The biggest week of the year for spring sports in the state of Tennessee has arrived as the TSSAA hosts Spring Fling at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Athletes from across the state will battle for the ultimate prize in Tennessee prep sports.
Rhea County High School will send a total of six athletes to the annual showdown on Thursday. Sarah Edwards claimed the Region 3-AAA title in singles to earn her way to Murfreesboro, as did 2018 State qualifiers Kyle Shaver and Brandon Newell. While Edwards won the District last year and fell in the Region tournament, it was a repeat Championship for both District 6-AAA and Region 3-AAA doubles for Shaver and Newell.
For Track and Field, Hallie DeArman is headed back to the State meet for the second straight season in Shot Put and Discus after finishing first and second place, respectively, in the events in the Sectional meet held at Bill Horton Field on May 10. Aulbrey Smith, Kannon Oggs, Nick DeBoer and Parker Gravett finished fourth at the State sectional for an invite to the State meet in the 4x 100 relay.
Additionally, UTC Lady Moc signee and RC track and field legend, Lesley Green, returns to State again this week for the 1600-meter and 3200-meter run.
Lady Eagle Tennis
For Rhea County senior Lady Eagle Sarah Edwards, around-the-calendar hard work over the course of her high school career has led to the chance for an individual State title.
After falling short in the Region tournament last year, Edwards was triumphant this year. She defeated Walker Valley’s Ryleigh Green (6-2,6-1) in the semifinals before toppling McMinn County’s Ashlyn Songer (6-3,7-5) to claim the first place finish.
“Winning region this year has definitely been the highlight of my season so far. I’ve always made it there but came up short. I’m definitely a little nervous heading into the State tournament but I’m excited to go up there and get started,” she said.
Edwards will have a tall task right from the jump as will draw a quarterfinal showdown with Brentwood’s Hamsa Javagal. The sophomore dropped a 2018 State finals match to Bearden’s Julia Adams one season ago. Their quarterfinal showdown is set for a 9 a.m. CST start in Murfreesboro on Thursday.
“She’ll be tough competition for sure but it’s the State tournament so everyone at this level will be challenge,” she said.
Head coach Lil Andrews is confident in her star Senior and said one of the keys at this point of the season is to simply play your own game.
“This is what you work for. She’s knocked on the door for this opportunity in years past, but hasn’t quite come through. But this was her year.”
Edwards has committed herself to the game and the results speak for themselves. She’s on the court year round including playing on the USTA circuit and countless tournaments against various players and playing styles.
“I’m just so proud of her for reaching this point. It is really the crowning moment as a senior to make it to State. As far as she can go will just be another jewel on the crown,” Andrews said.
“One of the highlights for me personally was the regions this year when Sarah was down 5-2 in the second set. Had she not pulled that set out (7-5) she would have been forced into a winner-take-all in the third set and nobody knows what could have happened. It was amazing to see her mental toughness--under that pressure--to regain control and pull out the win,” she added.
Edwards said it was a great feeling to make it over the hump in the Region tournament this season as she wraps up the final week of her high school tennis career.
“This has definitely been the most exciting season so far. I’ve been able to accomplish my three main goals which were to win district, win region and be top-20 in the State,” Edwards said.
Golden Eagle Tennis
For the boy’s team, a dynamic duo from Rhea County has some unfinished business to tend to this week at the Adams Tennis Complex in Murfreesboro.
After claiming both the District 6-AAA and Region 3-AAA titles for the second straight year, Kyle Shaver and Brandon Newell hope to win it all this time around. One year ago, they fell in the Semifinals (6-1,6-1) to the eventual State runner-ups in Ravenwood’s Cliff Herring and Pranav Saravanan.
“It’s been an awesome year and we definitely were relieved to make it through Regions again and know we’re headed back to State,” Newell said.
Shaver said it was a very memorable post season to win region and cheer on fellow senior teammate Brody Murphy who fell just short of a State tournament bid in the Regionals.
Second year head coach James Fields has enjoyed his share of success since taking over the boy’s program and is thrilled to again be making the trip to Murfreesboro. He hopes his boys will take things a step further this time around.
“One thing that makes things easier are some of those details like where to go, where to sign in, when we can practice and things of those matter. We know those things ahead of time now and that will help us all to remain calm and focused on just playing the match,” Fields said.
