Parks to play tennis at Ave Maria

Feb. 12—A few things had to be moved off the GMC Prep tennis courts before the Bulldogs hosted Dublin High School Thursday.

It would have been strange to play a match with a table, balloons, and a school backdrop right there on the playing surface. But all the extra equipment was there for good reason as GMC Prep boys No. 1 singles player Seth Parks signed his national letter of intent to Ave Maria University in a short ceremony just before play began. Parks' family, teammates and school administrators were on hand to celebrate with the college signee. He's thought to be the first GMC Prep tennis student-athlete to sign to play the sport at the next level.

Parks is in his third year at GMC Prep. He came from Hall County's Cherokee Bluff High School his sophomore year, but has been playing tennis since long before making the move to Milledgeville. Parks grabbed a racket at the age of 8 and fell in love.

"I loved it from the start," he said. "It's a great game that allows me to have a good bond with my teammates. Being able to do that in college is going to help with having close friends that I'll know throughout my time there. It's a great opportunity."

In talking about Parks Thursday, his coaches described him as a player who keeps his head while on the court. Each time out he's taking on the best an opposing school has to offer and usually comes out a winner.

Parks will take those qualities down to Ave Maria, which located in south Florida not far from where one runs out of dry land. The private Catholic school is less than 100 miles from the Sunshine State's southern tip, between Miami and Fort Myers.

"To me, it's the best Catholic school in America and they have a great law program as well," said Parks, who plans to major in political science. "Their teaching is based on Christ. A lot of schools teach you things and you discover what your truth is, but Ave Maria teaches that Christ is the truth and helps you to pursue that."

Ave Maria boasts one of the more unique mascots in all of athletics. They are the Gyrenes, a marriage of the terms "G.I." and "Marine," which is a term adopted by the United States Marine Corps since at least World War II.

"Then and now, Gyrene was understood to be a special kind of 'government issue' — a 'government issue Marine,' or 'Gyrene,'" the university's athletics website states.

The Gyrene men's tennis teams have made the NAIA national tournament each of the last two years and advanced to the second round in 2022.

Parks hopes to help take the program further when he joins the team, and that's a goal he has for the GMC Prep boys as well in this his final season of high school tennis. The Bulldogs were knocked out in the second round of state both years he's been a part of the program.

"We want to make it at least one round further," Parks said.