This past school year will go down as perhaps the greatest in McCallie sports history.
After winning four team state championships the year before, the Blue Tornado upped their game with five through the fall, winter and spring sports seasons in 2021-22. It is only the second school year over the past 50 in which McCallie has won five team state championships, with 2005-06 the other.
McCallie's cross country, football and tennis programs all won their third consecutive state championships, while baseball and lacrosse joined the celebration with memorable postseason runs.
The cross country team is on a three-year run for the second time in a decade, having also won consecutive titles from 2012 to 2014. This past fall, coach Mike Wood's runners had an average time of 16 minutes, 16.81 seconds on the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course at Hendersonville's Sanders Ferry Park in the TSSAA Division II-AA state meet.
The Blue Tornado won without a top-three individual finisher, with Evan Simpson (fourth overall), Jack Bowen (ninth), Hugh Carlson (11th), Grady Outlaw (13th) and Nate Armstrong (17) scoring to help the program win its eighth title.
Ralph Potter's football team set a school record for wins with its undefeated season, outscoring the competition 502-196 in 2021 and capping it all with a BlueCross Bowl victory against Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy close to home at Finley Stadium.
The Blue Tornado tennis program won its 11th TSSAA state title as Jeff Clark's team held a No. 1 national ranking throughout a 15-0 season in which seniors Will Leathers and Colin Tuttle led the way.
"It's special to win one state championship. But five team titles in a year is truly extra special," said Jeff Romero, dean of athletics at McCallie. "To watch a team come together to achieve success and to see the joy on the student athletes' faces makes all the long hours and weekends worth it.
"What many others don't think about is that a successful sports year also energizes the entire school community. The boys' classmates celebrate with them and take pride that their school's athletic teams won a state championship for their school."
One of the most remarkable runs to the top spot in the Volunteer State came from Tim Costo's baseball team.
After losing the first two games in a region series to Baylor, the magic for McCallie started late in the regular season as senior Austin Breedlove pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts in a 1-0 home victory over the Red Raiders. The Blue Tornado wound up 27-12-1 after winning 11 of their last 13 games.
Their magical title run concluded with a 14-13 walk-off victory over Lipscomb Academy at the Spring Fling, with the Blue Tornado coming out on top in a game in which there were six lead changes and six pitchers used by McCallie.
"It's pretty surreal that we were so successful this year in all of our athletics," said Breedlove, who was a wide receiver on the football team. "McCallie breeds people who want to compete and who want to reach their limits. I believe it all starts with our weightlifting program. Coach (Richard) Henderson really instills the grit and perseverance that can get us to compete at such a high level. He has helped me more than I can thank him for, especially on the mental side of competing."
The Blue Tornado lacrosse team closed a 15-win season with a dominant 17-9 victory over Memphis University School in the TSLA's DII-AAA title game. Senior Jackson Sikura had 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 during the title run.
Riddle was part of championships in spring and fall — he was the football team's quarterback.
"There is nothing better than the moment when you are holding the trophy and celebrating with your brothers," said Riddle, who holds McCallie's record for touchdown passes in a career. "McCallie has made winning the standard and demands excellence from every team and every player on the field and in the classroom. Our weight training 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 being met over and over these days.
"The last four years have been unprecedented in McCallie sports," Romero said. "While it is not always about trophies, the experiences and the memories made certainly go a long way. Athletics success takes tremendous support from the school administration, excellent coaches, and student-athletes who are willing to work, listen and believe in the process."