By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When I arrived to The Millington Star in 2003, Tipton-Rosemark Academy was a small private school located between the borders of Tipton and Shelby county.
Larger in physical size now, TRA has maintained high academic standards while shining in athletics using a family-based approached. Tradition is one of the main values at Rosemark illustrated by families like the Suttons, McGills and Moodys.
A decade ago the Home of the Rebels were making noise in the sports world through football. On a streak of playoff runs, TRA Football was led by Tom Cruise look-alike behind center Drew Hanks. To go along with his Hollywood looks, Hanks had the arm to sling the ball around the field and guide a talented corps. of Rebels like Chase Peeler, Josh Tanner and Trey Gish to the 2004 State Championship game.
That runner-up was the first of a trio the school would bring home over the decade in all three major sports. In 2008, the Rebel Basketball team dropped a heart breaker to Marlon Brown and Harding Academy. And the following year, Brad Smith’s underdog Rebel Baseball team was the last standing in the state of Tennessee. But unfortunately, the SBEC Trojans from Mississippi play in TSSAA athletics beating TRA in the title game.
So the little school in West Tennessee using home-grown talent kept being the bridesmaid on the big stage. With a silver trophies in the lobby of the new Tipton-Rosemark Academy building, it was time for gold.
That golden moment came in 2011 courtesy of the Lady Rebel Softball team. Coming into that season, Head Coach Joe Layton had a good feeling about his combination of young talent in the batting order and having two quality pitchers.
But injuries forced the pitching load on junior Roxy Kimes. And Kimes didn’t shy away from the responsibility. Her efforts made her the first Best of Preps winner in school history.
Kimes’ dominance from the pitching circle along with timely performances from teammates like Jordan Whitley, Mady Kate Gantt and Jordan Collins led to the school’s first State championship.
There to celebrate the moment in Murfreesboro were parents, siblings and TRA alumni. It was like a family reunion with hugs and tears. The championship was for all Rebels past, present and future.
That title came off the hard work of previous Lady Rebels like winningest pitcher and Memphis signee Lyndsey Sterling. The names like McGill, Hornsby and Hammons paved the way for the 2011 Lady Rebels.
Another first came from that team with catcher Julanne McCommon. She was a junior when TRA claimed the title and after wrapping up her senior year of softball, volleyball and basketball, McCommon was the first TRA athlete to win one of The Star’s Athlete of the Year awards.
McCommon was one of many Rebels over the past 10 years to keep a busy schedule like a Tyler Sutton or Tyler White. They all played sports year around at an elite level.
Sutton and White were key parts of the Rebel Football success enjoyed in the early 00s. They spent time on the hardwood keeping TRA competitive.
Players like Cory Sansom helped Rebel Basketball make major strides giving way to the 2007-08 team. Head Coach Dan Martin had some nice pieces in place but the arrival of Jacob Arnett from Bolton gave the team a boost.
But it was the Christmas present that put the Rebels over the top. Todd Starks came to TRA during the holiday season helping the Rebels reach the State title game. The Arnett/Starks teams beat some good teams along the way taking on challenges from current NBA player Elliot Williams and former Missouri standout Laurence Bowers.
Now the 2009 run by Rebel Baseball was a shock. Coming into the postseason with a record under .500, TRA kept winning. The young pitching started to click and timely hitting got the Rebels to Murfreesboro. Assistant Coach Andrew Womack kept me posted and said, “We hope to see you up here Thursday for the State Championship game.”
As I drove up Wednesday night, I wasn’t expecting to have baseball on my agenda. But my cell phone started vibrating and a call was coming from Womack. “We’ll see you in the morning. JT pitched the game of his life.”
At the time a freshman, JT Moody delivered a wonderful performance on the mound to help his team reach the championship. Moody went on to bigger success on the basketball court joining McCommon as the only two Rebel players to reach the 1,000 point mark. But Moody wasn’t slouch on the diamond.
Along side stellar arms like Andrew Ralston, Cody Migliore and Arkansas State signee David Owen, Moody helped the Rebels return to State in 2012.
Rebel Baseball players like Cale Alexander and Jordan Wilson carry the TRA banner at the next level at Christian Brothers. But it was pioneer Lyndsey Sterling who was a trailblazer when she signed to The University of Memphis.
Sterling helped TRA Softball win major tournament like in Covington and reach the 2005 State Tournament. Her arm was a key contributor to two State appearances from TRA. Sterling’s father Mike was the architect of those teams and the program.
Throughout all the success in TRA Athletics, family has been a driving force. Jacob Arnett would watch his sister Joanna play her games before he took the court.
On the State championship team, Amber Needham stood in third base coaching box just a few feet way from her daughter Ashton playing at first base.
Family is important to TRA then and now. And with hot dogs now known as Rebel Dogs, holiday basketball tournaments and being invited in alumnus’ homes, I feel I am a part of the TRA family.
There is more success to come with great players like Taylor Beasley, Bethany Berger and Asante Lopez in the mix. And Matt “Moose” Moody and Conner Alexander will follow in their brothers’ footsteps taking Rebel sports to the next level.
So as Logan Stewarts and Virginia Moores of the world continue to exemplify ideal student/athletes, the bond of success will be stronger for more years to come.
Top 10 Female Athletes
10. Jordan Whitley
9. Anna Whitley
8. Sarah Howard
7. Bethany Berger
6. Cortney Ankebrant
5. Katie McGill
4. Lyndsey Sterling
3. Robyn Hornsby
2. Julanne McCommon
1. Mady Kate Gantt
Top 10 Male Athletes
10. Connor Alexander and Colton Hall
9. Dustin Whitlock
8. Cory Sansom
7. Tyler White
6. Josh Tanner
5. Greg Vaughn
4. Tyler Sutton
3. John Evan McPherson
2. JT Moody
1. Trey Gish
Top 10 One-Sport Standouts
10. Asante Lopez
9. Bill Kelly/Blake Tickle
8. Brandon Mitson
7. Paul Langford
6. Chase Peeler
5. Todd Starks
4. David Owen
3. Jacob Arnett
2. Roxy Kimes
1. Drew Hanks
Top 10 Teams
10. 2011 Lady Rebel Volleyball (multiple postseason wins)
9. 2003 Rebel Football (State Semifinals)
8. 2004-05 Lady Rebel Basketball (most wins in a season)
7. 2012 Rebel Baseball (State Tournament)
6. 2012 Lady Rebel Softball (State Tournament)
5. 2005 Lady Rebel Softball (State Tournament)
4. 2009 Rebel Baseball (State Runner-Up)
3. 2004 Rebel Football (State Runner-Up)
2. 2007-08 Rebel Basketball (State Runner-Up)
1. 2011 Lady Rebel Softball (State Champions)
10. Andrew and Austin Chambers
9. Anna and Jordan Whitley
8. Chase and Claire Peeler
7. Connor and Cale Alexander
6. Lynsdey and Micah Sterling
5. Trey and Quinn Gish
4. Erin and Katie McGill
3. Kevin and Cory Sansom
2. JT and Matt “Moose” Moody
1. Chris, Tyler and Stephen Sutton