The 2017-2018 Walker County Athletes of the Year
As a freshman, Gracie O’Neal turned in one of the best allaround school years that any athlete in Walker County has enjoyed in a good long while.
The sophomore year encore was even better.
For the second straight year, O’Neal has earned Walker County Girls’ Athlete of the Year honors, following a 2017-2018 season that saw her enjoy individual and team success in four different sports at Gordon Lee.
“It’s great and it’s crazy,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t imagine I would get it two years in a row.”
O’Neal’s bid to win the award for a second straight year got off to a rousing start in her initial cross country meet of the season. She crossed the finish line at Ridge Ferry in Rome in 18:19, shaving an unheard of six minutes off of her fastest time from her freshman season.
She continued to run in the 19-to-20 minute range for the rest of the year, finishing second at a huge Chattanooga XC League meet at Baylor, winning the Area 3-A title at Darlington with a time of 19:20 and going on to win the individual Class 1A Public School state title, while helping the Lady Trojans finish as state runners-up. Her time on the grueling Carrollton course was 20:23, a full two minutes ahead of her next closest competitor. She capped the cross country season by placing third in the Sophomore Division of the Front Runner regional championships in Charlotte, N.C.
“Cross country started well,” recalled the Walker County Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year. “We had a great season as a team
sophomore and again as a junior, Jarvis won the Class 1A 170-pound championship with an 8-4 victory over Braxton Legg of Commerce to complete a perfect 43-0 season.
He finished his Gordon Lee wrestling career with four area titles, three sectional titles, three state finals appearances and the one state championship. His career record was 181-25, with 17 of those losses coming in his freshman season.
“I knew I would have success in wrestling if I just did what I had to do,” he explained.
But Jarvis said his best memory came in the spring.
He turned in another outstanding season on the track team, winning Area 3-A titles in the long jump and the pole vault, while taking third in the triple jump to help the Trojans win another area team title.
He ended up second in the pole vault in the state sectional meet, but once he arrived at Albany for the state finals, there was no stopping him as he cleared 13-feet to win his first individual state title in the event.
“I went out there and set a new personal record by a foot,” he explained. “That was a really good day. It just feels good to be a champion. I had a couple years of being upset by not winning it, so to win feels fantastic. It’s just an unspeakable feeling being a champion.”
Berry College will be the next stop for the multi-sport star and his days of playing more than one sport will continue. Jarvis recently signed a letter of intent to play football for the Vikings, while he says he also plans to compete on the college track team.
However, while he will only be about an hour from home, Jarvis said he will miss playing in front of the hometown folks in Chickamauga.
“I’ll miss the community and the people around here,” he added. “It’s been fantastic to represent them and it’s been fantastic just being a part of everything that they’ve been trying to build this school to be.”