Here in Dawsonville, we have always known that our small town is special, but 2019 may very well go down as the year that our hidden corner of the world burst onto the larger stage and became known to everyone.
From Chase Elliott putting us back on the NASCAR radar, to hosting a world level championship event, down to an almost sublime level of dominance in the local region, Dawson County has established itself as the place to be when it comes to sports.
As always at this time of year, it is a good time to take a look back at the highlights of ten years of Dawson County athletics with a top-ten of the decade:
10. Pickleball comes to Dawson County
One of the fastest growing sports in the country, pickleball is a mish-mash of ping-pong, tennis and badminton that swept the nation in 2019. Dawson County got in on the action In March when volunteer coach Celia Otwell founded the first pickleball team in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation department.
Less than six months after the team’s founding, Dawson County sent 11 players to the District tournament with seven of those players qualifying to go onto the State tournament in September. In the program’s first year, the team captured a total of 4 District Titles, 1 State Title and two State Runners-up.
9. Atlanta Motorsports Park host INEX World Road-Course Championship
Featuring a field of teams representing the United States, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Italy, Greece and Germany the Atlanta Motorsports Park hosted the INEX Legend Car Series World Championship over the weekend of Nov. 1-3.
The three-day event started with an open practice session on Friday, Nov. 1, giving the drivers the opportunity to learn the 16 turns of the 2-mile AMP course. Saturday featured qualifying runs in all four divisions followed by heat races to determine the starting line-up for Sunday’s championship race.
After the success of the first-time event, Atlanta Motorsports Park will become a part of the permanent rotation along with Sonoma, California and Las Vegas, Nevada as a hosting venue for the prestigious event.
8. Track and Field
The Dawson County High School Track and Field program, under head coach Aaron Haynes, put together one the most remarkable season in all of sports in 2019.
Both the men’s and women’s varsity teams finished the regular season undefeated at 11-0. The men going on to capture the first regional championship in school history, while the women finished as regional runners-up.
The two teams combined to re-write the record books as they established 18 records over the course of the season.
7. Football team resurgence
Taking over the program in 2015, Head Coach Sid Maxwell has turned the Dawson County Football program into a region 7-AAA powerhouse starting with the regional title in his first year with the program.
The Tigers have amassed 63 wins, played for the regional title and advanced into the state playoffs, with three appearances in the sweet sixteen between 2015 and 2019.
6. Rise of Volleyball
Founded by Head Coach Tanya Porter, the Dawson County High School volleyball team played their inaugural season in 2016. In the short four years the program has been in existence it has climbed rapidly into the upper echelons of Area 7-AAA.
The Lady Tigers finished as the regional runners-up in 2019 and made their third straight trip to the state playoffs advancing into the Elite Eight in this year’s run. With a total of 72 win, to include back-to-back 20-win seasons, the Lady Tigers have set the stage for a bright future heading into the next decade.
5. Chase Elliott takes first checkered flag
Following in his father’s footsteps, Chase Elliott has long been known to the residents of Dawsonville, Georgia but on Aug. 5 2018 he broke loose onto the national stage with his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. With the win Elliott qualified for the 2018 playoffs where he picked up two more wins before being eliminated after the third round.
2019 saw Elliott build on his success with another three wins and his second straight appearance in the NASCAR playoffs.
Elliott was named the most popular driver in NASCAR in both 2018 and 2019.
4. Soccer sets the standard
There is no question that Dawson County soccer ranks among the best in the state and, quite possibly, among the best in the country, but when you put the numbers in writing their year dominance is almost impossible to comprehend.
Since 2010, the Lady Tigers have compiled an overall record consisting of an incredulous 127 wins versus 37 losses and six ties. During those 10 seasons the team has won four regional titles (2010, 2012, 2016, 2019), and been to the state playoffs nine times advancing to the Elite Eight in three of those runs.
The Tigers have put together an equally impressive resume consisting of an overall record of 106-55-8, one regional title (2014) and an appearance in the state playoffs in every year of the decade.
3. Basketball team reaches new heights
Since capturing their first regional title in the 2011-12 season, the Dawson County Tigers have established themselves as one of the most dominant teams in north Georgia with an overall record of 197-104.
The Tigers notched their second regional title last year (2018-19) on their way to the deepest run in the state playoffs for the boys' team in school history as they made it all the way to the Final Four in their seventh straight appearance in the post season.
The Lady Tigers also have a pair of regional titles under their belt, winning back-to-back titles in 2014-15 and 2105-16. With their record of 192-109, the girls’ varsity team is a perennial favorite in the post season having made seven appearances with overall, going as far as the title game in the 2015-2016 season.
2. Cross-Country program paves the way
In a region packed with cross-country talent, the Dawson County runners stand out far and above their competitors.
Both the Tigers and the Lady Tigers have made it to the state finals in all 10 years of the decade; both teams have won three straight regional titles, the boys between 2015-17 and the girls between 2014-16; and both teams have been ranked in the top-10 teams in the state in eight of their ten appearances.
When it comes to defining the gold standard of a cross-country program one needs look no further than Dawson County.
1. Competition Cheerleaders rise to new heights
When putting together a list of the most outstanding moments in Dawson County sports it would be impossible to overlook the consistent success of the Competition Cheerleaders under head coach Kim Fleming.
In just the past ten years, the Lady Tiger Cheerleaders have won five region titles, including back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019. The team has appeared in the state finals in eight of the ten years, finishing in the top-10 twice and nearly winning it all with a second-place finish in 2018.
The dominance of this program cannot be overstated as it goes well beyond just this decade and establishes a record of success reaching as far back as 1995. Since that time, the team can add another 13 regional titles, 13 more state top-10 finishes and a National Team of the Year award to their list of accomplishments.
The Dawson County Competition Cheerleaders not only rank as one of the most prominent teams in the state but, quite possibly, as one of the most prominent in the nation.