When winter arrives, athletes at Greenbrier High School won't have to worry about warding off the chill - they can just bask in the warm afterglow of a fantastic fall sports season.
Greenbrier is not unaccustomed to fall success, but the Wolfpack raised the bar this season. Region titles in three of the four fall sports, strong performances at the state meets, and solid play on the gridiron translated into Greenbrier's best overall fall showing since the school opened in 1996.
In softball and girls cross country, the Lady Pack kept their perfect record of region titles intact, as each squad claimed their eighth crown in eight seasons of existence.
The Greenbrier girls volleyball team dominated en route to the Area 3-AAAA championship, and the Wolfpack runners did the same to claim the Region 3-AAAA title.
The Pack football team posted the best record of any public school squad in the county, while the Greenbrier junior varsity won the Columbia County JV championship.
Greenbrier cross country
Boys team placed in the top 10 at all meets during the season, won the Region 3-AAAA title and placed seventh at the Class AAAA championships. The Girls team won Region 3-AAAA title and placed ninth in the state.
Varsity roster: Girls: Bridget Lyons, Kaycee Quarles, Michelle Swiec, Tabatha Pilgrim, Renee Jones, Marsha Taylor, Emily Sneeder. Boys: Miguel Mota (above), Tyler Warren, Tyler Hayden, Zach Sapp, Jason Purucker, Aaron Barton, Luke Gibb. Coach Kati Smallwood.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Miguel Mota, Tyler Warren and Bridget Lyons all cracked the top 10 individually in the Class AAAA state cross-country meet, leading the Pack teams to their best-ever finishes in the state championships.
Lyons, a first-year runner, won the Region 3-AAAA individual title and placed fifth at state, and Mota was the top region runner for the third-straight year. Mota notched a fifth-place finish at state, while Warren was sixth.
In volleyball, senior Jennifer Wells was honored as the Area 3-AAAA Player of the Year and helped her team place sixth at state.
All in all, there's reason to celebrate at the Brierpatch this fall.
"We're really proud of what Greenbrier stands for athletically," Mota said. "We have good coaching, that's the main thing, and we have a well-rounded school."
Mickey Derrick, Greenbrier's athletic director and head football coach, offered a several explanations for the exploits.
The emphasis on weight-training was one key, as Derrick noted that both the boys and girls have year-round workout programs. He also credited his staff, which includes softball coach Garrett Black, cross country coach Kati Smallwood and volleyball coach Debbie Born.
"You've got to have good athletes, and you also need coaches that will dedicate time to their sport," Derrick said. "Coach Black, Coach Smallwood and Coach Born, and my assistant coaches in football, do a lot more than meets the eye. They go the extra mile for their players."
A new observer at Greenbrier was certainly impressed with the fireworks this fall.
Casey Dees, a former coach at Wayne County High School, joined the Greenbrier staff this year as an assistant football coach and boys head basketball coach, and he's seen the strength of the Pack.
"It all goes back to the work ethic these kids have," Dees said. "When you are willing to work as hard as they do, you're going to have success."
Region 3-AAAA champions; 35-6 record; won the Brookwood Invitational and the Madison County Leadoff Classic; third place in the Class AAAA state tournament
Varsity roster: Kayla Adams, Tiffany Blackburn, Jessica Borum, Ash Florie, Beth Gleason, Amanda Glover, Kristan Glover (above), Ashlee LaFontaine, Brittany Leverett, Vicki Mazur, Courtney McCladdie, Mindy Milford, Kristi Nichols, Tiffany Nichols, Natalie Pippin, Britney Reeves, Kayla Thurmond, Karyne Tiller, Laura Tracy. Head coach Garrett Black, assistant coaches Mark Mosely and Ashlee Odom.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Success isn't just about beating an opponent. It's about dedication and focus, in the classroom as well as in competitions.
"Not just anybody can come out here and put the time and effort we put into it and maintain their grades," Black said. "That says a lot about the girls. If a state championship happens, it happens, but it's more important to prepare the kids for life."
In an age where star athletes are wrapped up in individual accolades and personal statistics, Greenbrier's players have attempted to maintain a selfless philosophy.
"We all take individual pride, but everything we think about is the team's improvement," Lady Pack softball player Kristi Nichols said.
Along with improvement, Coach Derrick has something else on his mind these days.
Thanks in part to the fall championship bonanza, Derrick has had to change the manner in which title banners are displayed at the Greenbrier gym.
"Instead of putting up a banner for every region championship, we're going to get one banner for each sport and put up the years (that each team won region), and have individual banners for state titles," he said. "We're basically out of room now. That just shows how hard our kids and coaches work around here."
But don't expect Greenbrier's athletes and coaches to rest on their laurels. Though the fall season is in the books, the drive for success never ends at the Brierpatch.
"We have a strong team and a coach that believes in us," Greenbrier senior volleyball player Rachel Cordier said. "In my four years here, the program has improved by leaps and bounds, and I think it's going to keep getting better."
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