This past school year may go down as the greatest in McCallie sports history.
After winning four state tag team championships the previous year, the Blue Tornado upped its game with five during the fall, winter and spring sports seasons in 2021-22. This is only the second school year in the past 50 years that McCallie has won five state tag team championships, with 2005-06 the other.
McCallie’s cross country, football and tennis programs all won their third straight state championships, while baseball and lacrosse joined in the celebration with memorable postseason races.
The cross-country team is on a three-year run for the second time in a decade, having also won back-to-back titles from 2012 to 2014. Last fall, coach Mike Wood’s runners had an average time 16 minutes, 16.81 seconds on the 5 One-Kilometer (3.1-mile) Course at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville as part of the TSSAA Division II-AA State Meet.
The Blue Tornado won without one of the top three individual finalists, with Evan Simpson (fourth overall), Jack Bowen (ninth), Hugh Carlson (11th), Grady Outlaw (13th) and Nate Armstrong (17) scoring to help the program to win his eighth title.
Ralph Potter’s football team set a school winning record with their undefeated season, beating the competition 502-196 in 2021 and capping it all with a BlueCross Bowl win over Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy near their home in Finley Stadium.
The Blue Tornado tennis program won its 11th TSSAA state title as Jeff Clark’s team held first place nationally throughout a 15-0 season that included seniors Will Leathers and Colin Tuttle paved the way.
“It’s special to win a state championship. But five tag team titles in one year is really, really special,” said McCallie dean of athletics Jeff Romero. “Watching a team come together to succeed and seeing the joy on the faces of student-athletes is worth all those long hours and weekends.
“What many others don’t think of is that a successful sports year also energizes the whole school community. The boys’ classmates celebrate with them and are proud that their school’s sports teams have won a state championship for their school.”
McCallie wins five tag team state titles in 2021-22
One of the most notable runs to the top spot in Volunteer State came from Tim Costo’s baseball team.
After losing the first two games of a regional series to Baylor, McCallie’s magic began late in the regular season as senior Austin Breedlove pitched 6 1/3 innings scoreless with 10 strikeouts in a 1-0 home win over the Red Raiders. The Blue Tornado finished 27-12-1 after winning 11 of their last 13 games.
Their Magic title run ended with a 14-13 victory over Lipscomb Academy at the Spring Fling, with the Blue Tornado leading in a game in which there were six lead changes and six pitchers used by McCallie.
“It’s pretty surreal that we’ve had so much success this year in all of our sports,” said Breedlove, who was a wide receiver on the football team. “McCallie raises people who want to compete and who want to push their limits. I believe it all starts with our weightlifting program. Coach (Richard) Henderson really instills the courage and perseverance that can take us to compete at such a high level. He helped me more than I can thank him, especially on the mental side of the competition.”
The Blue Tornado lacrosse team capped off a 15-win season with a dominating 17-9 victory over University School Memphis in the TSLA DII-AAA title game. Senior Jackson Sikura has scored four goals in three of his last four games, while Zach Chari led the team with 49 goals and 25 assists for the season. Seniors Weston Hammond, Matthew Mathias and William Riddle also set the tone in the title chase.
Riddle was part of the championships in the spring and fall – he was the football team’s quarterback.
“There’s nothing better than the moment you’re holding the trophy and celebrating with your brothers,” said Riddle, who holds McCallie’s record for career touchdown passes. “McCallie has made winning the norm and demands excellence from every team and every player on the field and in the classroom. Our bodybuilding program instills the servant-leader mindset in every player, and our coaches push us to our limits.”
When it comes to titles, that standard is met time and time again these days.
“The last four years have been unprecedented in McCallie sports,” Romero said. “While it may not always be about trophies, the experiences and memories created certainly go a long way. Success in athletics requires tremendous support from the school administration, great coaches and staff. ‘student-athletes who are willing to work, listen and believe in the process.