State of Starkville High School athletics

Starkville High School baseball coach Luke Adkins and Athletic Director Cheyenne Trussell

Staff Writer

A new era of Starkville High School athletics began right at the turn of the calendar in 2018 when Dr. Cheyenne Trussell stepped through the doors as the school’s new director of athletics.

Former Yellowjacket Milton Smith kept the championship tradition going when he came home from Laurel for a couple of years, but Smith retired giving way to a new start. Trussell brought his expertise from a successful run with Hattiesburg High School.

After starting on January 8, Trussell has overseen a state championship girls basketball team, an Elite 8 appearance for boys basketball and other standout years across the board.

“I’ve been very pleased at the participation," Trussell said. "Each of our sports teams had a cumulated GPA of 3.0 or higher and that’s the most important thing. The girls won the state championship back-to-back and several other teams finished in the top five. I’m extremely proud of our student-athletes and the coaches and administration.”

One of the sports that Trussell missed before he took control of the athletic department was football. The Jackets took home another Class 6A, Region 2 crown and came within a score of winning another state championship as they fell to Pearl in a last minute heartbreaker in Oxford.

The goal in Trussell’s first season on watch is a state title as it is every year in Starkville. He said that the leadership of coach Chris Jones is something that will make all of the difference in taking the Jackets to an even higher level in 2018.

“I’ve been knowing coach Jones for at least five years before his days at Kemper County," Trussell said. "Starkville could not have chosen a better coach. He’s smart, energetic and expects nothing but the best. Starkville has a long history of competing at the championship level when it comes to football. This year is all about finishing.”

Arguably one of the most successful and consistent programs on campus are the boys and girls basketball teams. Once again, Greg Carter and Kristie Williams had their teams in contention for a state title and the Lady Jackets won their second-straight gold ball with a victory in Jackson.

Trussell has learned quickly just how special his duo of coaches are to Starkville.

“I’m just hoping that the community is not taking it for granted because coach Carter and coach Williams are doing something special and doing it the right way,” Trussell said. “To play at that level year in and year out, it means they’re doing the right thing. I look for this year to be very competitive again for both teams, even with some talent being replaced.”

Over at Carlisle Stadium/Yellowjacket Field, the baseball squad is under new management.

Trussell had to make his first big hire as new athletic director when he went after former Mississippi State player Luke Adkins, who was an assistant coach at Houston High School. The early returns on Adkins are very good as Trussell told the coach to build a program in his own image.

“Coach Adkins is young and energetic and he’s a player’s coach," Trussell said. "I told him the most important thing is to build his program right and take his time. Our focus is to build a program from the middle school all the way up and I feel coach Adkins will get it done.”

Trussell is not only trying to make sure things are done the right way in the athletics department, his goal is for the entire school to prosper and walk in the right direction.

One of the ideas he’s gotten behind with SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant is the implementation of drug testing next year. The policy hasn’t been approved by the board, but Trussell said he hopes it goes through for those in grades 9-12 as it gives students the opportunity to say, ‘no’ to drugs and to intervene if their friends are involved.

On the facility landscape, Trussell said improvements are hopeful across the board.

The short term projects have been getting cheerleaders new tumbling pads, the upgrades to the tennis courts on campus and machines for tennis players, basketball shooting equipment and softball hitting cages with LED lighting for night-time practices. Long term projects include a solution on the future of the basketball gym, golf cages for rainy afternoon practices and a potential video board for the football field.

Trussell said that the field landscaping has gotten a major upgrade since former football coach and current horticulture teacher Randy Carlisle has been assigned duties as the athletic field consultant. Trussell is also excited about former football assistant and current archery coach Tate Fischer, who has taken the spot of head of event operations.

A large part of Fischer’s work will come during football season, which is right around the corner. Trussell announced the addition of field microphones for referees at this year’s football games as well as a less-congested concession area as several vendors will offer the opportunity to buy in the stands.

If fans are interested in buying season tickets and/or a parking pass, those go on sale on August 1.

On the whole, Trussell counts his first school year as a complete success and is looking forward to the next step this year. He’s driven by the All Sports Award, which Starkville contends for every season in Class 6A. This past year saw them fall out of the top 10, something that has Trussell pushing for more in 2018-19.

“That’s something that we want to be in the top five every year," Trussell said. "We’re shooting for number one. We’ve identified ways that we can improve and now we’re excited about the upcoming year.”