If you're wondering why there are so smiling faces on the campus of Augusta Preparatory Day School lately, the school's coaches and student-athletes would gladly offer an explanation.
Eight Augusta Preparatory Day School students won sports honors. They are: Stevie Odom (standing, from left), volleyball; Peter Schumacher, soccer; Rebecca Shay (kneeling, from left), cross country; Natalie Hamilton, volleyball; Coles Hull, volleyball; Abby Alexander (sitting, from left), cross country, Mark LaVine, soccer; Sarah Gerstein, academic all-American swimmer; and Ashwin Rajendra, cross country.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Following one of the best fall athletic seasons ever at Augusta Prep, there's a lot to talk about.
Much of the success can be attributed to the leadership provided by the senior class, and also to the fine coaching of the Augusta Prep staff.
The whole administration is proud of the fact that eight Augusta Prep student-athletes earned All-State recognition for their performances during the fall seasons in volleyball, cross country and soccer.
Importantly, the entire Augusta Prep community can be proud of an overall increase in school spirit this fall.
Leading the way this season was the Lady Cavaliers cross-country team. They captured the Georgia Independent Schools Association championship, and became the first girls cross-country team in school history to take the title.
All-state runners Abby Alexander and Rebecca Shay paced Prep with strong showings at the state meet in Macon.
Not to be forgotten, the Augusta Prep boys won the Region 4-AAA cross country crown, and region individual champion Ashwin Rajendra secured all-state honors.
The Augusta Prep volleyball team capped a great season by finishing second in the GISA state tournament. The Lady Cavaliers placed three players on the all-state squad - Stevie Odom, Coles Hull and Natalie Hamilton.
Senior leadership was a key to the court success, as Augusta Prep advanced through two rounds at the state tournament without head coach Rich Bland, who was in Augusta with wife Erika, celebrating the birth of their first child.
The boys varsity soccer team opened 2002 with nine-straight wins to set a school record. Although the squad finished on a down note, losing a first-round state playoff match, the Cavaliers captivated everyone on campus this year.
With dedicated coaching, and superb senior leadership, the Cavs recorded a record of 11-4, more than doubling their win total from the previous season.
For their efforts, Mark LaVine and Peter Schumacher were selected to the all-state soccer team.
In addition to the sporting exploits, much of the increase in school spirit can be attributed to the cheerleading squad, which was a catalyst for fan support at both home and away contests. The cheerleaders pitched in by making spirit posters and leading the homecoming pep rally.
Senior Mary Beth Mitchell was named to the Universal Cheerleading Association All-star Squad.
This is my first year as athletic director at Augusta Prep, but I have been at other institutions where success in athletics was evident. Still, there is a special atmosphere here at Augusta Prep that I haven't experienced before.
Being at a smaller school, you feel a sense of unity, and that begins at the top - Head of School Jack Hall is Augusta Prep's biggest cheerleader, and is often on the sidelines lending his support.
And when he was unable to attend the state cross-country meet, Mr. Hall was on his cell phone asking for updates every 10 minutes.
Rick Cameron, head of the upper school, also deserves some credit. As "The Voice of the Cavaliers," he announces starting lineups at all home contests.
With a small student body, a myriad of extracurricular options and a demanding academic program, Augusta Prep's coaches, teachers and directors must share the talents of the student-athletes.
In turn, the student-athletes juggle play rehearsals, sports practices and academic workloads, yet still find time to support their classmates by attending their endeavors.
For example, Adrian Ash was one of the top runners on the cross-country team, and also has a leading role in the school play, a situation requiring cooperation between her coach and theater director.
Additionally, I am very proud of the academic accomplishments of our student-athletes, and would like to congratulate senior Sarah Gerstein - she was recently named to the Academic All-American Scholastic Swim Team. She also found time to serve as manager for our cross-country program.
So, the next time you visit the Augusta Prep campus, you will understand the proud smiles donning the faces of students, athletes, faculty members and administrators alike.
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