The spring season for high school sports has come and gone, as has my first full year of preps coverage at The Times.
It went by much quicker than I ever would have imagined, but through the blur, there are a handful of things I was able to learn.
I learned a lot, of course, about the area’s deep cast of players, who put forth some incredibly impressive numbers and performances throughout the spring.
I learned about the coaches, who were as intent on helping the players improve on and off the field as they were on winning games.
I learned that, on some nights full of soccer games, a two-goal game could be overlooked because of the abundance of three-and four-goal nights by some of the area’s best.
And I learned that young guns could be counted on as much as senior leadership when it came to competing at the highest level (I’m looking at you, Gainesville girls golf).
More than anything, though, I learned how incredibly difficult it is to win a state championship.
Many came close in the spring, but only two were able to make it to the top (Gainesville girls and boys golf).
In golf, the Flowery Branch boys took seventh in Class AAAA, while White County took fifth in Class AAA on the girls side. The Gainesville boys advanced to the state soccer championship, but were done in by Woodward Academy, which had lost back-to-back state title games.
The Lady Red Elephants advanced to the semifinals, but they, too, couldn’t quite close the deal when they ran into a tough Allatoona squad.
The Riverside boys were quarterfinals participants and the Flowery Branch girls, the top seed in Region 8-AAAA, were upset by Johns Creek in the first round.
The Buford girls advanced as far as the Class AA semifinals but were shut out 8-0 by eventual state champion Greater Atlanta Christian. In tennis, the Flowery Branch girls advanced to the state quarterfinals, but also ran into the eventual state champs. This time it was Johns Creek.
And then there was the most surprising, and, I imagine, the most painful. The Gainesville baseball team carried a perfect 31-0 record into the state semifinals before falling in three games to Ringgold, which faced Columbus for the state championship.
None of this is meant to highlight the shortcomings of any team around the area. It’s simply a reminder of how many incredibly talented teams there are in the state and how few are able to reach the ultimate goal of a state championship.
If a team as talented as Gainesville’s baseball squad, which was the most impressive I’ve ever watched at the high school level, can come short, how talented must those other teams be? And it isn’t always about talent.
Sometimes it’s just the day of the week.
A champion has to bring its best performance every time out, and I think we all underestimate how very rare that is. For that reason, teams like the Gainesville girls and boys golf teams and individuals like Luis Gonzalez and Austin Eckenroth, who won individual state titles at the state track and field meet, deserve extra attention.
Gainesville girls golf coach Clay McDonald said it best when talking about his team, I think.
“I don’t think the magnitude of what they achieved has totally sunk in yet,” he said about his team. “But I think they are beginning to realize, after watching some of our other teams come so close and fall just short, how difficult it is to win it all. A lot of great teams don’t win, so it means a lot that we have this reward for all the work we put in.”
Indeed, it does.
David Mitchell is a sportswriter for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesdmitchell.