Month: May 2022

Alumni Update: North Carolina Central’s Jones wins 3rd gold medal, narrowly misses national meet

Marvin Jones: Jones, a former track & field star at Cedar Ridge, recorded his career personal best in the high jump during his final meet with North Carolina Central University. It happened in the NCAA East Regionals at Indiana University. Along the way, he narrowly missed becoming the first North Carolina Central Eagle to qualify for the Division I National Track & Field Championships (Central transitioned to Division I in 2011). Jones finished 13th with a jump of 2.15 meters, or 7.05 feet, tying him with six other competitors. He missed qualifying for the national championships due to a tie breaking procedure as he cleared the height on his third attempt as opposed to his first or second. Jones finished the season with seven top-five finishes. He won the gold medal at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships on May 25, after capturing the championship of the MEAC Indoor Championships in February. Jones is the first North Carolina Central Eagle to earn three gold medals since Central went to Division I. He also won the 2021 MEAC Outdoor Championship. This season, Jones also finished first at the Penn Relays and at the Aggie Classic at North Carolina A&T State University.

Jamar Davis: Davis, a former Orange High star in three sports, finished his outdoor track & field season with N.C. State at the East Regionals in Bloomington, IN last week. Davis finished 30th in the long jump at 7.23 (23′ 8.75″) meters. On May 12, Davis finished 7th at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship at Duke University in Durham. Davis’ best leap was 7.63 meters.

Joey Berini: The East Carolina baseball team won the American Athletic Conference Tournament at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida. The Pirates finished undefeated over four games. ECU defeated Houston 6-1 in the AAC Championship game on Sunday. Berini entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth hitter and drew a walk. In the semifinals on Saturday, the Pirates defeated Tulane 8-5. Berini had an RBI single in the fourth inning, driving in Josh Moylan. In the second round, East Carolina rolled past Cincinnati 15-5 in seven innings. Berini entered the game in the fifth inning and played shortstop for the final two-plus frames. He went 0-for-1 at the plate. East Carolina will enter the NCAA Tournament having won 16 games in a row. On Monday, the Pirates received a #8 national seed. They will host the Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium starting on Friday. East Carolina will open against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Coppin State on Friday afternoon at 1 PM. Also in ECU’s region is #2 seed Virginia, who will face Coastal Carolina on Friday night. In addition, Berini is on the roster of the Holly Springs Salamanders of the Coastal Plain League, a wooden-bat summer league. Last season, Berini played for the Asheboro Copperheads of the CPL.

Kate Burgess: The University of North Carolina women’s rowing team ended its season at the ACC Championships in Clemson, SC on Saturday. Burgess was on the Second Four team that finished second racing against Boston College. They finished with a time of 7:56.848. Burgess raced with Lara King, Sarah Redden, Hanna Davis and Julia Louw.

Jaden Hurdle: After finishing her sophomore season at Patrick & Henry Community College, Hurdle was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association East Region first-team. Hurdle, a first baseman, hit .376 over 43 games. She led the Patriots with ten home runs. She was second on the team with 37 RBIs. Hurdle also led the team with 37 runs and four triples. Hurdle graduated from Patrick & Henry in May and will play with Catawba College in Salisbury starting next season.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Josh Mayhew

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is junior men’s tennis player Josh Mayhew. In just two years at the varsity level, Mayhew has become the first player in school history to reach the 3A State Singles championship match. In fact, he has done it twice. This season carried an extra since of accomplishment for Mayhew. He not only was named the top player in the Central Carolina Conference. Mayhew helped the Cedar Ridge men’s tennis team to the Central Carolina Conference championship. During the regular season, Mayhew was undefeated in singles play. He faced the top singles players in the area and posted wins against competitors from schools like Chapel Hill and Carrboro, which won the 3A State Team Championship. For the second straight year, Mayhew also reached the 3A Mideast Regional Championship singles match. He is the first Cedar Ridge player to accomplish that feat ever. His father, Steve Mayhew, is the head coach of the Red Wolves men’s and women’s tennis programs. Josh’s sister, Cameron, is the top singles player for Cedar Ridge’s women’s tennis team. Josh has lofty plans for his senior season and has already participated in off-season tournaments in Georgia and Greensboro in preparation for 2023. 

Cedar Ridge’s Oguntoyinbo, Orange’s DiFabio named to Wednesday’s Bull City All-Star Lax Game

While the spring sports season is officially over for Orange County Schools, two local senior lacrosse players will not only extend their careers by one game.

For once, they will be teammates.

Cedar Ridge attacker Roman Oguntoyinbo and Orange midfielder Jack DiFabio have been named to the Bull City All-Star Lacrosse Game, an annual event held at Koskinen Stadium on the campus of Duke University. The 5th annual Bull City All Star Game will be held on Wednesday, starting with the women’s game at 4 PM. The men’s game will follow at 6:30.

Oguntoyinbo and DiFabio were selected to play on the Blue Squad, which will be led by Gordon Galloway, the head coach at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Across the men’s and women’s games, over 228 players from across the state are nominated by 103 coaches. 118 are selected to play in the two All-Star Games with players ranging as close as Hillsborough, as far east as Wilmington and as far southwest as Charlotte, Weddington and Waxhaw.

Both Oguntoyinbo and DiFabio were standout players during a season where, collectively, Hillsborough lacrosse was its strongest in years. Cedar Ridge hosted its first game in the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs since 2017 and defeated Western Alamance. For the first time ever, Orange hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship at Auman Stadium.

In his final season at Cedar Ridge, Oguntoyinbo scored a career-high 78 goals and 51 assists. In his final game at Red Wolves Stadium, Oguntoyinbo scored a career-high nine goals and dished out two assists. Cedar Ridge defeated Western Alamance 18-5 for its first win in the state playoffs since 2017, when they won the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship.

In his final regular season game, Oguntoyinbo scored seven goals in a 8-2 victory at Carrboro. He had 13 hat tricks in his senior season, starting with four goals in a season-opening 10-8 win at Jordan. For his career, Oguntoyinbo scored 119 goals, 95 assists and 214 points. His career shooting percentage is .704.

DiFabio filled a critical need for Orange on faceoffs, an area where the Panthers had the advantage in almost every game this season. Lining up as a midfielder along the wing, DiFabio helped Orange win 77% of face-offs during 2022, a season where the Panthers went undefeated in the Mid-Carolina Conference. It was the second straight year where Orange won a conference championship.

DiFabio, the son of Gwen and Mike DiFabio, had 24 ground balls over 13 games in his senior season. That included four ground balls in a 19-5 win over Eastern Alamance in Mebane, which wrapped up the conference championship for the Panthers. DiFabio, whose mother played basketball and softball at Orange, was in his second season at the varsity level. He has announced plans to attend N.C. State after graduation from Orange next month.

The Bull City All-Star Game is an event reserved exclusively for seniors. Also included on the Blue Team will be Northwood’s Pierce Cook, an All-Conference defenseman who helped the Chargers finish second in the Mid-Carolina Conference this spring. Walter Williams’ Samuel Haverstrom, who has announced plans to attend Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, and midfielder McIver Oakley were also selected for the Blue Team. Oakley has been accepted at Appalachian State.

Breyden Harrison, who helped Middle Creek win the 4A State Championship on May 21, was also picked for the Blue Squad. Harrison had a hat trick as the Mustangs defeated Cardinal Gibbons to win the 4A Eastern Regional Championship on May 17. Harrison had another hat trick in a 9-8 win over Weddington for the state title at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

The women’s game will feature several players who played in the State Championship game between Cardinal Gibbons and Charlotte Catholic on May 21. Gibbons’ Georgia Sobocinski, who had four points in the Crusaders’ 13-11 win for the state championship, is on the White Team roster. So is defenseman Kira Dann, who registered ten ground balls for the Crusaders this season.

On the Blue Team, Cardinal Gibbons’ Sydney Calabrese and Maddie Gillmore made the team. Calabrese had two goals in the state championship game.

Orange women’s soccer ends season after deepest playoff push in school history

Beyond where the eye can see below Memorial Stadium at Walter Williams High School, there’s a creek running underneath.

It extends through the football field, which is also shared by the men’s and women’s soccer teams, and runs all the way west to the baseball stadium.

When someone tosses a rock inside a creek, it can cause a minor ruffle in the water, depending on the current and the size of the stone. Most years, the end of the Orange women’s soccer season barely creates a ripple. Other spring sports at Orange, like baseball and softball, are almost annually in the playoffs and deep playoff runs are common.

Which is precisely why this Orange women’s soccer team will go down in the annals as something special. Late last week, after the Lady Panthers’ stunned Cape Fear 5-2 in Fayetteville to reach the 3rd round of the state playoffs for the first time ever, it grabbed the attention of the school. Motorists along Orange High School Road saw “Go Orange Soccer” spelled out in bright Orange and Black plastic cups at the entrance of the student parking lot. It was still there on Memorial Day, nearly a week after Walter Williams ended Orange’s season.

After the Bulldogs emerged 3-2 with the win at Memorial Stadium last Tuesday, a steady mist fell onto the field as Orange head coach Jacki Mignosa held her postgame huddle in front of the strongest turnout of Panther fans for a road game all season. There were tears among some players that is standard for any team that just had it season end. The damp weather couldn’t dose the fire in the eyes of several starters who watched Williams’ players celebrate. They wanted to secure Orange’s first-ever trip to the state quarterfinals. Just because time ran out didn’t mean their emotions were empty.

There was also the elephant in the room of Orange losing its starting goalkeeper with the game in the balance. Tied 1-1 with 32:03 remaining, Abby Monteith sprinted to the edge of the box for a loose ball, which wound up being blown dead for offside. In the process, Monteith collided with a Williams’ player and a teammate and immediately grabbed her right knee. It forced her from the game. Less than 90 seconds later, Williams’ Olivia Vandre headed in a corner kick for the game-winning goal.

Four minutes later, Williams’ Vanessa Wright sent a long shot into the net from 23 yards to extend the Bulldog’s lead to 3-1.

Despite losing Monteith, Mignosa refused to use her injury as an excuse.

“Their goalkeeper made a ton of good saves,” Mignosa said. “We kept pounding and I’m proud of them for doing that. It’s never just the goalkeeper’s fault. It’s the mistakes made at midfield and then defense. The goalkeeper is just the last person. We talk about that a lot as a team.”

And it showed. Trailing 3-1 with 28:00 remaining, Orange was the aggressor for the balance of the game. Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy scored off a breakaway when she moved in against Williams’ goalkeeper Tahani Villines. Initially, Villines made the save, but Sullivan Gaddy chipped in the rebound with 21:14 remaining.

Senior Bella Brown nearly added the equalizer. Off a long throw-in by Sydney Rogers from midfield, Sullivan Gaddy sent a cross to Brown, who had a shot from the penalty spot. It was also the dampest part of the field, which prevented Brown from getting much steam on it. Villines captured the ball diving to her right.

With 10:00 left, sophomore wingback Channing Mahaney found Sullivan Gaddy on a clearing pass. Sullivan Gaddy had a strong shot from ten yards, but Villines denied her with a diving save.

“I tell them all the time ‘no regrets,'” Mignosa said. “Don’t come off this field with regrets. You gotta play hard. Any substitution I make, I make it to the best of my ability. And there’s no regrets. I don’t like to live that way. I don’t like to think ‘what if?'”

After Williams’ Lila Fleming opened the scoring off an assist from Vandare with 27:44 remaining in the first half, Brown tied the game for Orange. Sullivan Gaddy found Brown, who dribbled into the right edge of the box and fired it in off the hands of Villines.

Orange kept the pressure coming based off the attack of junior Sydney Rogers, whose is the fourth member of her family to play with the Lady Panthers. Her older sister, Jordan, recently graduated after playing four seasons at Division III William Peace University in Raleigh.

“She’s always been a strong player since her freshman year,” Mignosa said. “I was lucky enough to coach her two older sisters. She’ll be amazing her senior year.”

Next February will feel different for Orange women’s soccer. There will be higher expectations. Bella Brown, who was second on the team with ten goals and 27 points, is the only senior with substantial playing time graduating. Sullivan Gaddy, who led the squad with 13 goals and 31 points, will return. So will Rogers, a healthy Monteith, freshman Caroline Cathey (five goals) and rising senior Allison Torkewitz.

“We’ll absolutely miss Bella,” Mignosa said. “But we’re a young team. I told them that after the game. Now we have this expectation and the younger kids are going to have to step it up. Because now I’m expecting us to go even further.”

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Bradley Monschein

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is junior golfer Bradley Monschein. Earlier this month, Monschein qualified for the 3A State Golf Championships at Pinehurst #6. Over two days against the best competition in the state, Monschein was one of 84 golfers to qualify for the state championships. He was the only one from Hillsborough. On May 2, Monschein finished tied for 19th at the Mideast Regionals at The Valley Golf Course in Burlington. This was the second year in a row that Monschein had qualified for the regionals. It was the first time he qualified for the state championships. Monschein had a 4.33 grade-point average at Cedar Ridge. In addition to his accomplishments in the classroom, he finds time to play golf about six times a week during the season. Most notably, he enjoys playing at Occoneechee Golf Course in Hillsborough.  Monschein made the All-Central Carolina Conference team for the second year in a row. He also played junior varsity baseball during his sophomore season. Faced against competition from Western Alamance this year, Monschein looks to improve for a solid senior season under Cedar Ridge men’s golf coach Chris Casey. 

Orange women’s soccer continue playoff run tonight at Williams

The Orange women’s soccer team is the lowest-remaining seed remaining in the state playoffs.

That’s not just in the 3A State Tournament. That goes for all four classifications sanctioned by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (actually, Orange is a #23 seed. So is Cardinal Gibbons, who will face Middle Creek in the 4A State Tournament tonight in Cary).

Tonight, Orange will attempt to reach the state quarterfinals when they face Walter Williams in Burlington. Kickoff is at 7PM.

The Lady Panthers’ run to the third round of the state playoffs may be a surprise to some outside observers. For many of the players, however, it continues a wave of confidence that started after a double-overtime loss to eventual Central Carolina Conference champion Eastern Alamance on April 12 in Hillsborough. Since then, the Lady Panthers have gone 6-2.

For a select few players, they knew something special could eventually happen for Orange women’s soccer way back in 2018.

Madison Orange, Syndey Rogers, Allison Torkewitz and Lauren Garcia were among the players who were members of Orange Middle School’s (then called Stanford Middle School) 2018 Orange Person Athletic Conference Championship team. It is still the only team in the history of Orange/Stanford Middle School to win an OPAC Championship in women’s soccer.

In 2018, the Chargers defeated longtime power Phillips 2-1 in the championship game, avenging its only loss in the regular season. Orange Middle finished 7-1 that year. It was the only time in school history where the Chargers defeated all four of its OPAC rivals in the Southern Division (Phillips, Culbreth, McDougle and Smith) in a single season.

It was a milestone for Orange Middle School soccer. Now, some of those players have led Orange High to another milestone–the best postseason run in the 34-year history of women’s soccer at Orange.

Preparing how to train some of those players is something Lady Panthers head coach Jacki Mignosa was mulling back when Garcia was still in eighth grade, while Orange, Torkewitz and Rogers were in the seventh.

“When I had this group come up, it was ‘Let’s get them trained,'” Mignosa said. “Let’s get them working together, playing together constantly. Then, by the time they’re juniors and seniors, then this is where we are. And it worked.”

There have been notable additions along the way. Senior Bella Brown arrived in 2020 from Burlington Christian Academy . Brown scored a hat trick in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Cape Fear in Fayetteville, ending the night with a stunning goal from 20 yards that sailed across the 18-year-box into the left corner of the night. It was her ninth goal of the season.

Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy, who leads the team with 12 goals, went to Central Park Middle School in Durham. She plays with the Mebane Youth Soccer Academy as her travel team.

“This is the best soccer I’ve ever played in my life,” Sullivan Gaddy said the day after she scored two goals in a 5-3 win over Harnett Central. “It’s the most welcoming community that I’ve had. Eastern Alamance was the toughest team we’ve had to play. It has been a pretty tough conference.”

Orange was supposed to face Williams on Monday night, but it was postponed after severe storms tore through the Triad, which is appropriate. The Orange-Williams regular season series was as unpredictable as a North Carolina spring.

On April 14, Williams rolled past Orange 2-0 in Hillsborough. The following week, Orange traveled to Burlington and pounded the Bulldogs 5-0. It was Williams’ most lopsided loss of the season. Lady Panthers goalkeeper Abby Monteith notched the clean sheet.

Whatever happens tonight, this group of Lady Panthers will walk off the pitch knowing they’ve done something that no over Orange team before them ever did. The deepest playoff run in school history.

“I think it’s going to be a tough game,” Mignosa said “I really do. We split with them this season. So it’s going to be another battle. But as I told my team, I believe in them. And they just have to believe that they can do it.”

Thompson named Most Outstanding Men’s Basketball Player in Central Carolina Conference

Following a season where he became the most accomplished scorer for the Orange men’s basketball team since Connor Crabtree, Jerec Thompson has received among the highest individual honors from the Central Carolina Conference.

Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Central Carolina Conference. Shortly after receiving the honor this spring, Thompson announced his commitment to Division III Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, VA.

In the quarterfinals of the Central Carolina Conference Tournament against Western Alamance in Elon, Thompson scored the 1,000th point of his career with a free throw early in the third quarter. He became the first Orange player to cross that plateau since Joey McMullin, who surpassed it in 2020. Thompson amassed 1,033 points in 71 career games, including just 12 in his junior season, which was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The only disappointing thing about Thompson’s final year was that he wasn’t healthy enough to see every game. He missed the opening games against Southern Alamance and East Chapel Hill after being undercut going up for a dunk during a scrimmage against Vance County at Franklinton High School on November 20.

Once Thompson finally took the floor against the North Carolina School of Science and Math on December 2, it was immediate magic. He poured in 41 points in a 73-54 victory. It was the most points scored by an Orange player since Crabtree, who now plays with the University of Richmond, poured in 44 points against Southern Durham during the Big 8 Conference Tournament Championship game on February 17, 2016.

Thompson had eight games over 30 points in his senior season. In the South Granville Holiday Invitational, he scored 33 points in a 73-70 win over Reidsville. The following day, Thompson had 32 points in a loss to Cary in the Navy Bracket semifinals.

He sank a career-high ten 3-pointers, and finished with 39 points, against Person in Roxboro on February 1.

As the season wore on, Thompson saved his best for last. In his final game at Orange High School, he registered 40 points in a 77-68 win over Eastern Alamance on February 11. It was the first time any Orange player scored 40 points inside Panther Gymnasium since Crabtree ran up 40 points against Chapel Hill on January 5, 2017. Ironically, the previous player to score 40 points inside Panther Gym was Chapel Hill’s Jake Chislom, who scored 41 points against Orange on February 15, 2021, in a game played in front of empty bleachers due to restrictions created by the pandemic.

Thompson put in 29 points in the tournament win over Western Alamance on February 14. It was Orange’s first postseason win since beating Triton in the 3rd round of the 3A State Playoffs in 2017. He ended his career with 24 points against Northwood in the CCC semifinals. The Chargers would go on to win the CCC Regular Season and Tournament championships.

Thompson’s freshman season coincided with a point of major transition for the Orange men’s basketball team. Derryl Britt was in his first season as the head coach of the Panthers after Greg Motley had led the program for 20 years. At the beginning of 2018, Thompson was on the junior varsity team, but quickly transitioned to varsity starting in the Eastern Guilford Holiday Hoops Invitational in Gibsonville. In just his second game, he scored 12 points in a 70-61 win over Southeast Guilford on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Thompson’s limitless range from downtown would be the trademark of his Orange career. In 2019-2020, Thompson, McMullin, Jason Franklin and Machai Holt triggered a 6-1 start, including 74-56 win over then-defending 3A State Champion Walter Williams and a 82-32 rout of East Chapel Hill. In his sophomore season, Thompson averaged 10.8 points per game as a steady third outside shooting option alongside McMullin and Franklin.

Orange Panther of the Week: Elliana Sullivan Gaddy

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is freshman soccer striker Elliana Sullivan Gaddy. Last week, the Orange soccer team won two state playoff games for the first time in the 34-year history of the team. On Monday night, Orange stunned Harnett Central 5-3 in Angier. Sullivan Gaddy scored two goals and assisted on another goal. On Wednesday night, Orange defeated Cape Fear 5-2 in Fayetteville to reach the round of 16 in the state playoffs for the first time ever. Sullivan Gaddy scored the game-winning goal in the second half when she broke up a pass back to Cape Fear’s goalkeeper and tucked the ball away into an empty net. It was Orange’s seventh road win. Sullivan Gaddy is the leading scorer for Orange with 12 goals and 28 points. On April 25, Sullivan Gaddy scored a goal and two assists in Orange’s 5-0 win at Walter Williams in Burlington. She had a four-game goal scoring streak starting against Williams. It continued against Cedar Ridge on April 27. During that span, Orange won four consecutive games. Sullivan Gaddy, Bella Brown and Isabel Jones have added up to a strong forward combination for Orange, which has propelled them to the strongest postseason run in team history. The Lady Panthers will journey to Burlington tonight to face Walter Williams in the 3rd round of the 3A State Playoffs. 

Alumni Update: Davidson sisters help Mississippi State to shocking Regional Championship in Tallahassee

Mia Davidson: The odds that Mia and Montana Davidson would play their final game at Mississippi State on Sunday were very strong. Thus, it would likely be their final game as teammates, something they’ve been since they were adolescents playing in Hillsborough. Instead, Mississippi State softball team pulled off the biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament, shocking #2 seeded Florida State in back-to-back games to win the Tallahassee Regional at JoAnne Graf Field in Florida.

It is the first regional championship in Mississippi State softball history. On top of that, the Bulldogs will host a Super Regional starting on Friday when they face Arizona in a best-of-three series at Nusz Park in Starkville.

In the opening game on Sunday, Mississippi State won 5-0. Davidson hit a solo home run in the 3rd inning. It was her 91st career home run, putting her in fifth place all-time in NCAA history. It was its first win over a top-three team since 2016. Davidson finished 1-for-2 with two walks.

In the seventh and deciding game, Davidson scored the game-winning run as the Bulldogs won 4-3. Chloe Malau’ulu singled up the middle and Davidson slid under the tag at the plate in the fifth inning. Davidson went 0-for-3 in the deciding game.

