Many of South Forsyth’s accomplishments over the past school
year were colored by an event that hadn’t yet happened.
Denmark High School’s exact impact on the county’s enrollment patterns was at first unknown, but when the new school’s boundaries were finalized, it was the War Eagles that were taking the biggest hit, losing roughly a third of their enrollment, starting with the class of 2020. Many of those students were already contributing to South’s varsity teams, and many others were going to move into that role and add depth in the coming years. And it was the second time in less than 10 years that the War Eagles would have to make similar adjustments, as South was the main school affected when Lambert opened in 2009.
Aside from that exasperating reality, though, 2017-18 was one of the best in the War Eagles’ athletic history. South finished third in the Regions Director’s Cup standings, with state championship trophies and consistent competitiveness alike driving the school.
The football team, driven by a peerless class of seniors, went undefeated in regulation through the regular season and won the region title. The baseball team, coming off a disappointing late-season slide that caused South to miss the playoffs in 2017, barreled through region play with a 14-1 record and advanced to the second round of the state tournament. The competition cheerleading team won a state title in the fall, and the boys tennis team did the same in the spring.
That was probably due to a way of thinking that one coach described to athletic director (and head girls basketball coach) Keith Gravitt.
“He said, ‘I believe the most important thing I can do, coach, is focus on our kids, doing the right thing, and working hard,’” Gravitt said. “’And anything else that I can control is going to take care of itself.’ … The focus has been on South Forsyth, not on any of the rest of the stuff that might be involved for next year.”
Editor’s note: Responses and questions have been edited for length and clarity.
FCN: Have you ever been tempted into “woe is me” feelings about the opening of Denmark, especially given how the opening of Lambert had a similar effect not long ago?
Gravitt: Never. No, no, never. It's like when we played in the state championship for boys soccer – what an incredible experience for Forsyth County. As I told one of my dearest friends, coach Ferrer, down at Lambert earlier that day – because we had also been down at state tennis that same day, them with the girls and us with the boys – I said, ‘You know, it doesn't happen what happens tonight: I honestly feel like the south Forsyth community is winning. Doesn't matter whose name has got the most goals at the end of the night at McEachern, the south Forsyth community is winning.’
Because they were birthed out of South Forsyth High School, but we're all still part of the south Forsyth community. And if I took the approach of ‘woe is me,’ it wears on you too much. But that's never been my mindset. Thankfully for me it's never been our coaches' and our schools and our administrator's mindset, and I think that's why, again, our school, not just athletic programs, continues to be successful in multiple areas. Academics, athletics, arts, one act, literary: It's just a celebration of the kids we have.
FCN: You’re the last holdout from the days when athletic directors in the county would also coach teams. Do you plan to stay in that role with the girls basketball team in the coming years?
Gravitt: Well, number one I don't know what the Lord has in store for me. I try to keep my perspective on what He may have planned for me and my family, (so) I've got to think about that. And as my two little girls get older and my wife, we work together ... As our family matures, and my daughter starts first grade this year, I'm trying not to look at it more than year by year. And I've been exceptionally blessed over the years to have administrators that have supported our school and me and the roles that I field here at our school and working at our school. I look at it year by year and try to take that perspective on it. You never know what lays ahead.
FCN: GHSA executive director Robin Hines recently voiced his support for eliminating Class 7A and going back to six classes, along with a split of 1A private and public. Do you have a view or take on that matter?
Gravitt: I leave that to GHSA for the most part. I think no matter what, we're going to be competitive, and our county's going to be competitive. It'll be a great situation. Obviously, there's a lot of schools that are close to us that we've been in regions and in areas with in the past that we're familiar with that will not be terrible distances to have to travel if that changes. I don't know, for the complete structure, what GHSA might have planned, because as we look at what the last reclassification did as far as not just going to 7 classifications but also the splitting of single-A, how will it all look like? So I'm not able to look into the crystal ball and say exactly I agree or disagree with how it may turn out because I'm not sure what their thoughts are on that.
But six classifications, I know it'll be awesome. We've been in a six-classification system in the past. We'll be competitive, our kids will be resilient, our coaches will coach their kids and do what's best for them, but again, that's one of those things we talk about (with) ‘control the controllables,’ and that's outside of what we can necessarily control. It's just exciting to know that in all likelihood, we would still be around schools we're very familiar with. And I think our whole county would wind up, maybe this next time, together in the next reclassification. And obviously that's a big difference, because we'd have six schools then.