It was a wild year in the sports world for Calhoun and Gordon County.
Several state championships were won on the high school level, both individually and as a team, and there were too many great games and stellar individual performances to count.
It was a truly special year, and it’s difficult to narrow the memorable moments down, but here are the stories of the year in 2013:
1. Calhoun softball, Smith win first-ever state title
Few teams captured the imagination of the local fans like the Calhoun softball team did this past fall.
Led by a small group of upperclassmen and a very talented cast of freshmen and sophomores, the Lady Jackets went on an unbelievable run that finished up at the Elite Eight in Columbus where they went undefeated to hoist the program’s first-ever state championship.
Not only was it the first for the team, it was the first for long-time coach Diane Smith, who has been trying to achieve that goal for 28 years.
“I’ve been waiting on this for 28 years,” said Smith after the championship win. “I’m so happy, but I’m more proud for these girls, our school and the community than for myself. These girls and my assistant coaches have really been great this year and these past few days.
“This is also for every girl that’s ever played softball at Calhoun. They wanted it as much as the girls on this year’s team did so this is for everyone.”
Calhoun finished up the season with a 33-6 record as they rolled through the Region 7-AA schedule undefeated en route to their second straight region title.
After the season was over, the the honors kept pouring in for the Lady Jackets as Smith was named the Class AA State Coach of the Year, and junior Taylor Kelly and sophomore Kinsey Liscio were named the Class AA State Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Several other players were honored through various All-Area and All-State Teams as well.
Calhoun is already looking forward to next fall when they return all but two players from the championship squad.
2. Lady Jackets competition cheer wins sixth state title
Another state cheerleading championship trophy was added to the case at Calhoun High collection, as the Lady Jackets won their sixth state title in Columbus in November.
It was Calhoun’s first since 2010, and their fifth since 2006. The Lady Jackets finished second at the Region 7-AA competition the previous week before taking first at sectionals the following Friday in Columbus and finishing the season off on that Saturday with a state title.
“I can’t even explain the feeling,” said Calhoun head coach Ginger Reeves. “When we went through sectionals, we bobbled a little bit on the pyramid. I thought hopefully top eight.”
“When we won sectionals and got such a high score, the girls were so pumped up. We went out there today with a lot of energy. They were strong in the beginning and we still bobbled the pyramid, but obviously we must have been stronger somewhere else for us to score high enough to win.”
The championship continued a dominant run for 7-AA as the region has now won eight of the last nine state championships.
The Lady Jackets will likely return their entire team from the state championship next fall as there were no seniors on the varsity squad.
3. Culberson makes Rockies' debut at Turner Field
Calhoun High alum Charlie Culberson got the call back to the Major Leagues in late July, but the biggest story wasn’t that he was going back to the Bigs, it was where he would make his Colorado Rockies’ debut.
Culberson learned that he would be heading back to the Majors on July 28 just in time to make the trip to Atlanta where the Rockies were opening a four-game series at Turner Field against the Braves.
His family, former teammates, former coaches and fans made the trip to The Ted to see Culberson play on a diamond just over an hour away from where he made a name for himself, helping Calhoun to several region titles and a 2005 state title.
“It was an exciting time to get the call up and to play in Atlanta,” said Culberson later about the experience. “I was able to see a lot of family and friends. The support was great and I will always remember that feeling.”
It was Culberson’s second time in the Majors after spending about a week there with the San Francisco Giants in May of 2012. He was traded to the Rockies later that season.
After playing in Atlanta, he went on to finish out the year with Colorado, where he batted .293 with two homers, five doubles and 12 RBIs while playing both second base and outfield.
Culberson spent the first three months of the 2013 season in Colorado Springs with the Rockies' Triple-A club where he hit .310 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs.
Culberson will report to Spring Training in a few months with the Rockies in hopes of making the Major-League roster for Opening Day.
4. Sonoraville football heads to state playoffs for first time
The season started a little rocky for the Sonoraville football team, but it ended with a little program history.
The Phoenix battled back from an 0-3 start in non-region play to finish 4-3 in Region 5-AAA play and earn their first state playoff berth.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Sonoraville coach Roger Gentry after his team clinched the playoff berth with a win over LFO. “I feel like I just won the Super Bowl. These kids did exactly what we asked them to do. We had to win the games we could win and they worked hard all week. We have had hard times, bad times, sad times, but tonight we can kind of rejoice a little bit.”
While the first playoff run didn’t last long for the Phoenix, as they were defeated in the first round by eventual state champion Buford, the impact of making that first state appearance will likely be felt in the next few years.
Sonoraville, who finished 4-7 overall, has a young core of players that made a big contribution to this season and are now hungry for another trip to the playoffs after getting a little taste this past fall.
5. Individual state titles highlight productive spring for track
Gordon County showed their track skills in a huge way this past May as five prep athletes from the three local schools combined to win eight invididual state championships.
Bringing home gold medals was Sonoraville’s Andrew Slaton and Carrie Cheeks, Gordon Central’s Haley Reynolds and Calhoun’s Keyth Fightmaster and Sebastian Willer.
Slaton won the Class AAA boys’ title in the 100 meter dash and 110 meter hurdles. Reynolds was also a multiple state champion, winning the Class AAA girls’ shot put and discus championship for the second straight year.
Calhoun’s Willer also doubled up on state titles, taking home first-place finishes in the Class AA boys’ shot put and discus in his first year participating in track.
Rounding out the championships were Sonoraville’s Carrie Cheeks with the Class AAA girls’ high jump crown for the second year in a row, and Calhoun’s Fightmaster who took home first in the Class AA boys’ high jump.
Willer and Fightmaster's seasons helped the Calhoun boys to a Region 7-AA championship. The Calhoun girls also won the region title.
Slaton, Cheeks and Fightmaster will all return for their senior seasons this spring.