Mississippi State started the Tallahassee Regional with a loss to South Florida on Friday. She went 0-for-2. That loss meant that the Bulldogs had to win four games over a span of 28 hours in order to reach the Super Regional, which is exactly what they did. They started with a 6-3 win over Howard. Mia went 1-for-2 with an RBI. Later on Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs eliminated South Florida 6-0. Mia went 0-for-4 with an RBI. Davidson knocked in Rylie Hull on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

Montana Davidson: In Mississippi State’s win over Howard, Montana Davidson started as the designated player. She helped knock in a run in the second inning when she sent a fly ball to right field, which was dropped. Montana scored after a fly ball hit by her younger sister, which was caught in left field. In Mississippi State’s final win over Florida State, Montana Davidson entered the game as a pinch-hitter. She also played against South Florida as a pinch-hitter on Friday.

Tori Dalehite: The UNC Greensboro softball team had a disappointing end to the season in the Southern Conference Tournament. After winning the Southern Conference regular season title, the Spartans were eliminated after losing twice to Chattanooga. In an elimination game against Samford on May 13, Dalehite scored a run as a pinch-runner off a double hit by Makeena Matthijs. The Mocs ended the Spartans season 9-7 on May 14. Dalehite also played as a pinch-runner. Dalehite played 29 games this season. She started 12, hitting .162.

Jaden Hurdle: Hurdle ended her career at Patrick & Henry Community College in the Region X, Division II Tournament. On May 11, the Patriots opened the tournament with a 8-0 win over Cleveland Community College in five innings. Hurdle went 1-for-3 with a run scored. In the second round, Pasco-Hernando State College defeated Patrick & Henry 14-6 in Richmond, VA. Southeastern Community College defeated the Patriots 8-3 to end their season on Sunday. In 43 games this season, Hurdle hit .376 with ten home runs and 37 RBIs. Hurdle will play at Division II Catawba College in Salisbury next year.

Grace Andrews: Andrews ended her career at Catawba Valley Community College last week. Southeastern Community College defeated the Red Hawks 5-2 in Henrico, VA. Andrews went 1-for-4 in her final game in Hickory. Catawba Valley ended the year 37-10.

Jaylin Jones: The Pfeiffer men’s lacrosse team had its season come to an end in the semifinals of the USA South Conference Tournament on May 7. Top-seeded Southern Virginia defeated the Falcons 13-11. In his final game, Jones assisted on a goal. He had six ground balls and created two turnovers. Pfeiffer concludes the season 12-4. This season, Jones played in 16 games for Pfeiffer. He scored three goals and added six assists. He had 49 ground balls and created 17 turnovers.

Flying high again; Cedar Ridge’s Fowlkes win 3A State Championship in Pole Vault after jump-off

It wouldn’t appear to be the most dramatic conclusion to a state championship, but it would be enough to get first place.

At least that’s what Caroline Fowlkes thought on Friday morning after she and West Carteret’s Alyssa Cooley both failed to clear 11-feet in the pole vault. Earlier on Friday morning in the 3A State Track & Field Championships at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, Fowlkes successfully sailed over the bar at 10-feet-6 inches in her first attempt. It took Cooley two attempts to get over 10’6″. Since Fowlkes only needed one turn to get over, she figured that was enough for her to take the state championship.

Except it wasn’t that simple.

Shortly after the final failed attempts at 11-feet, a North Carolina High School Athletic Association informed Fowlkes and Cooley that they would engage in a jump-off to decide the state champion.

A jump-off?

Fowlkes had never competed in a jump-off. Heck, she had never even heard of a jump-off.

“It was one of the more nerve-racking meets I’ve ever been in,” Fowlkes said.

Suddenly, things got dramatic.

Fowlkes wasn’t going to let a technicality stop her from a state championship that she was the top-seed in. First, Fowlkes and Cooley each had one attempt at eleven-feet, which neither cleared. Then the height was lowered to 10-feet, 9-inches. Neither cleared that either.

At 10-feet, six-inches, Cooley scratched. It was Fowlkes’ turn, and in the final jump of her Cedar Ridge career, she planted a 12′ 7″, 160-pound pole deep into the pit and sailed over the bar with two inches to spare.

