Long County High School has had its share of success in sports.
In 1998 and 1999, the baseball team made it to the final-four round of the A state playoffs. Also in 1998, the softball team won the Area 2-A Eastern Championship.
The Blue Tide basketball team has had its share of success, taking a 1-A Region Championship in 1999 and a 2-AA Region title in 2008. Several of the school’s athletes have gone on to play at the collegiate level, and three have caught the eyes of pro scouts.
Baseball players Dustin McGowan and Clay Long were both drafted by Major League Baseball teams, with the Toronto Blue Jays selecting McGowan and the St. Louis Cardinals picking Long. McGowan still plays for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Basketball player Ricky Rivera, who was a multi-sport star at LCHS, also is still playing professional basketball in South America.
But even though the school has had success in the past, the 2015 graduating class can be proud of a lot of its athletic accomplishments too.
This year, the school excelled in soccer, baseball, softball and track. The boys’ soccer team advanced to the second round of the state playoffs in only its third year of existence, posting an impressive 10-4 mark. The Lady Tide soccer team also returned to the playoffs, having made the state tournament two out of its three years, and finished the season with a 10-3 record.
On the baseball and softball diamond both Tide teams posted 8-6 region marks and made return trips to the playoffs. It was the first time the baseball team had seen postseason play since 2006, and for the first time as an AA team.
The girls’ track team also had a great season, with five runners qualifying for the state tournament.
Athletic director Karen Swindell said that this year was one of the best years the school has ever had, and much of the success has to be attributed to the leadership provided from seniors on and off the field.
Swindell said the sports program has grown and that last year, the school had 267 students participate in some kind of Georgia High School Association activity.
“We have really seen an increase in the participation from the kids over the last two years,” Swindell said. “It hasn’t been that long ago that we could hardly put a football team on the field.”
Swindell said that in the 1980s, the only sports offered at LCHS were baseball, softball, basketball and spirit cheerleading. Since then, the school has added football, cross country, competitive cheerleading, track and field, literary competition, golf and soccer. She said facilities for the athletes are much better, too, with the school having added a batting facility, a rehab area, a renovated field house and a new gymnasium and weight room.
Swindell said much of the success on the field comes from hard work during the summer by both players and coaches.
“The coaches are working really hard during the summer to make our kids successful,” she said. “Also, the participation from the kids has increased tremendously. One of the keys for us to keep improving is to keep our coaches here so there is some continuity for the kids.”
Even though the high school could rest and sit on its accomplishments, Swindell said there are goals to add wrestling, tennis and volleyball in the future.
“We are going to keep striving to improve with our athletics,” she said. “We have supportive administrators and a supportive board. This group of seniors had a lot to be proud of this year and, hopefully, next year’s class will have even more to be proud of.”