Gainesville High athletics director Adam Lindsey is planning for the best.
The Red Elephants already play in the toughest region in the state’s largest classification.
So the man in charge of the Red Elephants’ sports programs, with the stamp of approval from the city school system and funding from taxpayers, will be ushering in one of the largest and most attention-grabbing athletic facilities of any school in the state.
Lindsey said that the Student Athletic Facility, when complete, will cater to a host of Red Elephants sports and house offices for their coaches.
Construction for the new state-of-the-art facility started in May and will not be complete until the 2022-2023 school year.
The new three-story, 90,000-square foot building will stand where the former football fieldhouse, which was about 40 years old, stood at the edge of the Bruce Miller football practice field.
“We want to provide our students a Division-I experience while they’re in high school,” said Lindsey, who is going into his fifth year at Gainesville. “Having the best facilities is so much a part of that. We’re so grateful for the support of Gainesville community, superintendent, school board and everyone involved. Gainesville is a community that cares.”
The icing on the cake on the Gainesville High campus, for sports, will be a synthetic-surface practice field and eight-lane track.
The biggest downside, Lindsey said, is that the 2022 senior class will not get to enjoy any of the new facilities.
However, one school year of moderate inconveniences will put Gainesville in a position to compete in Region 6-7A. In 2020-21, the region populated with seven public schools in Forsyth County accounted for seven state championships, five state runner-up spots and nine state semifinal squads.
The Gainesville boys’ soccer program is a perfect example of the nature of the talent in Region 6-7A.
In 2021, the Red Elephants beat both teams from Hall County that played for a state championship in smaller classifications (Johnson and East Hall) during the regular season.
Still, Gainesville was not able to earn one of the four playoff spots to state.
“That’s as glaring of an example of how good this region is in sports,” said Lindsey, who has been in education for 20 years.
In 2021, Gainesville’s boys golf program was fourth at state, behind a pair of its region opponents (Lambert and West Forsyth). The Red Elephants should make another push at 7A in 2022 with only one senior having graduated in the spring.
The new projects and facilities certainly give Lindsey a surge of energy as the Red Elephants prepare for new sports domiciles.
Once completed, the new student athletics center will showcase past Red Elephants greats and house its many state championship trophies.
“We don’t want it to be a museum, but a place where every athlete is represented and honored,” Lindsey said. “We want it to be a place where people walk in and say ‘Oh, my, God!’”
Lindsey said new projects will be overseen by grounds and athletics fields director David Presnell, who keeps City Park Stadium, for football and Ivey-Watson Field looking pristine.
Gainesville’s athletic director expects its football program, which has made the playoffs 21 straight seasons but has not earned a postseason win since 2015, to make the biggest jump of any of its sports programs, under the leadership of fourth-year coach Heath Webb.
In 2021, the Red Elephants will be helmed by sophomore quarterback Baxter Wright, running back Naim Cheeks, offensive lineman Elijah Ruiz and defensive lineman Khaliq Maddox.
The Red Elephants open the season with a headliner, facing John’s Creek in the Corky Kell Classic on Aug. 20 at City Park Stadium.
Gainesville High’s most accomplished returning athlete is senior Ashley Thompson, who as a junior was the 7A state champion in the 3200-meter run in track and field, as well as state runner-up in cross country.
Thompson leads a cross country program for the Red Elephants with depth on the boys and girls side.
“Coach Corbett does an outstanding job with the cross country program,” Lindsey said. “They’re hungry and believe they can compete against those schools in Forsyth County.”
One of the foundations to becoming competitive across the board in Class 7A is having Gainesville graduates in its coaching ranks, Lindsey said.
Lindsey said it started with Katie B. Davis, who was a Red Elephants basketball standout, now working diligently as one of its girls assistant coaches.
“It started with Katie B.,” Lindsey said. “She saw we were struggling and wanted to be part of the solution.”
This year, Gainesville High graduates Chad Bennett (football, offensive coordinator) and Jon Mark Owings (assistant baseball coach) are joining the Red Elephants coaching ranks.
Lindsey also expects an upward swing with its volleyball program, even through making the state playoffs out of this region would be a big mountain to climb.
Some of the top returning volleyball talent for Red Elephants coach Randall Roys are seniors Isabella Garrish, Callie Patterson and Margaret Embry.