After a year of operating under COVID-19 protocols and resorting to many strange ways to improve athletic teams amid a pandemic, one thing remains constant for Hancock County - our student athletes still bring home titles no matter what!

The year started with hesitancy and the unknown but finished with many banners being hung among the county’s four high schools. It was accomplished through the dedicated work of administrators and coaches leading their schools and teams through unprecedented times and the simple ‘Never Quit’ attitude of our student athletes. This is a trip down memory lane of the 2020-21 school year in athletics.

The year started in the hot and humid month of August with eager athletes ready to compete after being unceremoniously cut short in their endeavors during the prior spring.

Cross Country, Football, Swimming, and Volleyball all took center stage. The Saint Stanislaus Rock-A-Chaws won the Division 8-4A title and placed third overall at the state championships. They were led by the individual overall state champion Keegan Leverett and All-State runner Gabe Sandoz on the trail. OLA also finished atop their district and were fifth overall at the Class 3A state championships. The Crescents were paced by All-State runner Colleen Nolan

In volleyball, all three high schools advanced to the South State championship game; however, none of the three squads advanced to the state finals for the first time since 2005. Along the way, OLA won their 21st consecutive division championship and Hancock also won their division.

On the gridiron, the Rocks and Bay High Tigers qualified for the postseason as the #2 and #3 seeds from Division 8-4A. Both squads fell in the first round. Blake Bilich of SSC was the lone selection to the All-State team.

In swimming, both OLA and Saint Stanislaus won the Class I South State championship. OLA ended the state meet as runner-up while SSC finished third overall.

As the season moved forward and fall gave way to winter, the sports of basketball and soccer took center stage.

There were no division titles but the Hancock Lady Hawks, the Bay High Lady Tigers and Bay High Tigers all advanced to the postseason.

In soccer, the Rocks claimed the Division 8-4A and Class 4A South State title before claiming their 11th Class 4A state soccer championship. The Tigers advanced to the postseason and fell to SSC in the South State title game. OLA advanced to the postseason on the girls side.

As winter gave way to spring, the state titles started to roll in for the county.

In the sport of archery, OLA brought home the state title while Hancock was king and queen in the sport of bowling. Both the Hancock boys and girls teams won the state title in Class III on the lanes. The Hawks were led by All-State selections MacKenzie Conway, Jeanie Young, Julia Smith, Mikayla Smith, Sage Lauga, and Mike Nelson.

On the baseball diamond, the Rocks finished second in Division 8-4A and advanced to the postseason. The Rocks were lead by Crossroads Diamond All-Star selection Cole Fletcher. On the softball diamond, the Lady Tigers and Lady Hawks both advanced to the postseason. MGCCC signee Lizzie Weems of Bay High was named to the state All-Star squad.

In golf, the Lady Hawks won the state championship while the Hawks and SSC both finished in the top 10 at the state championships. Katelyn Altese of Hancock was individual state runner-up in 6A girls. Both the Lady Hawks and the Rocks claimed division titles.

In sailing, the Rocks placed third at the state championships.

On the tennis court, the SSC/OLA tennis team won Division 8-4A and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Individually, several area players advanced to the state tournament including Nour and Omar Tayara of SSC, Abbe Druery and Kate Tibbs of Hancock, Garrett Lanky and Karine Alonso of Bay High, Jillian Frommeyer and Trevor Bordelon of Bay High, and Jacqueline and Nathalia Mossy of OLA.

And, on the track, the Rocks were the big winners claiming three titles and narrowly missing on the fourth one. SSC won the Division 8-4A and Region 4-4A titles in convincing fashion before upsetting Raymond for the Class 4A South State title. The Rocks came up just short of the Class 4A state championship finishing as state runner-up behind Pontotoc by 12 points. The Rocks were led by two-time state champion Keegan Leverett, silver medalist Ryan Tyler, multiple bronze medalists Chandler Chapman and Gabe Sandoz along with relay members Christian Kitto, Andrew Mayer, Canye Bankston, Ja’Kobe Cameron, Nour Tayara, Gus Breisacher, Evan Noel, and Carson Leverett.

OLA also won division and region titles before finishing third at South State. The Crescents were led by state medalist Colleen Nolan.

While COVID-19 continued to dominate headlines, these student athletes were excited to be able to compete again and finish the year. While everything about this year was different, one thing remained the same and that was state championship banners being hung in Hancock County.

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