Last Wednesday turned out to be twice as exciting for Heritage High School senior soccer player Jennie Bridges.
Bridges began her afternoon by signing a scholarship offer to continue playing at Tennessee Wesleyan.
Moments later, before the ink was even dry on her letter of intent, she got another round of applause from family and friends after being asked — and promptly accepting — a surprise prom invitation.
"It means a lot," she said of signing her letter of intent. "I've worked hard since fourth grade to earn a scholarship. Now that I'm finally signing it, it's a really big accomplishment because I've devoted a lot of my life toward it.
"It's a little bittersweet, too, because I guess it means I'm growing up, but I'm still very happy. (The scholarship) will pay for the rest of my four years (in college) and I still get to do something I love while going to college. Plus, I'll be getting a new soccer family and the coaches (at Tennessee Wesleyan) are great. I've got some mixed emotions, excitement and nerves, but mostly, I'm just happy."
Bridges said narrowing her choice of colleges was "really hard", but said that there were several factors that led her to choosing the Athens, Tenn. NAIA school.
"First, it's really close to home," she explained. "They have a great soccer program, they had the best offer and they have my major. Plus, I'll have the ability to come in and compete for a starting job right away, which is something I wanted. I didn't want to go somewhere that I wasn't going to play."
"Jennie is a firecracker," Heritage Lady Generals head coach Desiree Robinson said of her goalkeeper. "She's definitely aggressive. I even have to remind her sometimes at practice that she's going up against her own team, but that's what you need in a goalkeeper. College coaches are looking for keepers that aren't scared to get in the mix of things, get aggressive and be ready to turn it on at game time.
"She'll definitely be a great addition and have a great impact on the team at Tennessee Wesleyan."
Bridges said she will study Health Sciences at TWU and wants to one day become a surgeon.
For more than a year, Heritage soccer player Sydney Eaker has been patiently waiting for the day when she could finally sign her name on her college letter of intent.
That day finally arrived last Wednesday as the senior defensive standout officially signed to become part of the program at Erskine College.
"I'm very excited," she said, moments before signing on the dotted line. "I've been committed (to Erskine) since my junior year so for this day to finally get here, it's been a long time coming. It's been my dream since ever since the beginning of my freshman year when I really got serious about soccer, so this day means a lot to me."
Erskine, located in tiny Due West, South Carolina, is a member of NCAA Division II's Conference Carolinas. They also have one of the more unique college mascot names, the "Flying Fleet", a moniker given to the football team by a sportswriter in 1929 and eventually adopted by the student body.
"It's about four hours from Chattanooga," Eaker said. "It's a small town, but that's what I like about it. I went to a camp there and just fell in love with it. I loved the campus and how small and intimate it was. Plus, they have a great medical program that I'm looking forward to going into."
"Ever since her sophomore year, I've been looking at her as being a captain one day," Heritage head coach Desiree Robinson said. "She's always been a leader and she's always working hard, on and off the field and in her academics. She's really stepped into the role as a vocal leader as the years have passed by.
"I'm really expecting a lot out out of her this year as a senior captain and the leader of the team. She's incredibly determined and aggressive when it comes game time and that's what we need out there. I think she'll be super successful at the collegiate level. She'll be a good addition and I know Erskine will be happy to have her."
Eaker said she plans to study biology and chemistry and wants a medical career.
A total of six Heritage High School wrestlers will compete in the Class AAAA state tournament at Macon this upcoming weekend, though only one will be going as a sectional winner.
Chuckie Thurman nabbed the 126-pound title at Woodward Academy on Saturday with a 21-9 major decision against Aundarrius Weems of Luella in the finals.
Head coach Mike Craft also reported that Thurman unofficially broke the national high school record for takedowns in a single season with 561.
The current record is 559.
Jeffery Curtis advanced to the finals at 220, where he lost to defending state champion Chris Henderson on Ridgeland, 3-2.
It was Curtis' second one-point loss to Henderson in the last seven days as the two met in the Area 6-AAAA finals at Gilmer.
Daniel Jernigan was forced to settle for third place at 132, while Ryan Craft (106) and Zaine Burton (195) each placed fourth. Blake Bryant (113) finished seventh.
The opening matches of the state tournament for Class AAAA begin on Thursday.
The state tournament will be held at the Macon Coliseum.
Skeen, Griffin win sectionals for Ringgold
Two Ringgold Tiger wrestlers will head to Macon as sectional champions after winning their weight classes at Bremen on Saturday.
Jeffery Skeen and Griffin Green won individual titles for the
Blue-and-White. Skeen shutout Lovett's Robert Wilkes, 6-0, in the 106-pound final, while Green easily dispatched Lovett's Rogerick White with a 9-1 major decision at 145. They will be joined in Macon by teammates Tanner Stone and Enrique Maravilla. Stone finished third at 113, while Maravilla was third at 285.
