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YEAR IN REVIEW: 2017 brings titles and fans to Rome

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The sports spotlight on Rome and Floyd County got a little brighter in 2017.

It was all thanks to the amazing achievements of local athletes and the circumstances that brought high-profile events — and, in one case, a high-profile person — to town.

Here’s a look back at the top sports storylines for Rome and Floyd County in 2017:

Stepping in to host

After the ACC decided to move its men’s and women’s tennis tournaments out of North Carolina following the state legislature’s passage of its “bathroom law,” the new Rome Tennis Center at Berry College got the nod.

For five days, the elite players of the ACC competed on the less-than-year-old courts as coaches, parents, family and fans poured into the facility. The event drew a record-breaking 1,853 fans as Virginia’s men and North Carolina’s women won titles.

Virginia’s men went on the win their third straight NCAA national championship. The ACC announced just before the tournaments that they would return to Cary, North Carolina, in 2018 after the state repealed the controversial law.

Mr. Tebow comes to Rome

The Rome Braves and State Mutual Stadium had hosted big-name baseball players before, but there was a bit more to it all when Tebowmania arrived on a mid-April evening.

With throngs of fans decked out in University of Florida gear and other paraphernalia, Tim Tebow — the former Gator quarterback turned NFL player turned television analyst turned MLB hopeful — came into town with the Columbia Fireflies for a three-game series.

Sellout crowds and autograph seekers made his stay in Rome a spectacle as he tried to prove his worth in the New York Mets’ farm system in hopes of trying his luck at professional baseball.

Titletown

High school state championships don’t come easy. But a list of local teams reached the highest of highs this year.

Rome High School, with its incredible championship season in 2016, only got better in 2017 in nearly every facet of the game, leading to the Wolves’ second state title in a row with a 38-0 blowout of Warner Robins earlier this month.

Another Floyd County team also pulled a repeat for a state championship this year as Unity Christian’s girls’ soccer team went back-to-back in the GICAA Division II-A title game in May. The Lady Lions defeated Westminster Christian 2-1 in overtime.

A year after coming up one win short, the Coosa Lady Eagles triumphed and won the Class AA state volleyball title in a 3-0 win over St. Vincent’s Academy in October, making Coosa the first ever public school team to win the AA championship.

Armuchee’s competition cheerleaders capped off a special season with a win at the GHSA State Cheerleading Championships last month.

Another step up

The Berry College football team has taken a step forward each season since beginning playing in 2013. The 2017 season didn’t break with tradition.

The Vikings completed their first ever undefeated regular season, going 10-0 and winning the Southern Athletic Association championship while qualifying for the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time as well.

Berry went on to defeat Huntingdon at home in the opening round, 34-20, before falling to St. Thomas in Minnesota in the second round.

Big wins in winter

The cold temperatures move sports indoors during the winter months, but that didn’t keep local athletes from staying off the podium.

Rome High School swimmer Mason Hunter won the state 100-yard breaststroke title in early February.

A week later, a total of six Floyd County wrestlers were still standing after the finals of the GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Tournament in Macon.

Darlington’s Dalton Blankenship and Colton Woods won the Class A 113-pound and 126-pound titles, giving each one back-to-back championships as sophomores.

In Class AA, Armuchee’s Jacob Henderson (182) and Wes Conley (113) won state championships, as did Pepperell’s Jake Ross (170) and Hinton Bolinger (285).