Just like that, Fowlkes became Cedar Ridge’s first individual state champion in track and field in seven years.

“I was so nervous,” said Sasha Morphis, head women’s track and field coach at Cedar Ridge. “When both girls scratched their final jump, we didn’t know how they planned to handle the result. We were on our toes the entire time. I never lost faith in her but I was absolutely nervous. I wanted it so bad for her.”

After word spread of her victory, Fowlkes received a congratulatory text message from Phoenix Smith, a longtime teammate and fellow senior who was unable to compete this spring after she suffered a torn ACL last December.

“I really miss seeing Phoenix at practice,” Fowlkes said. “I wish she could have been at the state championships competing with our team.”

Fowlkes completed her state championship a week after winning the Mideast Regional title at Franklinton High School. She is the first Red Wolf to win an individual state championship in track & field since Kacia Vines won in the long jump in 2015, the last of her two state titles.

Fowlkes is only the second Red Wolf in history to win a state championship at the 3A level. The other five female state champions were in the 2A ranks, along with six male state champions.

“She has been an amazing athlete,” Morphis said. “No matter what you ask her to do, she will do it. She never complains and is one of the most dedicated athletes I’ve ever coached. Working with her has been amazing and I will miss coaching her.”

The progressive heavy metal band Dream Theater’s 24-minute epic “Octavarium” concludes with the theme that “Everything ends where it began.” And so it is with Fowlkes, who last competed at North Carolina A&T on May 17, 2019 as a freshman in the state championships. She reached ten feet, good enough for ninth place.

Between then and Friday, there’s been a pandemic that killed her 2020 outdoor season, struggles with new equipment that led to her failing to qualify for the state championships last year and academic demands that led to her considering sitting out this season.

Fowlkes didn’t compete during Cedar Ridge’s indoor season this winter. With a 4.0 grade point average and a member of the International Baccalaureate Program, Fowlkes has been accepted at Appalachian State University. Under the IBP program doctrine, students take almost all of their exams during their senior year. To alleviate the pressure in the classroom, the possibility of skipping this outdoor season did cross Fowlkes’ mind.

Last year, two accomplished Cedar Ridge runners who were members of a school record relay team opted to focus on academics in lieu of their final track season.

“I was pretty concerned about school and my exams this year,” Fowlkes said. “I wondered if I would have enough time for practice, especially in the spring semester. But it ended up being all right. It was good to have something to do after school after studying for exams.”

Fowlkes finished her exams last week just in time to focus on the state championships.

It turned out to be a wise move. Fowlkes won all nine meets she competed in this year. At the Orange County Championships inside Culton-Peerman Stadium at Chapel Hill High School, Fowlkes finished first at 10’6″. At the Central Carolina Conference Championships in Mebane, she set a personal best at 11’6″, over three-and-a-half feet better than the runner-up.

The previous year, Fowlkes finished with no height at the Mideast Regionals at Southern Lee High School. The main problem was adjusting to a new pole. Pole vaulters are required to weigh-in before competitions. After Fowlkes reached a certain weight, she was required to adjust to a 145-pound pole, which was too small for her taste.

“This year, I was prepared,” Fowlkes said. “I jumped with a 165-pound pole, which was perfect for me. The weight of the pole is how much it takes to bend that pole. If I’m jumping on a 160-or-165-pound pole, I just have to be every fast and extra strong to bend it.”

Fowlkes also competed in the high jump this year. She continued to compete with the Cedar Ridge cross country team last fall.

Fowlkes’ father, Thomas, was a pole vaulter at the University of South Alabama. Her mother, Jenna, was a pole vaulter at the University of Florida.

Caroline would like to continue her pole vault career at Appalachian State, but says the school hasn’t reached out to her yet.

For now, Fowlkes will prepare for graduation next month after winning a state championship in the most unorthodox of ways. In her case, everything truly did end the way it began.