2015 Rhea County Golden Eagles

My first year at The Herald-News has quickly come and gone. It’s hard to believe it has already been a full 365 days since I first arrived in Dayton. It has been quite the journey and today I’d like to take a moment to look back on my first year as the guy who wears “the wrong shade of orange” in Volunteer country. 

Through my first year I’ve had the chance to meet countless people and I was given a warm welcome to Rhea County from day one. Well that’s only partly true to be honest. 

Shortly after I came to Dayton we had that unusual snowstorm that impacted nearly the entire southeast region of the nation. If I recall Dayton had upwards of 5 inches of snow from that storm and I remember thinking to myself, “oh boy…what have I gotten myself into?” 

I’ve been reassured that while the weather here can be a little bipolar, the snow doesn’t come around in significant amounts very often—for which I’m very thankful. 

My responsibilities at The Herald-News allow me to be actively involved in everything from general news, local government to local sports coverage. While Dayton might be a small town, there was plenty of exciting news for me to dive into in my first year. 

The debate on wether or not to move the Dayton Farmer’s Market from the Courthouse Square to where it is now housed behind the Welcome Center went on for weeks before all parties were finally able to agree. 

Other popular stories I followed included the proposal of a splash pad in downtown Dayton and a partnership between Rhea County High School, New Union Baptist Church volunteers and We Care of Dayton that allowed students to construct a micro-home from the ground up. 

Finally, I was there to report on the grand opening of a Dayton native and his father who returned home to open up the town’s first ever brewery and restaurant appropriately called “Monkey Town Brewing Companay”. 

I sometimes like to consider myself a sports reporter who also dabbles into the general news branch as well. That being said, when I first arrived in Dayton one of my first questions was how big sports were revered in Rhea County.  (And secretly, if the local high school was any good at athletics) I quickly learned that Rhea County athletics are among the best in the state. 

From the undefeated Rhea Middle School Eagles football team, Rhea County making it to the semifinals of the TSSA playoffs in football for the second straight year, the Lady Eagles Varsity Soccer team setting a new school record with wins, Lady Eagle softball team knocking off Cookeville for a district title, Chase Sholl winning the 2015 State Decathlon Championship to Rhea Middle Lady Eagles winning the East Sectional Tournament in Sevierville. 

That list could go on and on in greater detail but it was evident that Rhea County has some fantastic talent and has been able to state that claim for a while now dating back to the days of gridiron stars such as the late David Douglas, Steve Douglas, Andy Kelly, Jesse Messimer, Charlie Gillespie and Charles Benton who are known for being instrumental in establishing the Rhea County-to-Knoxville pipeline.  

Speaking of Knoxville, I’ve been able to knock off a bucket-list trip of visiting Neyland Stadium. I had always wanted to check it out but never would have imagined my first visit would come from the press box as a working member of the media. That was definitely a pretty cool and humbling experience.  

Dayton is quite the unique place and home to some great people. I’m glad I took the leap of faith to come to a town that I had never heard of prior to sending in my application last January. In fact, other than a single trip to the aquarium in my younger days that I hardly remember, I had never even been to Tennessee at all. 

I hope that I’ve brought something new and different to the readers of The Herald-News in my first year. My goal when I arrived was to bring a new voice and perspective to the paper as someone who had zero bias on issues and the happenings around town.  I also wanted to improve the sports section and coverage while also boosting our paper’s social media presence. 

I can say that in the least, I’ve been successful with the latter of those goals.  I’ve more than doubled our following on Twitter and just last week I posted a video of Travis Aikman’s game winning, walk-off double in extra innings over Cookeville and it surpassed 2,700 views in just under 24 hours.

That wouldn’t be possible without loyal readers and supporters like you. For that, I thank you and I’m thrilled to offer great, in-depth coverage of the local athletes around Rhea County.  Here’s to another great year full of exciting news and success on the field and the court!

Christopher Hall can be reached at sports@rheaheraldnews.com