Garner High School student-athletes are starting the process of settling into their home for the next two school years this week, shifting their operations to be based on the new South Garner High campus on Hebron Church Road.
But things will continue to be shifting around for a while longer, according to Garner principal Carter Hillman and new athletics director Jeff Dunbar.
Hillman said last week that all of the Trojans’ athletic programs will be based at the South campus as of Aug. 16.
“This does not mean that all our fall sports will be practicing on the campus on a daily basis,” Hillman said. “As we are attempting to maintain field safety and practice field maintenance during our time on South Campus, the next two month are critical in making certain that we are not destroying fields.
“We have to balance this with the critical field time needed in preparing our athletes for regular season as well as state playoff competition. Allowing all sports the opportunity to get in the needed ‘field’ time will have to be a fluid development. Flexibility and compromise amongst the coaches will play a key role.”
Leading that effort to make things as smooth as possible will be Dunbar, who has been on the job this summer after replacing Nelson Smith, who retired in June. Even knowing the extra challenge that was ahead with the post, Dunbar was excited about the opportunity.
“Garner Magnet High School has a tradition and culture of excellence within athletics,” Dunbar said. “Beyond state titles and student-athletes who have excelled collegiately and professionally, the high school has maintained a high standard academically and athletically. The school is supported by a town, community, and alumni that goes above and beyond to ensure continued success and pride for all students.”
Dunbar said the biggest challenge ahead for the Garner students, coaches and parents is deadling with the logistics of change: “Our challenge is adapt and overcome to maintain a high performance level and remain true to our identity and culture with the excitement of returning home in two years.”
Hillman cited Dunbar’s work at then Wake Forest-Rolesville (now Wake Forest) High when Wakefield High opened and his work as the first head football coach at Knightdale High School when it opened in 2004 as things that helped set him apart from the other two “exemplary candidates” for the position.
“He has experienced what can happen to a high school’s sports program when a new school shifts the base population of the current school,” Hillman said of Dunbar. “Garner Magnet High School has never had to compete with a cross-town rival school. In two years, we will. I have confidence that Mr. Dunbar will use the time we have to prepare a comprehensive plan that will continue to excel Trojan sports teams to maintain their competitive edge at the highest level.”
Hillman and Dunbar thanked the town and the two area middle schools for helping to provide practice space during the transition period this month and both think if there are teams up to the challenge ahead this fall, it’s those clad in Trojan blue and gold.
“I am not worried about this as we have an outstanding coach staff here, who, yes, are concerned about their own sport, but who are also concerned about the welfare of other sports and those student-athletes,” Hillman said. “It is a united Trojan program. Again, our coaching staff is second to none. They are committed to the success of all Trojan athletes. They have been creative in finding practice space, time, and location.
“I am indebted to the two Garner middle schools as the community at large for their willingness to support the athletic teams throughout the summer and provide them with the practice facilities needed to prepare our athletes for their upcoming seasons.”
The actual school campus remains a construction zone for now. Students can enter the building for the first time on Aug. 24 when the school will be open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Dunbar added that the best way for Garner athletics fans to help out this year is to get involved.
“The Garner Magnet High School Trojan Club is one of the best support organizations I have encountered in public education,” Dunbar said. “In fact, all stakeholders — students, parents, teachers, and community — display a pride and commitment to supporting the school and athletics. I would like to thank all the alumni, community members, parents, and businesses for their outspoken support of our student-athletes during the transition to the south campus and future return to our main campus.
“All stakeholders are paramount in maintaining our traditions and culture throughout the transition. The tradition of support can be continued via contacting the Trojan Club and getting involved in supporting our student-athletes.”