It was another successful year for teams and individuals associated with the county. The Alexander wrestling team won both the duals and traditional championship as the Chapel Hill girls won the program’s first track and field state titles.
Chapel Hill also captured the cheerleading championships.
There were many individual state titles and accomplishments during the calendar year, which ends today. In 2017, three individuals in four track and field events won state titles.
There were also two relay teams that claimed state titles.
The Douglas County Sentinel sports staff picked the top-10 story lines of the 2017 year to highlight.
Here is the list:
1. Alexander wins two state wrestling titles
It was sweet revenge for the Alexander Cougars wrestling team on Saturday afternoon. The Cougars captured the Class AAAAAA Dual Championship with a 37-38 win over area rival South Paulding at the Macon Centreplex. Only five days ago, South Paulding defeated Douglas County in the Area 5-AAAAAA Championship. Both teams advanced to the state meet and proceeded on a course to meet for the championship. It was the program’s first duals state title. However, the Cougars would not stop with just one state title. A few weeks later, Alexander returned to Macon and won the second traditional title in program history. The one was in 2010. Spencer Myers was the highest individual placer for the Cougars as he was runner-up in the heavyweight division at state. Also placing for the Cougars were London Dubroc, Vinnie Ferrara, Little Nelson, Deandre Burton, Cole Driskell and Conner Perry.
2. George Bello signs with Atlanta United
Douglasville native George Bello has become a teenage soccer phenom. He moved a step closer to his dream of playing professional soccer. The 15-year-old phenom signed a pro contract with the Atlanta United, a first year professional team owned by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Bello was one of three academy players signed to professional contracts with the team. In addition to Bello, Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo will join the team as homegrown players effective the January 2018. Bello is considered a top defender and has spent the season with the with the Atlanta United Under-16 team where he has made 20 appearances with 19 starts. In addition, Bello has played most of his career with United States Youth National Circuit.This past April, Bello was a part of the u-15 team that won the Torneo Delle Nazioni, which is considered one of the most prestigious tournaments. With Bello in the starting lineup, the U.S. won all four matches including the championship over England.
3. Chapel Hill girls winning state track and field
Going into the the final event of the Class AAAA Girls Track and Field Championships on Saturday afternoon, Chapel Hill trailed by two points to Woodward Academy.
Chapel Hill’s Meghan Daniels, Kendria Edouard, Aliyah Sangster and Ilene Soleyn was able to handle the pressure of the moment. The foursome had a time of three minutes, 54.12 seconds to win the event by eight seconds over Marist to capture the state title. It was the girl’s program first state title. Chapel Hill got its first points the day before when senior Angel Amadi finished seventh in the triple jump. Junior Kayla Alexander finished fifth in the long jump to add to that point total. Sangster took second in the 400 event while Edouard, a Georgia Tech signee, was fifth. Amadi went 11.87 to finish second in the 100 and was fourth in the 200 at 24.9 seconds. Alexander, a two-time champion in the 100 hurdles, went 13.86 second to finish runner-up in the event. Soleyn was sixth in the 800 at 2:21. It would also be the last meet for coach Kelly Williams as she announced she was stepping down as coach after the meet.
4. Douglas County football resurgence
The Tigers opened the season with a lot of optimism after returning several key players from a team that went 6-4 in Johnny White’s first season. Douglas County didn’t disappoint as it finished with a 10-2 record and as Region 5-AAAAAA runner-up. It was the program’s first 10-win season since 2005, as the Tigers finished ranked No. 9 in the final Georgia Sports Writers Association poll. It was also the first since the 2005 season. Douglas County only regular-season loss was to two-time region champion Mays in what decided the region championship. The Tigers defeated Dalton in the first round of the playoffs, a first since the 2005 season, before losing 24-21 to Alpharetta on the road in the second round. Tigers senior Braelen Oliver, who signed with Minnesota, was named the region player of the year.
