Photo by Derrick Mahone
Drew hasn’t lacked compelling athletics in this its third year of existence. “We always said that Drew was going to be different. We set the bar high,” Titans athletics director and football coach Jarrett Laws said.
In 2009, the Riverdale address at 6237 Garden Walk Boulevard had no relevance in high school athletics in the state.
Fast-forward to this school year, and not only is Charles R. Drew High School known throughout the state, last weekend, the third-year school gained some national recognition.
On the heels of playing for the Class AAA basketball title, its first state title game appearance in any sport, Drew can now boast of having the third-fastest 400-meter relay team in the nation.
The school’s quick rise to state-level competition is not surprising to Drew’s athletics director Jarrett Laws.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that when we assembled this athletic department, we never talked about putting limits on our potential,” Laws said. “We always said that Drew was going to be different. We set the bar high.”
And it appears that the athletics department is acheiving those lofty goals.
The 2011-12 school year started off on a good note when Laws’ football team sent shockwaves through the state by nearly beating state-contender Cairo. Drew followed that by making its first football playoff appearance in school history.
“We had a plan for this athletic department,” Laws said. “In Year One, it was going to be an introduction. In Year Two, we wanted to learn what it took to compete on the state level. In Year Three, we were looking to have a breakthrough.”
And teams have so far.
Laws points to Drew’s principal, Gary Townsend, as a driving force behind the athletic department’s success. A former high school coach himself, Townsend is a big supporter of athletics.
“Without a question, Mr. Townsend is the best principal in the state,” Laws said. “Every coach that applied for a position when the school opened had to understand that we were going to excel without excuses.”
And Drew has also gained some international recognition thanks to another Townsend.
The principal’s daughter, Taylor, won this year’s Junior Australian Open. The younger Townsend splits her time between Drew and a tennis academy in Florida.
In just three years, two on the varsity level, Drew is filling up the trophy cases in the school’s gymnasium.
Part of its success has been aided by the school’s first senior class.
The school wasn’t too new for legendary women’s basketball coach Vivian Stringer to sign standout guard Precious Person to a scholarship last November. Person was the first athlete in school history to sign a scholarship.
Can the school maintain its athletics success?
No one believes that Clayton County’s newest school is a one-hit wonder. Coaches are careful not to use the term “rebuild” when descibing how life will be at the school without its first graduating class.
When boys basketball coach Jarrod Davis was asked earlier this week how he was going to replace 11 seniors off the program’s first region championship team, he didn’t use the word “rebuild.”
“We are going to approach it the same way we did three years ago, when we started this program,” Davis said. “I think the kids want to be on that big stage. I think the bar has been set high, regardless of who is going to be here.”
In other words, they are looking to “excel without excuses,” as that has become the athletic department’s motto.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/derrickmahone_.