Harthorne Wingo, left, talks with PolkSports' Andy Rhinehart at a Dunkin' Donuts in Brooklyn (Luke Via photo)

The excitement in Trevor Arrowood’s voice suggested starting a local sports website in Polk County might not be a bad idea.

Summer of 2013. Long, long drive to Key Largo for a family vacation, Trevor along for the trek. Six hundred miles one way on the road and hours to kill. Seemed like a good time to run an idea past the captive audience.

So I detailed the concept of a website devoted solely to Polk County athletics. It played well with my background – newspaper sports writer and editor for several years before moving to online news and launching and running a newspaper website. It would be a joint project that my kids – both students at Polk County High School at the time – could help with while having a unique achievement to discuss in future scholarship interviews. Perhaps most importantly, it would fill a local need.

My kids were teenagers at the time – they were never going to have much of a reaction to anything proposed by their dad. Trevor, though, enthusiastically supported the idea. A multi-sport athlete at PCHS, he talked about how student-athletes would welcome recognition they weren’t getting, how they would love having coverage of every sport, how they would undoubtedly share photos and stories in the then-growing world of social media.

By trip’s end, a family decision had been reached – we were going to launch a website.

Trevor also approved.

Sept. 13, 2013, PolkSports.com officially launched.

Ten years later, my kids still largely don’t react to their dad’s crazy ideas. They’ve done OK – my daughter is a pharmacist currently doing her residency, and my son is teaching computer science and enginering at a private school in Pennsylvania. They field a squash team there, which is quite a change from the sports scene in Polk County.

Trevor’s post-PCHS life also started well. He graduated from Western Carolina University, began a career as a law enforcement officer, started doing great life-changing things until cancer cruelly ended his life two years ago. More on Trevor in a moment.

And PolkSports is still around, ready to turn 10 on Wednesday as we continue with the 11th season of covering Polk County athletics.

In the weeks leading up to launch in 2013, I was asked to meet with Dr. Brandon Schweitzer, then a PCHS assistant principal, and Jeff Wilson, Polk County’s athletic director.

We met in the athletic office at PCHS, me in a chair, facing Schweitzer on one flank and Wilson on the other.

Not intimidating at all.

“I had questions,” Wilson recalled. “Very cautious about how critical the articles could be and how much ‘Monday morning strategy’ there might be. Plus funding, use of our good sponsors, etc.”

I apparently provided good answers; Wilson became one of the site’s biggest supporters, as did subsequent athletic directors Schweitzer, Rex Wells and DeShane Briscoe, each of whom always offered and continue to offer help any time I asked.

Sept. 13, 2013 – Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis talks with Matt Connolly, then of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and now of ClemsonSports.com, as PolkSports’ Andy Rhinehart takes notes in the background (Jane Ollis photo).

Less than a month after PolkSports launched, the Wolverine football program traveled to Burnsville and handed Mountain Heritage an 80-36 defeat, scoring 12 touchdowns in five different ways. The journey since has been just as remarkable and memorable.

I’ve gotten to see state championships won, school records set, notable victories achieved. Sat courtside at N.C. State when Polk County battled for a state volleyball championship. Watched Jake Justice so dominate the 1A state outdoor pole vault competition his senior year that he didn’t even jump until all other competitors had been eliminated. Stood on the sideline at Thomasville as Jamal Tanner raced past en route to his state-record eighth career kickoff return for a score.

I’ve watched Angus Weaver become Polk County’s all-time leading rusher. Saw Hayley Kropp become the Wolverines’ all-time leading basketball scorer. Stood stunned as Olivia Overholt darn near completed a 4×800-meter relay anchor leg for the ages at the state track and field meet.

I’ve watched Joel Booker in action for the Birmingham Barons. Hung out one afternoon in Quain Stott’s shop. Spent almost an hour in a Dunkin’ Donuts in the heart of Brooklyn talking to Harthorne Wingo – little did I know everything that would come from that visit.

In its 10-year run, PolkSports has published more than six thousand stories, two million words and 7,500 images. I hope you’ve enjoyed some of them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing and taking most of them.

And I hope, if you have, that you’ll take a moment and donate to Trevor’s Gift, the nonprofit organization established by the Arrowood family in Trevor’s memory. Trevor’s Gift endows scholarsips to Western Carolina for students who want to pursue a criminal justice career. I can think of no better way to mark a decade of PolkSports than to honor the first fan of the site.

Doing anything for 10 years usually means you owe a few thank-yous. Some of mine:

  • PolkSports likely would have shut down in the fall of 2015 without Polk County Schools offering to take over ownership and support of the site. Bill Miller and Aaron Greene have made and continue to make every decision through the lens of what’s best for Polk County students, and they took on PolkSports with that in mind.
  • Every coach in the county in the past decade. I’m one person with a full-time job; PolkSports is the thing I do after work. It wouldn’t be possible without the help I routinely receive from coaches at Polk County High and Polk County Middle. This county has been so blessed the past decade with outstanding coaches who are also just good people – they’ve made my work so much easier.
  • The athletes who have practiced and played and created such compelling stories to tell.
  • My family. I’m certain there have been times when my kids wondered why I was out telling the stories of others rather than being home to hear theirs. And my wife, Leslie, has endured 10 years of nights home alone and dinners missed and things around the house left undone. I cannot thank the three of them enough for their support and love in letting me continue to do this – they’re the heroes of the past decade.
  • Finally, each and every one for your support and kind words along the way. Without your interest, there wouldn’t be a PolkSports.

The world has changed so much since 2013. I hope that PolkSports has occasionally been a bright spot for you throughout.

Thank you for reading.