By Steve Williams
Counting the boys’ decathlon and girls’ pentathlon, which are a part of track and field, did you know there are 26 athletic events governed by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association?
And from the sport of bowling in January to the football finals in December, local high school teams and student-athletes excelled in 2021.
Many sparkled on the state level as well.
This week’s Knoxville Focus takes a look back at the state championships captured by Division I teams and individuals in the past year.
Devean Littlejohn, a Oak Ridge High School senior who bowled for Hardin Valley Academy under the TSSAA’s co-op program, got things rolling in the winter of 2021 and became the first Knox County prep bowler to win a state title.
Littlejohn later signed a scholarship with Tennessee Wesleyan University and is bowling on the collegiate level this season.
The winter sports also saw Carter wrestler Jailynn Tindall (23-1) finish on top in the girls’ 140-pound weight class and give the Strawberry Plains school its first state championship on the mat. Later, she went on to place second in the National High School Coaches Association tournament.
Ella Murphey, a freshman at Hardin Valley, also claimed a state title in the tourney at Chattanooga as she recorded three straight pins en route to the championship in the 190-pound weight class and finished with a 15-0 season record.
Due to COVID-19 in 2020, cheer and dance state competition was postponed until 2021 and Bearden’s dance team, competing in a virtual format, won state titles in the large varsity jazz and pom categories. Their results were announced by the TSSAA on line in early March.
The schedule returned to normal and Farragut’s dance team won two state championships in small varsity jazz and pom this past November. Bearden added a state title in medium varsity pom in that 2021 event.
In all, Knox County had 10 Division I teams win state championships in 2021.
At the Spring Fling, which also was cancelled by COVID-19 in 2020, Austin-East celebrated its first boys soccer state title, Gibbs brought home the championship trophy in baseball, Farragut took the softball crown and Hardin Valley’s Unified track and field team prevailed for the third straight time.
Several local athletes also struck gold in Murfreesboro, beginning with Farragut’s Mason Collins, who set a school record and had the highest score of all the decathletes in the multiple classifications.
Bearden’s Christian Langlois, who signed with UT, sprinted to first place in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
Evan Carr of L&N STEM Academy won the Small Class singles tennis title and teammate Matt Bretscher triumphed in the pole vault.
In girls’ track, Hardin Valley’s Sidnee Stanton soared to first place in the Large Class triple jump and Austin-East junior Ariya Rice tied for first place in a photo finish of the Small Class 400.
This past fall, Hardin Valley repeated as champion in Class AAA boys’ cross country.
Knox County continued its team title haul with the Bearden girls rolling past Houston 3-1 for the Class AAA soccer crown in late October and finishing their season with a glittering 23-0-1 record.
The Powell Panthers were the last local team to take a bow as they outscored Page 42-34 for the Class 5A gold football.
In our Jan. 10 issue, The Focus will weigh the gold earned by Knox County’s Division II teams and student-athletes in 2021.