Published: Aug 07, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Aug 10, 2012 12:30 PM
This athletic season will be the end of an era in the Tri-Nine Conference as it will be the last one that includes Lee County Senior High School a league member since the earliest days of the Tri-Nine, then the Tri-Six, back in 2001.
After 11 years, the long drive to Sanford has been a frequent one for those in western Wake.
Many area athletes, parents and coaches might be looking forward to not having to play the Yellow Jackets in the future, having grown tired of making that forested trip down U.S. 1 South.
But I find it a bit sad. There was a time when this trip was dreaded for a different reason: Lee County was good really good in pretty much everything.
The girls basketball team was tough.
The boys basketball team was a conference champ multiple times and was a state runner-up in 2003.
The boys soccer team was ranked among the states best.
Baseball was a powerhouse.
Track and field had numerous athletes.
These were good times to be a Yellow Jacket.
But during Lees soon-to-be 12 years in the Tri-Nine, its gone from one of the states most populated high schools and having a strong athletics program to one of the smallest in the 4A classification that struggles within its own conference.
The creation of nearby Southern Lee High School was the main culprit.
Lees student body was cut almost in half at a time when its Wake County foes have experienced a population boom, and the results have been hard for its proud supporters to watch.
In the 2011-12 season, Lee County made the postseason in just one team sport (softball).
It made it three times in 2010-11 (boys basketball, football, softball) and just once in 2009-10 (baseball).
And for the last five years, its finished dead last in the Tri-Nine Conference Cup, awarded to the top athletics program based on conference standings for all sports.
But this is the last year Lee has to deal with playing 16 conference games against schools that have anywhere from 600 to 1,000 more students. And you would expect that their move to 3A in 2013 will mean more equal footing and more wins.
So heres a toast to the Brick City and its proud, tradition-rich school.
In this, the last go-round for Lee County, I hope those who have been patient enough to make the long road trips and see the losses pile up are rewarded with some surprising victories and a few playoff runs this season.
After all, you cant have a victory lap without a little victory.