2019 will be one for the record books in Polk County athletics.
Rockmart Yellow Jackets students, staff, family and fans in the community will always remember this year coming to a close that athletics programs made their mark on the state. Think about all the news coming out of the east side of Polk County over the past year.
The Jackets won the boys state tennis title. The baseball team were state runners-up after epic games in the championship round. Rockmart’s football team went undefeated through the regular season again and went to the second round of the playoffs, coming off a year where they were the state runner-up.
Every sport has sent students off to college as well, including with a big name school like LSU seeking the talents of Jackets pitcher Ty Floyd from the baseball team.
All of this is good news for someone like Athletic Director Barry Williams, who wants to see every Jacket shine on and off the field of competition.
“We see our kids driving to do better,” Williams said. “They love being part of the community and everyone seeing them achieve on the level that we have come to expect from our Jacket Nation as our teams grow each year into champions.”
He said community relations — an effort begun four years ago to increase participation on every level of athletic competition — has played a huge role in the success of Rockmart. Especially since in the Director’s Cup — an annual competition between schools to see who is the best in the state in every level of athletics — Rockmart rose from 32nd to 2nd in just a few short years.
After all, the proof is in the amount of titles teams are winning. The Jackets football squad are three-time region 7-AA champions and went two seasons in a row with regular season undefeated streaks. Over the past four years, they’ve also gone to the playoffs every year for at least one round.
The baseball team have taken the last two out of three region titles in 7-AA, and the softball team were after this season on their fourth region title. Track athletes have taken the last two region titles. Rockmart’s basketball squads went to the playoffs again in 2019 as well, and are on the hunt for another appearance each as the season continues.
“We like where we’re going, but we’re not complacent,” Williams said. “We want to continue pushing ahead.”
He admits there are some areas where Rockmart needs to continue to push for improvement. The soccer programs need help, as well as volleyball. But where the greatest impact is being seen is the increase of competition in youth sports as coaches from the high school get involved with recreation league squads.
“This is what we want to see when they get to us,” he said. “It filters into the middle and high school levels. So what we’re hoping is that we’ll breed success for several years to come through our coaches efforts with youth as they are getting into sports and teach them about our standards and what the Jacket Nation expects.”
Where the Jackets go next will come about in the fall of 2020, when Rockmart jumps in classification and into a new region. Teams finishing out the basketball and wrestling seasons, and those in spring sports get one last shot at Class AA titles heading into the new year.
Then Rockmart moves up to Class AAA and a region including Adairsville, Coahulla Creek, LaFayette, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, North Murray, Ringgold and Sonoraville.