Ethan Roher (120) placed fifth and will be a state alternate. Malachi Parker (170) finished sixth.
For LFO, Nathan Williams was the lone state qualifier. Williams placed third at 170, while Dylan Simpson will be an alternate after placing fifth at 220. Kameron Peters (285) was eliminated with two losses in his first two matches.
The Class AAA state tournament will begin on Friday. All state finals start at 3 p.m. on Saturday with opening ceremonies at 2:30.
A name quite familiar with Ringgold athletics has been tabbed to take over the high school's softball team.
Daniel Hackett, a baseball standout and 2003 RHS graduate, has been selected to lead the Lady Tigers. He will replace Shane Pendley, who was hired in May of 2014 and coached the team for the past three seasons.
"We're excited," Ringgold Athletic Director Robert Akins said. "Daniel is a lifetime Tiger who has been with our softball program for the last eight years as an assistant. He's got a lot of family members who were great players (at Ringgold) over the years and, like the rest of the family, he also has great character.
"We're excited for what he will bring to the table and I don't think we could have a made a better hire than him."
Hackett said he was excited to get the chance to be the head coach of a program he has come to love.
"Ever since my baseball playing days ended, I wanted to be a coach," he explained. "I dabbled in coaching baseball, but I found my true calling with softball. I love it and I'm grateful for the opportunity. I hope I get to do this here for the next 20-30 years."
Ringgold went 83-28 over the last three seasons, according to MaxPreps.com. They went 34-8 and finished as Class AAA state runner-up to Calhoun in 2014 and finished 28-6 in 2015 and placed third at the state tournament. This past fall, they went 21-14 and lost in three games to Pike County in the second round of the state tournament.
Ringgold's lone fast pitch state title came in 2005 (Class AAAA).
Last week was a banner week for the Ringgold Lady Tigers.
The Blue-and-White won three games, all on the road, to clinch the Region 6-AAA North title. The subregion championship also earned them a bye to the semifinals of the region tournament and the automatic Class AAA state tournament berth that comes with it.
And, for the icing on the proverbial cake, Friday's regular season finale was the 20th win of the year for the team and the 400th career coaching win for head coach Margaret Stockburger. Ringgold will now
wait to find out their opponent in Friday night's 7 p.m. semifinal at Calhoun High School.
Ringgold girls 56, North Murray 31
Last Monday, in a game which was a make-up of an originally scheduled game from earlier in the season that was postponed by inclement weather, the Lady Tigers thumped the Lady Mountaineers behind 18 points from Rachel Thomas and 14 from Kiwi Dale.
Karoline Sholl hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter and added 10 assists to go with her six points. Rachel Akers had four points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Ringgold girls 42, Coahulla Creek 40
The Lady Tigers narrowly avoided an upset at the hands of the Lady Colts last Tuesday.
Thomas had 14 points, followed by Sholl and Dare Schley with seven each. Sholl also collected six steals and five assists. Dale and Infiniti Foster had six points apiece with Foster pulling down eight rebounds.
Ringgold girls 57, Murray County 23
There was no such drama on Friday as Ringgold led 30-11 at halftime and poured it on the third quarter to win going away.
Thomas had 16 points, followed by Foster with 12 points and Schley and Dale with seven each. Sydney Pittman helped out with five steals, while Sholl dished out seven assists.
North Murray boys 63, Ringgold 50
The Tigers were feeling optimistic after holding the Mountaineers to just two points in the opening quarter. But the home team erupted for 25 points in each of the next two periods to win going away.
Drake Starks and Davantae Kimble had 10 each for Ringgold, while Logan Hullender and Blake Goldsmith dropped in six each.
Coahulla Creek boys 47, Ringgold 42
In the night's final varsity contest, Tyler Phillips had 24 points for the Colts and went 8-of-11 from the free throw line, including making 5-of-6 in the fourth quarter.
Kimble had 11 points for the Tigers. Starks and Chandler Chastain had eight points apiece, while Cade Nayadley added seven.
Ringgold boys 67, Murray County 52
The Tigers got four 3-pointers from Kimble, who finished with 14 points in a win over the Indians. Ammon Murphy had 12 points for Ringgold (10-14 overall), while Jackson House added 11.
The Tigers will begin their region tournament at 4 p.m. on Tuesday against Haralson County. With a win, they would face the Adairsville-Murray County winner at 5:30 on Wednesday. Two straight wins would put Ringgold in the state tournament.
The boys' region tournament will also be played at Calhoun High School.
Due to newspaper deadlines, coverage of the Region 6-AAA and Region 6-AAAA basketball tournaments could not be included in this edition. Coverage can be found online at Prep Central and full coverage will be included in the Feb. 15 edition of the Catoosa County News.