For a high school to win a state championship in any sport is a noteworthy achievement worthy of special recognition. To do so in football, the sport with the highest of profiles at most schools, is even more impressive. To do so in your 100th year of fielding a high school team is an accomplishment that is off the charts.
And yet that is exactly what Gainesville High School’s Red Elephants accomplished last year, claiming the state title in their centennial year of football participation.
In recognition of that exceptional feat, and the long rich heritage of Red Elephant football, The Times commissioned two very special commemoratives: a book tracking the history of GHS football and a special painting marking the accomplishments of last year’s team.
Both were presented to school officials by Times publisher Dennis Stockton on Friday. The book and unframed prints of the painting will be available at The Times for $25 each, beginning Monday. All proceeds from sales will go toward the Newspaper In Education program, which provides newspapers to classrooms for use by students and teachers.
“Anyone familiar with high school football in Georgia knows that Gainesville High School has for decades had one of the best programs in the state. To win a state championship in its 100th year was simply an incredible circumstance, and one we felt should be honored in a special way,” Stockton said.
“There is an incredible amount of information in our book, and the painting is filled with meaning that is both current and historical. We are very proud of both, and think they will be enjoyed by anyone with ties to GHS and the Gainesville area. We hope others will be as pleased as we are with these special recognitions of exceptional accomplishments through the years,” he said.
The book, “Tracks of the Red Elephant: One Hundred Years of Gainesville High School Football 1913-2012,” was written and compiled by Alvin Richardson, himself a former high school football coach. The Gainesville effort was Richardson’s second high school football book; he previously compiled a history of the Morgan County football program.
“This is a remarkable book in that it reflects a remarkable history. Not many football programs in the state have the storied tradition that Gainesville High School has had. This will be a journal that people will use as a historical reference; it tells stories from over the years,” said Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.
The 308-page book includes a section devoted to the 2012 championship, with a game-by-game breakdown of the season, as well as photos, rosters, records, stats and coaches from previous years. Information for the book was compiled from media accounts, school yearbooks, past histories and personal recollections.
“Having been an educator for the past 36 years and a football coach for many of those, I’m acutely aware of how important high school is in the life of our students. Teaching and learning at the secondary school level are the linchpins for our future generations, and team sports are one of the ways we can augment what our kids take away from this all-important time in their lives,” said Richardson.
“Writing ‘Tracks of the Red Elephant’ was quite simply a privilege for me. As I delved into the rich history of Gainesville High School football lore I felt as though I knew these coaches, players and community members who have played a part in the story — and what a grand story it has been and continues to be,” he said.
“I hope this book will become something that each person can cherish and pass down through the generations of their respective families. Having a role in this great program is certainly something of which those involved can be exceedingly proud,” said the author.
Dyer said the school plans to have a couple of opportunities for book signings and meeting the author in the near future.
The painting, titled “100 Years,” is by Mark Sundermeyer, local collegiate sports artist and muralist and the owner of Captured to Canvas.
In the painting, Sundermeyer presents a host of images significant to GHS, incorporating past and present in a special artistic commemoration of the championship year.
As is the case with all of Sundermeyer’s sports art, “hidden” symbolism is scattered throughout the painting, and each print comes with a card pointing out the hidden elements and their meaning.
Sundermeyer, a graduate of Florida State University, has been a professional artist for the past 17 years. His works include many popular college football prints, some of which have been made available to the public by The Times to raise money for its Newspaper In Education program.
Dyer said the painting is currently on display in the school’s trophy case but ultimately will be hung in a prominent place at the high school.
“It will always commemorate that 100th year and first state championship,” she said.
The first 50 of the prints sold can be personalized by the artist if desired, with, for example, the name and number of a member of the championship season.