Athletic director Stan Miller is pleased with the direction of SHS athletics. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
By DANNY P. SMITH
Just because school is out doesn't mean that Starkville High School athletics slows down.
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In fact, there are probably some Yellowjackets taking part in a summer sporting activity on a local field near you.
The SHS baseball team is taking part in a high school league this summer, the softball squad is working out and has some games scheduled against Starkville Academy and Oak Hill Academy, and the football program has seven teams coming in for a 7-on-7 camp and coach Jamie Mitchell is taking several Jackets to the University of Alabama clinic this weekend and they are involved in weight training twice a day.
"The thing the public doesn't understand is whether it's on the academic side or athletic side is the amount of time put in the summer getting prepared for the next year," said Starkville High School athletic director Stan Miller.
As far as facilities, Miller said the football field has been redone because of some diseased turf. The turf has been cut off, sanded down and re-sprigged. That's why the stadium has been closed to the public.
"We're just concerned that some kids, not meaning so, will start running across the field," Miller said. "It's wet and those sprigs have got to catch on."
Miller was also excited and appreciative to the school board administration for approving the new field house for football that will be constructed at the south end zone. The project will cost $1.5 million.
A meeting was held Monday with an electric company to move the scoreboard to the north end zone.
"We're looking at moving that scoreboard and what it would cost us to go with wireless and no bulbs," Miller said. "We don't know if we can afford that or not. They will quote us some prices and we should have something on that next week."
In other facility facelifts, Miller said there has been some discussion about repainting the baseball facility, while the school board passed improvements to the restroom facilities in the basketball gym about a few months ago with part of that involving new restrooms in the locker rooms and moving some things around there. The possibility exists in the future of expanding the concession stand area, and there are also plans for Jim Lytle to blow up photos of past state championship squads so they can be hung on the wall of the gym.
Also paving work is being done this summer on the roads surrounding the athletic facilities.
Construction and improvements such as this can't be handled without the support of school administration and the work of booster clubs of the respective sports.
"I can't say enough about all of the booster groups," Miller said. "We meet four times a year. We have a general booster club meeting, then I meet with the presidents, secretaries and head coaches and they get to talk about all of their sports with the fundraising they are doing.
"The basketball boosters just jumped off the map and did a great job of doing different things with the main thing being putting on the hospitality room for the district tournament. I can't say enough to the local merchants who provided food. I sent thank you notes around to all of them, but that was just great to provide that and it cost us almost nothing."
Miller said credit goes to the coaches of all of the sports under his watch for taking care of business on the field and the court.
Some of the most notable accomplishments were the volleyball team winning 20 matches again and reaching the state playoffs under coach Lauren Love, the golf team finishing fifth in the state under coach Sam Bryant, the swim team qualifying several for the state championships, the tennis team qualifying three players for state with one making the semifinals, boys soccer made the second round of the state tournament under coach Brian Bennett, girls soccer also reached the playoffs under coach Anna Albritton and the boys basketball team once again made the state tournament under coach Greg Carter after winning the Class 6A state championship the previous year.
"There's nothing more you can say about coach (Greg) Carter and what he's done," Miller said. "From what I understand, his team is probably going to be preseason No. 1. In looking around the state, that's the word we're getting on that."
There were other programs like girls basketball, football and baseball that didn't make the playoffs, but Miller believes some better days are ahead.
"Girls basketball had a down year, but Kristie (Williams) has had some outstanding seasons and we're looking to build that back," Miller said. "In baseball, Danny (Carlisle) has had some great seasons here. With some of the stuff that went on early in the season, it hurt us and definitely hurt our pitching staff, but they were competitive. there are so many young kids coming back. The positive of it was that some of these kids wouldn't have gotten to play this year, but because of the problem we had to play some young kids and they got some real good experience.
"Football was an exciting year. We played a lot of close games under a new coach. We could have just as easily been 8-3 than 5-6, but the community and fans are excited about the football team and where we're going. The younger teams did well and we have a great feeder system coming up."
Miller was also pleased with the progress of other programs, including track under new coach Chris Barnett.
"He came out of a great family of track coaches, including his father Woody, and our boys finished in the top 10 in the state overall," Miller said. "We had some bright spots on our girls side, but we've got to build some numbers there. Some of our distance runners did well. Our cross country boys and girls finished high in the state and had a couple of All-Staters.
"In bowling, our coach Jim (Philamlee) did a good job there. We lost a couple of our better bowlers just before the playoffs, but the numbers are there with about 30 bowlers we've got. Powerlifting was really good. We qualified three powerlifters on the boys side and two on the girls side for the state championship so coach (Willie) Gillespie, coach Mary Adams and definitely coach (Jamie) Mitchell really took some time in getting those things together.
"For our cheerleaders, we have three weeks of tumbling camp and they are going out two days a week for two hours to work on their tumbling skills with the Mississippi State cheerleaders. There will be a fun little camp for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders from 1-3 p.m. every afternoon for four days working on tumbling skills. We firmly believe we have some energetic cheerleaders, but just have to have more skills in tumbling."
Miller admits the weakest program for the Jackets is softball, but there are steps being taken, especially this summer, to get things going in that area.
There was recruitment of new players just before the end of school and the summer league is allowing for the team to participate and keep its skills sharp in the offseason.
"We talked with Glenn Schmidt at Starkville Academy and picked up a couple of games with them this summer and Oak Hill Academy so we're getting some things going there," Miller said. "Coach (Lisa) Spencer is working out the slow-pitch kids this summer. If I had a program to put emphasis on, it would be our softball program. It's not where it needs to be."
The fast-pitch program is losing its coach as Mimi Milling has left to take a position in Lauderdale County so Miller will be seeking a replacement.
Milling continues to work with the team this summer and former Mississippi State player Chelsea Raines, an Ackerman native, has joined the program as an assistant.
In losing Milling, Miller said, "We're excited for them and I hate to lose her."
Other than adjusting assistant coaches in football, Miller said the athletic department is fully staffed at this time.
He's anxious to move forward and have a great 2011-12 school year.
"Overall looking back at the year, I thought we had a good year, but if you know me and know our coaches, we're not resting on our laurels," Miller said. "We can do better and I'm looking for some outstanding things."