Athens H.S. wins battle for best high school gym in Texas in a squeaker

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ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – With the poll closed and the votes tallied, the final result is in – Athens High School has the best gym in Texas.

The contest, sponsored by TXHSGBB (Texas High School Girls Basketball) on Facebook, ended at 11 a.m. Friday, and the result is official. Athens High School beat El Paso Eastwood by a razor-thin margin of just four votes.

But as any sports fan will testify, a close win is still a win. And this one certainly brings a measure of consolation to the Athens ISD community.

Athens ISD Superintendent Blake Stiles help design this gym and called it one of his proudest career accomplishments.

Stiles died two weeks ago, leaving the district grief-stricken. Just a week after his death, Athens ISD learned their gym, and Stiles’ legacy, had earned a spot as one of four semifinalists.

Ordinarily, TXHSGBB would present Athens High School with a plaque in person. Due to COVID-19, though, the plaque this year will be mailed within the next month.

Congratulations, Athens High School and #HornetNation. Enjoy this well-deserved honor.

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – It’s a classic battle of East versus West.

East Texas vs. West Texas, to be specific.

Athens High School and El Paso Eastwood High School both have gymnasiums to be proud of – and now the two facilities are finalists in a statewide competition to see which school has the best one.

The competition is sponsored by TXHSGBB, Texas High Schools Girls Basketball, which covers girls’ basketball throughout the state.

The “tournament” is taking place on Facebook and has been structured much like a March Madness bracket.

This tournament depends on votes rather than plays on the court, though.

The gyms entered have all been truly beautiful – basketball palaces in every sense of the words – but Athens and El Paso Eastwood have muscled past all competition and are now facing off against each other.

In a way, it’s a David and Goliath story. El Paso (population almost 700,000) is so much bigger than Athens and no doubt is counting on those numbers to win.

Athens, with its population of just under 13,000, asked all of East Texas to pitch in and vote.

And, for Athens, it’s not just a matter of school pride, but of honoring a legacy.

Athens ISD Superintendent Blake Stiles help design this gym and called it one of his proudest career accomplishments.

Stiles died two weeks ago, leaving a hole in the heart of that community.

The district learned the gym had earned a spot as one of the top four semifinalists just one week after his death. 

“Blake Stiles took great delight in helping to guide the vision that resulted in the most beautiful gymnasium in East Texas – and, we believe, all of Texas,” said Toni Clay, Athens ISD communications coordinator. “He would be thrilled to know so many others recognize its merit.”

Opened in the fall of 2018, this gym has more than 2700 seats, a 30-ft screen and projector for graduations and other events, and a beautiful honeycomb floor.

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