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January 31, 2013

VSU's champions honored

VALDOSTA — Jan. 30, 2013 wasn’t just a normal Wednesday afternoon in Valdosta. It was Blazer National Championship Day.

The city of Valdosta and Lowndes County honored the last three national championship teams at Valdosta State University with a parade and gathering Wednesday afternoon.

With severe weather holding off long enough, players and coaches of the 2011 men’s tennis team, 2012 women’s softball team and 2012 men’s football team were honored in the parade for their athletic accomplishments.

Following the parade down Patterson Street, the teams met with fans inside Drexel Park, where all three coaches, VSU president Dr. William J. McKinney, Valdosta mayor John Gayle and Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter all spoke.

Gayle and Slaughter also gave a joint proclamation, declaring the day Blazer National Championship Day.

McKinney started the brief speeches off by telling the story of how he and his wife, Dr. Dacia Charlesworth, sat in the Chicago airport in May, watching the Blazer softball team win the national championship.

“In seven months of being here, I could never have imagined this much fun and this kind of ride,” McKinney said. “It started before Dacia and I got here in Valdosta. In May, we were on our way back from a vacation, sitting in an airport delay in Chicago, each of us holding our smartphones...We were watching pitch-by-pitch of the Blazer softball team winning a national championship.”

McKinney then thanked all parties involved, from the city, county, coaches, players, student body and fan base. He then challenged the teams to win more championships,     saying he could hold a city- and county-wide         celebration every year.

“I could do this each and every year,” McKinney said. “Way to go Blazers.”

Following McKinney’s marks, VSU men’s tennis coach John Hansen spoke to the crowd, and eventually led it in a “Go Blazers” cheer.

“In winning a national championship, you have a feeling inside that is so exciting. I can feel it right now with this crowd right here. There is nothing better than being part of this community and letting be part of this community.”

Softball’s Thomas Macera spoke next, saying his team’s run to the school’s first-ever women’s sports national championship was unbelievable.

“We had an amazing run,” Macera said. “Tennis had to do the same thing and football did this year, too. Like Coach Hansen said, we have the greatest fans in the planet.”

Football’s David Dean spoke the longest of all three coaches. Dean told the fans that he left the recruiting road to attend the festivities.

“I was in Atlanta the last few weeks doing a lot of recruiting and I had some coaches ask me to come by Wednesday and I told them I couldn’t do that and I had to go back to Valdosta,” Dean said. “I have a parade. They all laughed at me and said, “A parade in the middle of the week?’

“I’m going to send them this video and show them this is what Titletown is all about. I’m going to show them today.”

Dean then declared the Blazers’ football championship the community’s, saying the championship is everybody’s, not just the football team’s.

“We are blessed to represent Valdosta State University and Valdosta, Ga. each and every week when we step onto the field,” Dean said. “We take that to heart and we take a lot of pride.”

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