Decatur High fall sports teams bring home one state trophy, four region titlesDecatur’s Girls Cross Country team at the starting line of the GHSA State meet. Photo by Keson Graham (@kesonthedhspics on Instagram)
By David McFarland, contributor
Decatur, GA — Decatur High’s four Fall teams added one state trophy, four region titles, and a handful of playoff runs to Decatur’s trophy case, finding success everywhere from volleyball to cross country.
Girls and boys Cross Country
Decatur’s cross-country program continues to be its standard-bearer. Both teams won their region, while the Girls went on to hoist a second-straight state title with a perfect showing in the state meet. Decatur finished with an astounding 54 total points to earn the trophy, 20 points ahead of the next closest team. T
hree individual DHS runners also made the top ten out of a field of over 200 runners from 31 schools – Junior Sophie D’Elena in 2nd, Senior Maggie Welp in 7th, and Junior Anna Blaich in 9th. D’Elena was also named to the 21-runner Atlanta Track Club All-Metro team and nominated for Athlete of the Year for her State finish with a time of 18:46.66.
The boys also had quite a successful season with a region trophy and 11th place finish at state, all while rebuilding its starting lineup after the majority of its state-championship-winning 2022/23 roster graduated.
“It was really tough,” said current senior and team captain Brian Chilik. “They were the soul of the team up to that point, leading the team and bringing us all closer together. They were also amazing role models. All of them were very committed to the sport and to the team, and their performances reflected that.
“When they left, that left behind massive shoes to fill, not just when it came to being a leader, but also finding success at the highest level of competition as the boys had been historically successful with them, and I’ll admit I was a little scared to see how the others seniors and I would compare to their accomplishments and impacts. While we may not have fully lived up to the competitive expectations they left behind, I still feel like we did a good job leading the team this year.”
Replacing the bulk of its 2022 starters was far from the only challenge the team had to overcome.
“Two of our seniors who were slated to run varsity this season quit in the first week, and another quit a month later,” Chilik said. “That was a pretty big blow for us, not just morale-wise because we had to find replacements for them in our freshmen and other new runners that we didn’t really have a picture of their potential.”
These bumps in the road only made the Bulldogs stronger and brought them together.
“This season was full of a lot of really great and memorable moments,” said Chilik. “One of my favorites was a camping trip that the other captains and I organized for the team. It was a great way to really connect with everyone and make the team feel more like a family.”
Decatur now has gained crucial experience as well and will be more than ready for the challenges that come its way in the future.
“Our new runners stepped up to the challenge and did great the whole season,” according to Chilik. “By the time it came for the state meet, we had about ½ of our whole varsity roster full of runners who had never competed in cross country before. That made me really proud and hopeful that the future of the team is in good hands for years to come.”
The 2023 Football season was a changing of the guard at DHS. The Bulldogs had the arduous task of replacing the bulk of its 2022 region championship team, but the challenges faced by a young team only made Decatur stronger. “A group that was inexperienced, first-year starters, who learned the game, came together and managed to qualify for the state playoffs,” said Head Coach William Felton. “These guys raised their game and helped carry the team this year.”
Decatur finished as the 3rd seed in its region with a 3W-2L record, going 5W-6L overall and losing in the playoffs to Ware County. The Bulldogs earned quite a few memorable wins across the campaign, such as a 48-0 Homecoming blowout and a wild 36-34 region victory over Chamblee after three overtimes – both at Decatur’s home stadium, where the Bulldogs boasted an impressive 4W-1L record.
Coach Felton described his team’s journey and growth across the year.
“The strengths of the team started with my great group of coaches and their understanding of how to approach this group of kids this year,” Felton said. “That definitely played a great part in how the kids were able to grow and mature this season. This year, we also had leadership from various kids on the team. The main obstacle was just the lack of experience, primarily on the offensive side of the ball. That contributed to the slow start but the kids battled every game in spite of this. The kids did everything that we asked of them and we are proud of this group!”
Decatur’s Volleyball team won the region championship with a dramatic victory over previous reigning champions Chamblee. The Bulldogs won 26-24, 25-20, and 25-20 in three sets in the final to crown a superb regular season. Decatur boasted a 17W-8L record and lost just once in region play to Chamblee before earning revenge in the region tournament.
Decatur wasn’t happy with just a region title, however, and went on to reach the quarterfinals of the State Tournament with two postseason wins. First came a 3-0 defeat of the Bradwell Institute before a back-and-forth 3-2 comeback win over Northgate Vikings at a packed DHS gym in the Round of 16. Decatur’s story ultimately came to an end against Dalton High School by a 19-9 scoreline, but only after the most successful volleyball season in recent history at Decatur.
Decatur’s Varsity Softball team was another of the Bulldogs’ region winners in 2023, rolling to the trophy with a spotless 8W-0L record in region play. The crowning moment came in a mid-Setpetmber win over Lithonia by 21-1 that secured Decatur’s hold on first place, but back-to-back wins over ex-reigning champ Chamblee proved the Bulldogs’ worth. Though Decatur went on to lose to Locust Grove and Coffee in the opening rounds of the State playoffs, this is a season that won’t be forgotten anytime soon for the Bulldogs, and the first piece of silverware for the current class of players and Head Coach Taryn Willaims.
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