Prep Sports: 2008-09: A great year in Rowan County
By Ronnie Gallagher
Salisbury didn’t have an Athlete of the Year but if there was a trophy for Athletic Program of the Year, the Hornets would be an easy choice.
When the Post called on seven spring sports to gather at Catawba College on June 3 for all-county photos, Salisbury was the only school to produce all-county performers in all seven. Twenty-nine of the 109 spring all-county athletes went to school on Lincolnton Road.
That put the capper on one of the greatest years in Rowan County history. Salisbury principal Windsor Eagle and athletic director Joe Pinyan were feeling mighty proud. They’re the ones who, a few years ago, made changes in structure, personnel, facilities and, most importantly, mindset.
Salisbury’s Class of 2009 went out in a blaze of glory: three state championships, one in girls tennis, one in girls basketball and one in boys track.
Every Hornet team seemed to make its mark somehow, regardless of record. For instance, Scott Maddox’s baseball team finished just 7-17. But who was in the Central Carolina Conference’s tournament championship game?
Scott Maddox’s baseball team.
The wrestling team won no championships but produced the county wrestler of the year in Joseph Figueroa.
As far as the CCC goes, Salisbury won the Charlie England Cup for the sixth time in eight years.
“You can’t find a year that comes close,” Pinyan said, bursting with pride.
But it wasn’t just Salisbury that made this year special. West Rowan won the state 3A championship in football.
Think about that. Whether it was the fall, the winter or the spring, fans in sports-crazed Rowan County enjoyed some type of state title.
Whether it was Hannah and Kirstin, or Tanner and Romar, we shared their passion and exhilaration of being known as the best individuals in their sport in North Carolina.
When Hannah Lebowitz and Kirstin Meyerhoeffer won the 2A state doubles title for Salisbury on Oct. 25, we had no idea it was the start of a parade of champions.
Oh, by the way, who made up the second-best doubles team in the state? Lebowitz and Meyerhoeffer beat their teammates, Joy Loeblein and Shea Comodoll, in the finals.
– On Oct. 31, Salisbury’s football team thrashed neighbor North Rowan for its 11th straight victory and an undefeated regular season.
Salisbury later had to forfeit four games due to an ineligible player and finished 7-5. But on this night, there was no more impressive football team in 2A.
– On Nov. 12, those four Hornet tennis players joined their teammates and walloped Cardinal Gibbons 5-1 to win the state team title.
– About this time, fans were realizing there was something amazing happening down Highway 70 toward Mount Ulla.
West Rowan football coach Scott Young had put together an unbelievable juggernaunt. Like a tornado, you expected mass destruction every time Young sent his Falcons onto the field.
Franklin, Statesville, Carver and South Point were pushed aside and then, on Dec. 13, West Rowan fans poured into BB&T Stadium in Winston-Salem to watch arguably the most dominating performance of any team in a state final. The Falcons scored on their very first play from scrimmage and crushed West Craven, 35-7.
State championship No. 2 was in the books.
– On Feb. 15, Rowan fans were cheering again. East Rowan’s Tanner Lowman not only won two events at the state swim meet, but he was named MVP.
– The excellence continued. On Feb. 20, Salisbury’s Darien Rankin hit a shot at the buzzer to beat Lexington in the CCC tournament final. It was the 26th straight win for Jason Causby’s Hornets, ranked first in the state.
– On Feb. 22, West junior K.P. Parks, the all-time rushing leader in Rowan County, committed to Virginia.
– On Feb. 27, Rowan had three teams ó Salisbury’s boys, West’s boys and Salisbury’s girls ó in the sectional finals. Those three teams had combined for 79 wins. Salisbury’s girls advanced.
– On March 14, Andrew Mitchell struck gold. The first-year coach of the Salisbury girls led the Hornets to the county’s third state team title with a 56-41 win against Graham.
You had to feel good for Mitchell. For years he coached Livingstone’s women in relative obscurity. The crowds were small and interest was low.
Now, here he was in the Deandome in Chapel Hill, coaching some talented, resilient girls in front of thousands.
– It seemed success followed Rowan County all the way to New York. On April 8, East Rowan grad Bobby Parnell pitched a perfect sixth inning in his 2009 debut for the Mets.
– May 22 was another day to remember.
In the afternoon, Salisbury gave the county its fourth state championship as the boys track team won the whole thing. Romar Morris zipped his way to state titles in the 100 and 200 meters.
That night, East Rowan’s baseball team was ripping Southwest Guilford in the third round of the playoffs.
– On May 27, county sports on the field ended when East lost a heartbreaker to Lake Norman, one step from the Western finals.
That led to the June 3 meeting of all-county performers and a time to reflect on one of the greatest years Rowan County has ever seen.
So now it’s time to take a break for a couple of months. Go watch a kid play little league or enjoy Legion baseball. When August rolls around, take a deep breath and get ready for more of the same: watching the next batch of local athletes who always seem to put Rowan County at the top of prep sports in North Carolina.