New LHS campus unites Blue Devil athletics
A week after the calendar turned spring, the real thing arrived Thursday.
I took a company camera to the new Lebanon High School to shoot my first tennis match against Wilson Central at the Boyd-Rushing Courts.
It wasn't just 'tennis, anyone', but something for just about everyone.
After I squeezed off about 50 shots of a doubles match, I walked to the adjacent softball field where the Lady Devils were in the first inning of their game against Portland.
After Lebanon scored a run, I headed for the next field where the Blue Devil baseball team was, to my pleasant surprise, about to run-rule Beech. Taylor Bryan doubled home the walk-off run in the sixth inning of an 11-1 beatdown.
Next, I headed over to Danny Watkins Stadium, where a track meet was in progress around Clifton Tribble Field. In addition to the track meet, new football coach Sam Harp was putting individual players through conditioning drills.
Former Blue Devil football coach Bobby Brown was on hand and asked, "When was the last time you could cover a Lebanon High tennis match, baseball game, softball game and track meet, all on campus?"
My answer was, "Never".
Until the new LHS was built, only track meets could be held on the former campus. Baseball and softball had to play on city-owned fields around town, mostly at nearby Baird Park, or at Cumberland. Soccer was played at Stroud Gwynn Field and, in more recent years, at the airport complex.
Tennis may have had it the worst as those teams had to play at Baird Park’s Buddy Maddox Courts, Coles Ferry Recreation Center or Cumberland’s Tommy Gray Memorial Courts.
As it was on this bright and sunny Thursday, I could see it all with only a few steps effort. Only the soccer field was quiet as the team was playing on the road.
In addition, a band concert and basketball banquet were held that night inside the school.
Most factions of Blue Devil Nation had reason to be on campus Thursday. It usually takes a winning football team to bring everybody together. That's what the new state-of-the-art campus has made possible.
A few years ago, I wrote in this space about making a trip to Wilson Central during football season and seeing just about all the venues on campus being in use after school. Lebanon reminded me of that afternoon Thursday.
That alone almost makes the building of the new school worth it. And I'm not taking into consideration the academic aspects inside the main building.
LHS is just the latest. Mt. Juliet's spring teams also had to go their separate ways until its Curd Road campus came on line a few years back, with the addition of the tennis courts being the final piece of the puzzle.
Wilson Central was built in 2001 with everything on campus except for tennis courts. Wildcats coach Jay [Doc] Holladay spearheaded the effort to build courts on campus so players wouldn't have to drive 13 miles to Cumberland for 'home' matches. Schools director Mike Davis and school board members got on board [no pun intended] and not only got courts at WCHS, but at Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.
And because the MJHS and LHS blueprints are being used for the new Watertown High School, there will be Purple Tiger tennis and track teams when its new campus opens in the fall of 2014. Baseball and softball, which now play at city-owned Three Forks Park, will also move to campus. Principal Jeff Luttrell said wrestling is being added to the program as well.
The new schools are being built for academic reasons and to alleviate overcrowding. But the athletic programs are also reaping the benefits, and that can only help the student-athletes.
After all, without the venues for them to play and practice on, what would many of them be doing on a bright and sunny spring afternoon? I shudder to think.