By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – With five state titles and one second-place finish, Tupelo High School’s sports teams had a strong first semester on their various playing fields.
They may have been even more successful in the classroom.
None of the school’s 19 teams had an average grade-point average below a 3.18 for the semester, athletic director Andy Schoggin told the School Board last week. That means they each will be recognized by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
The MHSAA presents a Scholar-Athlete Team Award to any team that earns a 3.0 average GPA during the first semester. Having so many teams recognized from one school is “a huge accomplishment,” said MHSAA Associate Director Rickey Neaves.
“It is very rare that a school has every team they offer to qualify,” Neaves said.
“Every year when we have our district meetings in the fall, we announce how many Scholar-Athlete teams a school has. From having attended all eight district meetings, I can tell you that is an extremely high number.”
The highest GPA was the 61-member girls cross country team, which had a 4.0 average. Volleyball, tennis, softball, baseball, boys swimming, girls swimming, girls soccer and girls golf all had at least a 3.7 average. The list does not include track or archery because the rosters for those sports have not yet been finalized, Schoggin said.
“It was great to see,” Schoggin said. “We had monitored it after the first nine weeks, and we were all progressing really well. Our coaches emphasized finishing the semester strongly, and our kids responded.”
Schoggin said he and Superintendent Gearl Loden had discussed before the year a goal of having more teams recognized as MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Teams. But they didn’t mention having every team reach that mark.
“That would have been quite ambitious,” said Schoggin, who was hired last April. “I would have been a little intimidated. But it was something we would work for. You aim high and hopefully you hit that, and our student athletes did.”
Schoggin and the coaches then talked about the importance of raising team grade-point averages during meetings.
“The things you emphasize become more important,” Schoggin said. “If you emphasize you need to do it not only on the court or on the field, but also in the classroom, that becomes a focal point.”
Meanwhile, on the field, Tupelo won state titles in boys and girls cross county and boys and girls swimming and in cheerleading. Its football team won North Half and finished as state runner-up. Softball won its division.
“It is nice when our athletes are doing well on the athletic fields and courts and also keeping their grades up,” Loden said. “That says a lot about our school district, and it will help more of our athletes to be recruited.”
The recognition also comes at a time the school earned an “A” ranking from the state education department based on student performance on last year’s state tests.
“It shows that our priorities are academics first and athletics second, and the emphasis is on student athletes, with student being the priority,” said THS Principal Jason Harris. “I think it is a good testament to Andy to make that a priority. To have every team have over a 3.0 is outstanding.”
The teams will receive their awards next fall.