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Austin-East soccer receives state championship rings

The Austin-East boys' soccer team received its state championship rings in a small ceremony at the school.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Austin-East boys' soccer team received its state championship rings on Thursday. The Roadrunners won the title in May, beating Gatlinburg-Pittman in Murfreesboro. 

The ring ceremony was held inside the school's performing arts center. Teachers, administrators, students and family members were in attendance.

The ceremony included speeches from community members and school faculty, as well as video presentations of the Roadrunners' championship run. At the end, each member of the 2021 team walked on stage, one-by-one, and received a personalized plaque from assistant coach Malaika Guthrie and their ring from head coach Jonathan Netherland. 

"My boys did it," said coach Netherland. "Everything I do—all my effort, my energy—it is not for myself. It is for them."

Netherland played soccer at Austin-East as a student. In those years, the Roadrunners always fell short of the state tournament. The program won just one game from 2008-2014. Then, Netherland became Austin-East's head coach in 2015 and immediately began creating a culture where players are passionate about soccer. He recalled winning the state championship as the happiest moment of his life. 

He believes his championship ring is validation. 

"Just putting it on kind of tied all the loose ends up. It kind of made what was unbelievable more realistic," he said. 

The Roadrunners start the 2022 season in March.