Union County, a north Georgia mountain school that opened in the 1950s, won its first team state championship in any sport last fall in cross country. Team members (not in order) were Steven Seiler, Hunter Hartzog, Malachi Patrick, Nolan Bachman, Guage Shumaker, Thomas Mellendorf and Marcus Forrester. Only Seiler was a senior.

GHSA champions in review: Union County, 4 others win first titles; Westminster bags 8

Westminster won eight state titles over 2018-19 academic year, running its total to 227 all-time, easily the most of any Georgia school, while five other Georgia high schools won championships for the first time. 

Those first-time winners were ACE Charter of Macon (girls soccer), Christian Heritage of Dalton (boys golf), Lanier of Buford (girls basketball), Tri-Cities of East Point (boys basketball) and Union County of Blairsville (boys cross country).

The longest wait among those was that of Union County, a mountain school that opened in the 1950s. Panthers sports teams had been state runners-up at least five times before the cross country team won the Class AA meet in Carrollton in November. 

‘’Winning the first state championship in Union County history is huge, and I believe it lets all of our athletes in Union County - and we have some amazing athletes - know that they can achieve great things,’’ said the school’s cross country coach, Paige Dyer. “Once a team realizes they can do it and what is possible then it really changes the perspective.’’ 

Union County nearly got a second title this month when its boys soccer team lost to Thomasville 4-2 on penalty kicks. 

Nearly 40 percent of the 2018-19 champions successfully defended their championships from 2017-18.

The only sport in which there were no defending champions was boys basketball. The winners were McEachern (AAAAAAA), Tri-Cities (AAAAAA), Buford (AAAAA), Carver-Columbus (AAAA), Morgan County (AAA), Therrell (AA), Calhoun County (A public) and St. Francis (A private).

The highest rate of successful defenses came in girls cross country (six of eight) and cheerleading (six of nine).

Here are more facts and figures from the 2018-19 state champions with a list of championships by school below. 

*Bleckley County, a middle Georgia school in Cochran, is suddenly a sports powerhouse. Bleckley had won only three state titles until 2016. Now, the school has won 10 in four years – five in cross country, four in tennis and one in track and field. 

*Buford was moved up in classification to Class AAAAA under the GHSA’s 3-percent rule. That is, the GHSA membership felt Buford as a city school that accepts non-district students had an unfair advantage. Buford won three state titles this academic year, giving the Wolves 14 in AAAAA. That’s one more than the 13 that Buford won in the previous three seasons while in lower classifications. 

*Campbell’s boys track and field state title was the Smyrna school’s first championship in any sport since 1995, when it won a slowpitch softball title. Those are the only state titles for Campbell since the Wills-Smyrna merger in 1989. 

*Carver of Columbus swept the boys and girls basketball state titles. Carver had won only one other state title in any sport, football in 2008, since 1971. 

*Chamblee is another up-and-coming sports program. The DeKalb County school tacked on three more state titles this year, giving it five since 2017. 

*Dacula’s state title in girls soccer was the Gwinnett County school’s first championship in any sport since winning wrestling in 1993. Dacula was a small-town Class A school in 1993. 

*Douglass of Atlanta, the Class AA girls basketball champion, claimed its first state title since winning boys track and field in 1994. 

*Gordon Lee, a Class A school about 10 miles south of Chattanooga, won four state titles for the second year in a row and has won 22 titles this decade. The list is impressive for its variety with championships in baseball, basketball, cheerleading, golf, softball and track and field. Commerce, with 19 titles in the decade, is the only other Class A public school in double figures. 

*Heritage of Conyers, the Class AAAAAA baseball champion, claimed its first state title since winning AAA fastpitch softball in 2002. 

*Lambert, a winner of four state titles, has won 29 championships this decade, the most of any school in the highest classification. They’ve been won in baseball, cheerleading, cross country (boys), golf (boys and girls), gymnastics, lacrosse (boys), soccer (boys and girls), swimming (girls), tennis (boys and girls). The Forsyth County school opened in 2009. No other big school in Georgia has won so many state titles so quickly. 

*Pike County, the Class AAA baseball champion, won its first state title since winning slow pitch softball in 1983. The baseball championship marks the first boys state title in school history. The school is in Zebulon, about 10 miles south of Griffin. 

*St. Pius won six state titles, second statewide to Westminster. St. Pius has won 37 state titles this decade. That still trails arch-rival and fellow Catholic school Marist, which won 50, but Marist led the previous decade 51-13, so the Lions are closing the gap. Marist won two state titles this academic year. 

*Telfair County, a southeast Georgia school, won three state titles. Telfair has benefited from the 2012-13 move to split Class A into public and private divisions. Telfair has won seven state titles in that new environment. It had won only two (boys basketball in 1960 and slowpitch softball in 2000) prior to that. 

*Walton won two state titles, boys lacrosse and volleyball, which is hardly unusual. Walton has won at least one state title each academic year since 1998-99. A recent assessment by Stadium Talk concluded that Parkview was Georgia’s top sports high school and cited 57 state titles since Parkview opened in 1976. Not a bad choice, but Walton also opened in 1976 and claims 75 state titles, the most of any public school in that time. 

*Westminster’s eight state titles are the same as last year. Westminster has won 227 state titles in its history, by far the most of any Georgia school, and averaged 6.8 state titles this decade. (Marist, with 149 state titles, ranks second all-time.) 

