devin Sullens had a 2-2 record in the 220-pound division in his first state tournament appearance. Sean Wurtz finished 1-2 in the 120-pound class, Joe Luthi went 1-2 in the 132-pound class and Dawson Motes went 1-2 in the 113-pound division.

#5 TMU reaches new heights in softball, women's soccer

It was a great year for the Truett McConnell athletic program, especially for the women's' soccer and softball teams. Last spring, the Lady Bears' softball squad won the program’s first Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament championship. After a second round loss to Reinhardt University put the Bears in the loser’s bracket, TMU had to win five consecutive games to win the league title. The Lady Bears became the first team in AAC history to win three games on the final day in the tournament's current format to win the championship. TMU also became the first team to ever force the if-necessary game under the current format, and set conference records for most wins (6) and games played (7) in the tournament. The tournament title gave TMU a sweep of the league titles after winning the regular season championship. Reba Jones, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, finished with a .461 batting average  (12-26) over seven games, leading the team with seven run and six RBI. Jones was joined on the All-Tournament team by Karley Hobbs, Sara Sullivan and Millie Martinet. The Lady Bears' season ended in the championship game of the NAIA national tournament regional in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Lady Bears suffered a 7-0 loss to No. 7 Indiana Wesleyan, finishing the season with a school-record 43 wins. No previous TMU team had broken the 30-win barrier. Among the wins, the Lady Bears had six against nationally ranked teams, including a win over No. 1 Georgia Gwinnett. This fall, the TMU women's soccer team put together the best season in school history. For the first time in program history, the Truett McConnell women’s soccer team has earned a berth in the NAIA National Tournament. The Lady Bears (16-3) earned their spot in the national field thanks to winning regular season Appalachian Athletic Conference title. The Lady Bears posted a 12-0 record during regular season conference play. The team wrapped up the most successful season in program history with a 4-0 loss to No. 1 Southeastern University in the opening round of the NAIA national tournament. The Lady Bears’ record-breaking season included an AAC regular season title and a 15-game winning streak. The Lady Bears ended the season ranked first in the nation in shutouts per game (0.790), and ranked second in total shutouts with 15.

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