Lady Warriors' state title top 2019 Times News sports story in SW Virginia

Kevin Mays • Dec 31, 2019 at 6:30 PM

Amazing accomplishments dotted the far Southwest Virginia sports landscape in 2019, a year in which individuals and teams made history.

Leading the way as the Times News top sports story in Southwest Virginia? Hall of Fame coach Robin Dotson’s state champion Wise Central girls basketball team.

It’s becoming an expectation for the Lady Warriors to win the VHSL Class 2 championship, and in March they met those expectations. Led by seniors Brook Porter, Dee Cvetnich, Olivia Mullins and Brittany Mullins and junior Hannah Carter, Central claimed a 57-34 win over Greensville County.

The title was the third in a row for Central and fifth in six years. The team finished 26-4.

2. Emili Brooks makes VHSL record book

Union’s Emili Brooks killed her way into the VHSL record book.

Brooks, a senior, led her volleyball team to a return appearance in the state tournament and knocked down some big records along the way. During the Mountain 7 tournament championship game against Abingdon, she eclipsed the state record for kills in a season.

When the Lady Bears’ season ended in the Class 2 quarterfinals, Brooks had recorded 1,819 kills over her career, far surpassing the previous record of 1,716 set by Megan Good of Fort Defiance in 2013.

Brooks also broke the school record of 581 kills in a season, placing her third in VHSL history for kills in a season. She also finished her high school career with 1,241 assists.

Brooks will continue her volleyball career with Virginia-Wise.

3. Union boys run for the gold

Union’s boys cross country team became only the second team from the school to win a VHSL championship in a team sport.

The Bears brought Region 2D a rare cross country title behind the all-state running of Nathaniel Hershel (sixth, 16:33), Tanner Cusano (seventh, 16:46) and Jacob Mullins (13th, 17:38).

4. Ashley Cusano, R.J. Goins add swim trophies to case

Union’s Ashley Cusano added to her state swimming titles by setting state records in two events. Cusano, who’ll continue her swimming career at North Carolina State, broke her own state records in the 100 butterfly (54:54) and in the 100 backstroke (55:31), and she now has five state championships in her first three years of high school competition.

Rye Cove’s R.J. Goins also added a state title to his trophy case by winning the gold in the 500 freestyle.

5. Track stars shine

Whether Wise Central’s Maddox Reynolds is running inside or outside, he does it quickly. As a freshman in February, Reynolds won the VHSL Class 2 55-meter hurdles title. In the spring, he took the title in the 110 hurdles.

Union’s Avery Jenkins also won gold at the state indoor meet with a leap of 6-2 in the high jump.

Three athletes won two titles apiece in the state outdoor track meets.

Union’s Justin Barnett won the Class 2 title in the shot put and discus, and J.I. Burton’s Lydia Blair-James won Class 1 crowns in the 100 and 300 hurdles. Virginia High’s Kelsey Harrington continued her dominance in distance running by breaking state records at the Class 2 championships with wins in the 1,600 (4:57) and 3,200 (10:38).

6. Wise Central rolls on the gridiron

The fall was a solid one for the Wise Central football program, which had its best season in its nine-year existence with a 10-3 record — its most wins ever.

The Warriors won the first playoff game in school history and advanced to the Region 2D championship for the first time.

7. Thomas Walker baseball makes school history

In the spring, Thomas Walker’s baseball team defeated Twin Valley 15-3 in the Region 1D quarterfinals, becoming the first Pioneers team to win a regional game in 45 years.

The regional victory was just the program’s second ever.

8. Mac strong at Georgetown

Mac McClung made big headlines as a member of Gate City’s basketball team. He set VHSL records for most points in a career (2,801) and in a season (1,153) while leading the Blue Devils to the 2018 VHSL Class 2 championship.

Over the past two seasons, McClung has continued his success in the Big East as a member of the Georgetown Hoyas.

Last season, McClung was a member of the Big East freshman squad after averaging 13.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

Through Friday, he had helped lead the Hoyas to a 9-3 record while averaging 16.2 point, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He’s been named the Big East player of the week twice this season.

9. Virginia-Wise joins the SAC

Virginia-Wise started its move from the NAIA to NCAA Division II in 2013 and joined the Mountain East Conference. This past fall, the Cavaliers joined the South Atlantic Conference.

“The primary and largest variable is that the geographic footprint of the conference is a better overall fit for us,” athletic director Dr. Kendall Rainey said.

Four SAC schools — Tusculum, LMU, Carson-Newman and Mars Hill — all offer shorter trips for the Cavaliers than the trek to Concord in Athens, West Virginia — UVA Wise’s closest MEC opponent.

10. Hamilton gains key post at Virginia Tech

Clintwood native Justin Hamilton has been around football his entire life.

From running through the press box as a youngster at Clintwood’s Ralph Cummins Stadium to becoming one of the best athletes to play for the Greenwave to playing four years at Virginia Tech to playing in the NFL for Cleveland, Hamilton’s playing career was magical.

The only thing perhaps more magical for Hamilton, career-wise, is his coaching career.

The former defensive coordinator at UVA Wise and defensive coach at VMI returned to the Hokies in 2018 as director of player development. He worked as their safeties coach in 2019 before being named as the legendary Bud Foster’s replacement as defensive coordinator this month.