State champions by school: 

ACE Charter - Soccer (Girls) 

Alpharetta - Track (Boys) 

Armuchee - Cheerleading 

Atlanta International - Cross Country (Girls) 

Bainbridge - Football 

Bleckley County (3) - Cross Country (Girls), Tennis (Girls), Track (Boys) 

Blessed Trinity - Football 

Bremen - Golf (Girls) 

Brookstone - Tennis (Girls) 

Brookwood (3) - Swimming (Boys), Swimming (Girls), Tennis (Boys) 

Buford (3) - Basketball (Boys), Basketball (Girls), Track (Girls) 

Calhoun County - Basketball (Boys) 

Cambridge (2) - Cross Country (Girls), Tennis (Girls) 

Camden County (2) - Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional) 

Campbell - Track (Girls) 

Carrollton - Cheerleading 

Cartersville - Cheerleading 

Carver, Columbus (2) - Basketball (Boys), Basketball (Girls) 

Cedar Grove - Football 

Centennial - Swimming (Girls) 

Chamblee (3) - Swimming (Girls), Tennis (Boys), Tennis (Girls) 

Chapel Hill - Track (Girls) 

Christian Heritage - Golf (Boys) 

Clinch County - Football 

Commerce (3) - Track (Boys), Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional) 

Coosa - Volleyball 

Creekview - Softball (Slowpitch) 

Dacula - Soccer (Girls) 

Dalton - Soccer (Boys) 

Darlington - Golf (Girls) 

Douglass, Atlanta - Basketball (Girls) 

Drew Charter - Golf (Boys) 

Dunwoody - Track (Girls) 

Eagle's Landing Christian - Football 

East Coweta - Softball (Fastpitch) 

Elbert County - Track (Girls) 

Franklin County - Softball (Fastpitch) 

Georgia Military College (2) - Cross Country (Boys), Soccer (Boys) 

Gordon Lee (4) - Baseball, Cheerleading, Softball (Fastpitch), Track (Girls) 

Greater Atlanta Christian - Track (Girls) 

Griffin - Track (Boys) 

Harrison - Softball (Fastpitch) 

Heard County – Football 

Heritage, Conyers - Baseball 

Heritage, Ringgold - Softball (Fastpitch) 

Holy Innocents' - Basketball (Girls) 

Jeff Davis - Baseball 

Jefferson (3) - Track (Boys), Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional) 

Johns Creek (4) - Golf (Boys), Golf (Girls), Swimming (Boys), Tennis (Boys) 

Johnson, Savannah - Basketball (Girls) 

Lake Oconee Academy - Golf (Girls) 

Lambert (4) - Cheerleading, Golf (Girls), Soccer (Boys), Tennis (Girls) 

Landmark Christian - Track (Boys) 

Lanier - Basketball (Girls) 

Lee County - Football 

Locust Grove - Softball (Fastpitch) 

Loganville - Baseball 

Marietta - Cross Country (Girls) 

Marion County - Basketball (Girls) 

Marist (2) - Cross Country (Girls), Tennis (Girls) 

McEachern - Basketball (Boys) 

McIntosh (3) - Soccer (Boys), Soccer (Girls), Volleyball 

Metter - Golf (Boys) 

Mill Creek - Cheerleading 

Milton (2) - Football, Lacrosse (Girls) 

Morgan County - Basketball (Boys) 

Mount Paran Christian (3) - Cheerleading, Track (Girls), Volleyball 

North Gwinnett - Soccer (Girls) 

North Oconee (2) – Gymnastics, Tennis (Boys) 

Northgate - Cheerleading 

Northside, Columbus - Baseball 

Oconee County - Soccer (Boys) 

Ola - Golf (Boys) 

Pace Academy (3) - Tennis (Boys), Tennis (Girls), Volleyball 

Parkview - Baseball 

Pierce County (2) - Cheerleading, Golf (Girls) 

Pike County - Baseball 

Pope (2) - Cross Country (Boys), Volleyball 

Rockmart - Tennis (Boys) 

Shiloh - Track (Boys) 

Social Circle (3) - Softball (Fastpitch), Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional) 

South Forsyth - Cross Country (Boys) 

St. Francis - Basketball (Boys) 

St. Pius (6) - Cross Country (Boys), Golf (Boys), Soccer (Girls), Swimming (Boys), Track (Boys), Volleyball 

St. Vincent's - Soccer (Girls) 

Starr's Mill (3) - Cross Country (Boys), Golf (Girls), Lacrosse (Girls) 

Stratford Academy - Tennis (Boys) 

Tattnall Square Academy - Baseball 

Telfair County (3) - Cross Country (Girls), Tennis (Boys), Tennis (Girls) 

Therrell - Basketball (Boys) 

Thomasville - Soccer (Boys) 

Tri-Cities - Basketball (Boys) 

Union County - Cross Country (Boys) 

Valdosta (2) - Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional) 

Walton (2) - Lacrosse (Boys), Volleyball 

Ware County - Riflery (Air Rifle) 

Wesleyan (4) - Cross Country (Boys), Soccer (Boys), Soccer (Girls), Softball (Fastpitch) 

West Forsyth (2) - Golf (Boys), Gymnastics (Girls) 

Westlake - Basketball (Girls) 

Westminster (8) - Cross Country (Boys), Cross Country (Girls), Golf (Boys), Lacrosse (Boys), Soccer (Boys), Soccer (Girls), Swimming (Boys), Swimming (Girls) 

Woodland, Cartersville (3) - Cross Country (Girls), Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional) 

Woodward Academy (3) - Golf (Girls), Wrestling (Duals), Wrestling (Traditional)

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