State champs deserve the spotlight

Published 1:03 am Sunday, April 13, 2008

It’s very rare that a high school sports team win a state championship, in the state’s highest classification no less, and be overshadowed by something else.

But that’s exactly what happened to the Natchez High School powerlifting team this week.

The team should have been celebrated for overcoming last season’s agonizing three-point defeat in the State meet to get back this year and win the championship by four points over Madison Central.

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Instead, the major news of the week was the arrest of a few of the team members and the controversy that followed.

But this is not about that. That episode has been covered ad nauseum with lots of comments from people in the community.

I want to talk about the vast majority of the team that does things the right way and got what they deserved at the end of the season — a state championship.

Athletes like Johnny Griffin, who set a new Mississippi High School Activities Association record in the dead lift by dead lifting an amazing 680 pounds.

Natchez High powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson thinks so highly of Griffin, both as an athlete and a leader of young men, that he wants him to come back to Natchez in a few years and take over as powerlifting coach.

“He is really focused,” Johnson said of Griffin. “I can see him coming back here and taking my place, that’s how focused he is. I’ve talked with him about that and I look forward to it possibly happening.”

I had the opportunity to speak with both Griffin and Callon Green about their state title and was impressed with both of them.

Both spoke about leadership and hard work being the key to the state championship. They both said they enjoyed coming to all the practices and working hard to achieve the goal that just slipped out of their grasp last year.

I’m sure I could have interviewed several other lifters on the team and gotten similar answers.

The Natchez High powerlifting team is a small scale version of the high school as a whole.

Yes there are a few bad seeds, but the majority are good young adults trying to do the right thing.

There are students like Griffin and Green, being strong leaders on a team that wins a state championship in the largest division in Mississippi.

There are also students like Kendall Logan, who is not only a great athlete, but also received a scholarship from the Miss-Lou Chapter of the College Football Foundation and Hall of Fame because of his work in the classroom and in the community; and students like Darryl Dade, whose outstanding artwork allowed him to throw out the first pitch at a Mississippi Braves baseball game.

It’s a shame these fine students are dragged down by the bad actions of some of their teammates and classmates.

While it may be true that Natchez High School, and Natchez Public Schools in general, have some problems that need fixing, there are plenty of good people already there working hard and doing good work.

Unfortunately, seven of those people had their moment of glory taken away by something that was not in their control.

Here’s hoping that in time, the bad memories will be forgotten and the members of the powerlifting team can look back on a great accomplishment with pride and satisfaction.

Congratulations guys.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or