Anyone who has suffered the tedium of Interstate 16 -- that barren stretch of asphalt between Macon and Savannah that rolls by like so many dreary winter months -- has caught themselves daydreaming.
Last week, while battling road-wearniess and the occasional left lane cruiser, I found myself in that exact position. Yet somewhere in between Metter and Dublin I recognized it was actually time well-spent, as it afforded the opportunity to realize just how incredible the 2017-18 school year -- specifically the spring season -- has been for northeast Georgia high school sports.
If the fall and winter provided moments of greatness the past few weeks and months have been nothing short of sustained excellence.
For starters northeast Georgia athletics programs halued in five state championships: Jefferson baseball, Johnson boys soccer, Flowery Branch boys tennis, and Buford girls and Riverside Military Academy track and field.
And for most of them it was their first ever state title success, adding the cherry on an already sweet success. Johnson finally ended its long-standing quest as perhaps the best soccer program in the state without a GHSA crown -- also claiming the school's first ever team championship. Meanwhile, Jefferson baseball confounded pundits and laid waste to preseason thoughts that this was a bit of a rebuilding season. And then you had the Falcons netters claiming the penultimate match of the playoffs for the first time in program history.
Then there were the Individual champs including White County's Catie Craig in Class 4A girls golf and a slew of track and field gold medals (Buford: girls 4x100 relay, Kimberly Harris 400 meters and long jump, Alexa Rossum 100 meters. Commerce: Kate Massey 3,200 meters. Flowery Branch: Taniyah Worth high jump. Jefferson: Thomas Martin pole vault. North Hall: Devan Crow 800 meters and 1,600 meters. Rabun County: Guy Gober 3,200 meters and 1,600 meters. RMA: Khalid Duke triple jump and James Seymour 800 meters.).
This spring was much more, however, including some incredible campaigns that came up inches short of a championship.
Buford baseball, Buford boys tennis and Chestatee boys soccer each played out tremendous seasons, including the War Eagles reaching their frist ever state championship contest -- in fact, Chestatee boys soccer had never progressed past the second round prior to 2018's watershed postseason.
There were also semifinal runs for Gainesville boys soccer, Flowery Branch girls soccer, Flowery Branch baseball, Flowery Branch girls tennis, Jefferson boys tennis and Buford girls tennis. In fact, you could make a case for this being the spring of the Falcon, with Flowery Branch enjoying its best season in school history top-to-bottom.
But this spring was also about the collective, and northeast Georgia showed these past few weeks that it was on a level with anywhere else in the state.
Certainly the Gainesville boys golf team (Class 6A), White County girls (4A), Towns boys and Commerce girls (1A Public) also played their way to the highest levels of their respective classifications, each finishing third in state finals tournaments.
I have covered sports in northeast Georgia for all but one year since 2001, while AccessWDUN sports writer Jeff Hart has almost twice that experience. Yet I cannot remember anything remotely approaching what the area's coaches and athletes have shown us this spring -- and neither can my compatriot.
And that's not even touching on the other eye-opening stories of the last few weeks that included coaching moves -- no Joe Dix on the East Hall bench (or rather five feet in front of it encouraging, cajoling, and gyrating the Vikings to success) seems sacrilege -- a new school beginning spring ball in Cherokee Bluff, and the installation of a video board at City Park that would not look out of place at Sanford Stadium, have made this an almost non-stop thrill ride.
Frankly, I need a rest.
Because if 2018-19 is anything like what we've just witnessed, I better have my batteries recharged come August.
Congratulations to each and every athlete and coach in northeast Georgia and the efforts they have made to an incredible campaign. It will never be forgotten.