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Simmons Superlatives - Best Coach

As we officially close down the 2020-21 school year this week, WCSA editor-in-chief Jeffery Simmons wanted to go back and hand out his final awards for the year. Simmons has been picking the defining athletes, teams and moments in high school sports for years, but this will be the first on our new website.

Welcome to the Simmons Superlatives!

If you missed yesterday, here was our best girls moment of the 2020-21 season.

Today, it’s time to talk about the best coaches this season!

Coach Patty Kelly will be taking five athletes to the state tournament Thursday.

1. Patty Kelly, WCHS track

Making it to state is the ultimate goal of all athletics. Patty Kelly can say she led at least a few of her Lady Pioneers to the top level of Tennessee sports.

Kelly, who has only recently taken over WCHS track after years with the middle school program, will accompany several of her top athletes in Murfreesboro Thursday as they compete for gold in the TSSAA Spring Fling. The 4x800 team, featuring Katie Toney, Cadee Griffith, Emma Randall and Ella VanVranken, will be competing, as will VanVranken in the 800 and 1600 races and Ally Beneke in the high jump.

This season, Kelly has watched with joy as the Lady Pioneers have crushed the records that were standing at Warren County for over two decades. VanVranken, a splendid freshman, rewrote the record book in the 800 and 1,600, while Toney shattered the 400-meter mark. Beneke also broke the high jump record dating back to the late 1990s, while Kyra Perkins soared to a new school mark in the long jump at sectionals.

If there’s any hole in Kelly’s campaign as top coach, it would be that she lucked out a bit with some co-op students. VanVranken, Beneke and Griffith all go to DeKalb County, which doesn’t have a track program. They were able to compete – and set records – at Warren County this spring. I’m not going to hold it against her though – Kelly has worked really hard to build the program over the years and this season was her chance to reap the benefits of bringing a lot of talented athletes together.

Also, it’s not like the kids aren’t still under her wing when the meets are going on. Kelly has an extensive track background, even going to college on a high jump scholarship, and has plenty of insight to offer to her top talent.

The best thing for the Lady Pioneers, who I hope can bring home some medals tomorrow, is that they’re all young. The team could be nearly completely intact again next spring, when all this year’s top girls will be a year stronger and faster. If Kelly can keep them together – and perhaps add a few more speedsters roaming the halls at Warren County – this team is going to make a lot of noise for years to come.

Gooby Martin has been a player favorite since taking over the WCHS softball program.

2. Gooby Martin, WCHS softball

Just another ho-hum district title season for the Lady Pioneer softball program. What else do you expect from Gooby Martin’s teams?

Martin, along with the next coach on this list, may have the most impressive track record for consistently putting out winners for the Lady Pioneers. Aside from last year’s lost season, the WCHS softball team has now won a title in each of the last four years.

In 2017, the Lady Pioneers broke through with a regular season title. The next year, it was the district tournament championship. By 2019, the Lady Pioneers were winning the region title and advancing all the way to substate.

Despite having to replace six of the starters from that region championship team this year – and having no 2020 season to get some young girls much needed reps – the Lady Pioneers were again champions in 2021. Warren County finished the regular season 7-1 in District 6AAA, completely demolishing the opposition by a grand total of 78-10 in eight games.

Martin will have the tough task of replacing five starters from this year’s team, including Co-Offensive MVP Rhealee Johnson, P/1B Sadie Simmons and his entire starting outfield, but something tells me the Lady Pioneers will be in contention for a title again in 2022.

3. Todd Willmore, WCHS soccer

Willmore had the other district title for the Lady Pioneers this year, leading the WCHS girls soccer team to a championship back in the fall. It’s become an almost yearly tradition for the Lady Pioneers, with either Warren County or Cookeville seemingly winning District 6AAA every year since 2012.

The big thing for this year’s Lady Pioneers is they may have been a year ahead of schedule. Warren County will return the majority of its lineup this fall, including all-state selection Katie Toney and all-region performers Bekah Jackson and Shelby Roberts.

None of this should be surprising – Willmore has been restocking his roster for the last decade. Though I think many people know him as the cool, calm and collected WCHS athletic director, I always think of him as one of the best coaches in the county.

He deserves the moniker. If he can guide his Lady Pioneers to bigger and better things this fall – something I’m expecting – I think his next moniker in 2022 will be ‘Simmons’ Superlative Coach of the year.’

4. Tim Page, Boyd basketball

Another AD that moonlights as a coach, Tim Page did a good job with the Lady Broncos this winter. Page was able to take a group that didn’t even have enough to do full 5-on-5 scrimmages and still win a division title in the TNCAA.

Boyd is set up to dominate for the foreseeable future, with Anna Jones due to be back to command the paint this winter and do-it-all wings Lia Wright and Audrey Durham in the fold. Also, sharpshooter Kinslee Grissom can do some major damage from the outside.

Grissom just missed the cut from my list yesterday of best moments of the 2020-21 school year. Her buzzer beater late in the season turned out to be a championship shot as a week later the TNCAA decided to award south and north division titles after being unable to continue with the tournament.

I’ve seen highlights of Page running with his team during workouts this spring. I appreciate the dedication he is putting into his program and his school.

5. Chris Madewell, Covenant volleyball

Much like the last two on the list, Chris Madewell’s contributions at Covenant go far beyond the sport(s) he coaches. He’s a part of every facet of the sports landscape, always helping out where he can and going above and beyond to make sure the Lady Lions can compete at a high level every year.

Madewell and the Lady Lion volleyball program helped usher in a year like none other at Covenant, winning the TNCAA title. It probably was extra special for Madewell to see his daughter, senior Madisen Madewell, be named the tournament MVP.

I can’t stress this enough: when I say it may have been the best school year for sports ever in Warren County, I am also factoring in all the championships Boyd and Covenant took in as well. The Lady Pioneers, Lady Lions and Lady Broncos were all big winners in 2020-21.

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