Each year it comes up on my anniversary of being in Alexander City, I take some time to reflect on how much my life has changed.

My anniversary was actually about a week ago but it slipped by me in all the chaos of the coronavirus and the storms that hit Tallapoosa County last weekend. Please forgive me; I’ve been a little busy.

But anyway, it’s hard to believe I’ve been here for three years.

It’s funny because I’ve had three jobs in my professional career and both times I’ve left the previous two I’ve thought, “I’ll never like it as much in the next place. The players can’t be any better. The coaches can’t be any more cooperative. The community can’t be any more supportive.”

And each time I’m proven wrong.

I wrote this last year and still mean it: Alexander City has truly become my home. Right now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. So don’t worry; you’re stuck with me awhile longer.

I’ve made great relationships with coaches. I’ve always said for a sports editor, especially in Alabama, having a football coach on your side is like having the mayor on your side if you’re a news reporter. He’s the guy who needs to have your back, and even though all but one of the five teams I cover regularly have hired new coaches in the time I’ve been here (well, Dadeville will soon, hopefully), they all seem to be on my side. And of course, Reeltown’s Matt Johnson and I are still going strong.

Of course over the course of the last three years, I’ve gotten to cover some amazing athletes and some great accomplishments. Elmore County has seen a slew of state championships, mostly from Edgewood Academy, and I finally got to witness one last year when Central Coosa’s boys basketball team won the Class 2A title under coach Jeremy Freeman. I’ve seen several wrestlers win state titles, most recently Wetumpka’s Mason Blackwell and Tallassee’s Zak Haynes. I’ve seen individual successes and team triumphs.

But more than the wins and the championships, I’ve seen these athletes grow. I said in a column a few weeks ago, I felt a special connection with this particular senior class because they were ending their freshmen years when I first got to Tallapoosa Publishers. I still remember the first story I wrote about Reeltown’s track and field team, hearing names like Eric Shaw, Cameron Faison and Keke Hughley (at the time I thought he went by Makevon, silly me).

Now, these athletes are being put to a test none of us could’ve thought fathomable. None of us could’ve expected this or prepared for it, but from all the coaches and players I’ve talked to over the last six weeks, they’ve found ways to prevail.

Between Wetumpka’s Zoom workouts and Stanhope’s William Whitlow trying to find the weirdest way his teammates are staying shape, people are getting creative and making it work.

And I wouldn’t have expected any different.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about living in Alexander City, it’s we find a way to prevail.

Whether it was the death of late editor Mitch Sneed or other tragedies we’ve suffered, whether it was the tornado in Wetumpka or the damaging storms Tallapoosa County felt last weekend, whether it was good times or bad and anything in between, the people in this community find a way to prevail. And we do so with the help of each other, especially here at Tallapoosa Publishers.

Life as we know it may never be the same again. The coronavirus pandemic has created a “new normal” that’ll likely last a lot longer than many of us can predict right now.

But if we just keep sticking together, we’ll get through it. After all, we’re in it for the long haul — at least I am.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.