5. New Manchester earns first state playoff berth
It wasn’t the prettiest win in school history but it was the most historic one. With a scrappy 68-64 overtime win over Creekside High on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Region 5-AAAAAA Tournament, the Jaguars clinch their first-ever state playoff berth in school history. Senior Kandi Hudson pumped in 16 points while Anaya Cone had 13 points and Makaila Conge finished with 12 to lead the Jaguars scoring attack in the win. The next day, the Jaguars would add to its win total by upsetting second-seed Mays in the tournament semifinals. New Manchester lost to Douglas County in the finals. The Jaguars lost to Chattahoochee in the first round of the state playoffs and finished with a 16-12 overall record.
6. Elana Meyers Taylor continues bobsled success
Douglasville native Elana Meyers Taylor doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
During the month of February, the Olympic medalist bobsledder drove to her fourth and fifth consecutive gold medals in February, the final of which was her second world championship title in Germany. It was her second career title, and earlier in the month she won the world cup race in Austria. Along with teammate along with Kehri Jones, they were announced as the Best of February honors for the Team USA Awards. They had the fastest women’s start time ever recorded on the 2010 Olympic track. All this in preparation for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Meyers Taylor said she doesn’t foresee retirement in her near future. She has won medals in the previous two Olympic Winter Games.
7. Kayla Alexander wins national track championship
Kayla Alexander has had some disappointment during recent meets at the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships. However, this past summer the Chapel Hill sprinter atone for all those shortcomings. Alexander went a personal-best 13.73 seconds to win the 100-meters hurdles race at Rock Chalk Park on the University of Kansas campus. What made it even more special for the two-time Georgia High School Association hurdler champion is that she did it with a hip injury. Alexander had to fight through the pain each day at the national after straining her hip during the long jump competition. Despite the injury, she placed 11th overall with an 18-0.25 jump. At the state high school meet, Alexander placed second after winning the 100 hurdles the previous two years. The Chapel Hill girls team won its first state title in school history.
8. Matt Combs reaches milestone win
Alexander’s 23-20 win over visiting Carver-Atlanta provided coach Matt Combs with a milestone win. The victory was the 43rd of Matt Combs’ career as the Cougars coach, giving him the most wins by a football coach in the school’s 32-year history. Combs, in his eighth season at the helm at Alexander, surpassed Jim Clay, who racked up 42 wins during his tenure as coach from 1993-98. Combs is the longest tenured coach in the programs surpassing Vernon Wilkes this season. Evan Nabors punched a 28-yard field goal through the uprights with 4:02 left in the game to break a 20-20 tie and give Alexander a 23-20 lead that would hold. Alexander would finish the season with a 6-5 record and fourth place finish in the Region 5-AAAAAA standings. The Cougars lost to Harrison in the first round of the state playoffs.
9. Kiana Johnson sets new scoring record
Kiana Johnson gave herself a special birthday present during the Lithia Springs’ region win over North Springs. The Lithia Springs senior scored 26 points to help the Lions to a 62-21 win and in the process became the program’s all-time leading scorer. now has 1,426 career points to surpass former standout Leah Benton as the top scorer in Lithia Springs history. Coming into the game, she needed exactly 26 points to accomplish the feat. During her final season, Johnson averaged 20.7 points and was named the Region 6-AAAAAA Player of the Year and to the all-state team. She signed a scholarship with Jacksonville State University and finished her career with 1,727 points in 106 games for a 16.2 career scoring average.
10. LeAsia Johnson breaks Lithia Springs track records
At the Region 6-AAAAA Track and Field meet, LeAsia Johnson had a sort of coming out party.
The Lithia Springs senior won the long jump championship while setting a new school record. At Lakewood Stadium in mid-April, Johnson went 18-feet, seven inches to break the school mark in the long jump during the preliminary round. The previous record was 18-1 set in 1998 by Quan Parks.
To add to her accomplishments, earlier in the week she set a new school mark in the 100-meters event. she went 12.14 seconds in the 100 to break the mark of 12.23 set in 2002 by Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor.
She was able to accomplish both while battling shin splint injuries throughout the season. Johnson, who signed with West Georgia, placed fifth at the state meet.