HARLEM - After several months of waiting, Lexi Mays has her ring. It's something she plans to cherish for many years to come.
On Thursday morning, Mays and the rest of her Harlem softball teammates and coaches received their state championship rings in a ceremony in the school's gymnasium. The jewelry came four months after the Lady Bulldogs won their first softball state title, the school's first sports championship in three decades.
"My wedding ring won't be this important," said Mays, a senior catcher. "We are state champions. The moment still doesn't feel real. It feels like a fairy tale, but it's real. It's such an honor."
During the softball season, Harlem went 35-4, winning the Region 4-AA Championship along the way. Then, the Lady Bulldogs rolled through the playoffs, capturing the state championship in October when they defeated Vidalia, 3-1, in the Class AA championship game in Columbus, Ga.
"At first, it didn't sink in at all," senior first baseman Cassie Blizzard said. "Now that I have this ring I'm shaking. I can't believe it. I'm so excited."
Coach Mike Leverett said talk about getting championship rings started soon after the team arrived back from Columbus. Then, he went to work raising about $8,000 to help offset the cost.
Each player and coach received a personalized ring with the Harlem emblem on top inside of a red gemstone. Around the top of the ring the words "State Champions 2016" are engraved.
"I'm just tickled to death," Leverett said about getting his ring.
He added the team has to replace six seniors entering the fall in the effort to add a second ring.
"We're going to work hard all summer. We're going to be just fine."