Shaver and Newell had played doubles together since their freshman year and both discussed how the communication and overall cohesion as a duo has continued to grow in strength the past four years.
“Playing together this long is pretty invaluable and we pick each other up well. It helps having someone right there with you that has your back,” Shaver said.
Team Rhea County will square off against Brighton High School’s Austin Russell and Dakota Strickland in the State quarterfinals on Thursday, May 23 at 9 a.m. CST. Russell and Strickland are the Region 7-AAA champions and both have signed with Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn.
“I’m feeling pretty good and I think we have an excellent chance against the team from Brighton. Hopefully we’ll play well, advance and have to get them a hotel room for Thursday night so we can come back in the finals on Friday morning,” Fields said.
Lady Eagle Track and Field
As a freshman, Hallie DeArman set a new school record for both Shot Put and Discus en route to a State meet appearance where she finished 15th and 12th, respectively. This time around, she’s hoping to make strides and finish the day on the podium with a medal.
“She’s working on her own a lot and did some indoor meets with us this year and improved greatly there. What we are trying to do is get her to be more consistent in her angles and the more technical parts of throwing and she has done that,” Holder said.
The longtime Eagle track and field guru is hopeful DeArman will rise to the occasion and bring home a medal this season.
“You just never know what will happen. With all the kids, it takes just one good or bad throw, jump, or stick in the relay that could change it all. She’s coming in ranked in the top eight so we’ll see what happens,” Holder said.
DeArman is scheduled to start her day with Shot Put at 9 a.m. local time before competing in Discus at 11 a.m.
One of the most decorated athletes in Rhea County history—who recently was presented the Faculty Award at last Friday’s gradation in addition to winning a car for the perfect attendance award—is set to compete in her final TSSAA sanctioned prep event this week.
From several All-State honors in both Cross Country and Track and Field in addition to Chattanooga Best of Preps selections, Green has nearly done it all besides a first place finish at State. She’s hopeful that will change come Thursday afternoon at Dean A Hayes Stadium.
“If heart could win State, then Lesley definitely wins. We’ve talked about running within herself and not worrying about those around her. She always does whatever is asked of her. Lesley is a quiet leader that goes out and shows through hard work, great things can happen.” Holder added.
She has a tough act to follow after finishing eighth (1600) and seventh (3200) for All-State honors at last year’s Spring Fling.
“Last year’s meet was incredible and probably the best meet of my life. I definitely was not expecting to be All-State, especially in the mile. To come out and do that especially with all my teammates, family and friends there to celebrate with me was a day I will never forget,” Green said.
Green added that she feels like she’s made even more improvement since this time last year. “I’ve gotten stronger and just better at recognizing how my body reacts to the training which usually includes 35-40 miles per week,” she said.
Golden Eagle Track and Field
While Rhea County will have a total of six in this year’s meet, Holder admitted they aren’t taking quite as many athletes as he would have liked.
“Of course the goal at the beginning of each season is to take as many as we can. For example, Nick DeBoer has battled through some nagging hamstring issues which ultimately kept him out of the State meet for the 200-meter. That’s been upsetting for us all but we’re happy he’ll be ready to go for the 4x100 relay this week, “ Holder said.
“I told coach Holder that if I could only do one event I wanted to do it with (the relay team) so we can be together and go run at the State meet,” DeBoer said.
Joined by Aulbrey Smith, Kannon Oggs and Parker Gravett, Rhea County posted a fourth place finish at the State sectional after winning first place in the Subsection/District 2-AAA meet to punch a ticket to Murfreesboro. Quite a remarkable feat considering the team didn’t start running together until roughly a month ago.
“They’ve improved even in the last two weeks. Between the Nick’s injury and just shuffling the placements around to mold the team, they’ve done quite well,” Holder said.
While it is an exciting time, they are left to only wonder what could have been if they had ran together all season.
“It’s a mixture of good and bad. I feel like if we had been together the entire season, it would have been so much better. But it’s still great to have started so late and still made it this far,” Oggs said.
The Golden Eagle squad said they are confident they’ll run their best race yet when the take the track on Thursday afternoon. Running events are slated to begin at 4 p.m.
“We’ve been working hard so I wouldn’t be surprised if we got up there and set a new school record on Thursday,” Smith said.
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