Gallagher column: Another very good year for Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2012

I was communicating with Rick Strunk of the NCHSAA recently and let him know it was an off year in Rowan County high school sports.
Only five state championships.
I was kidding. It’s never an off-year in Rowan County.
We win in bunches around here. Has there ever been a 19-day span like in November of 2011?
• On Nov. 1, Salisbury’s girls golf team won the 2A state championship.
• On Nov. 5, Salisbury’s girls tennis team won its fourth straight 2A state championship.
• On Nov. 19, Salisbury’s boys soccer team won the 2A state championship.
Which leads us to the Photo of the Year. See above. Does that look like a coach who just won it all? Of course, it does. It’s Salisbury soccer coach Matt Parrish, who was reportedly imitating Jim Valvano’s helter-skelter run after N.C. State won the national basketball title in 1983.
“I remember running across the field without a real purpose,” Parrish texted. “I didn’t want to tackle anyone. Just went kinda crazy. Valvano is an excellent comparison.”

We’re not finished with the state champions.
• On May 12, Robert Steele’s boys track team won its 100th state championship. OK, it wasn’t the 100th. It just seems that way. And Johnny Oglesby? Three state individual titles? Wow. Teaunna Cuthbertson ended her career with a state title for the girls.
• Salisbury’s Dale Snyder made it back in the headlines on May 16 when he coached the Hornet boys golf team to the county’s fifth state title. Counting boys and girls, that’s three straight banners in the sport.

The golf crown was a good way to send off retiring principal Windsor Eagle.
Which leads us to the Disappointment of the Year. Is it true that this man will no longer be the public address announcer for Salisbury sporting events?
Eagle confirmed it when asked recently.
I loved standing in the press box with Eagle. He used that mike for more than just calling out who ran the ball or that it was “Another Hornet first down!”
If the cheerleaders weren’t being as vocal as he thought, he’d let them know. Over the PA.
Once, at a football Homecoming, there were big letters “S-O-C-C-E-R” painted at midfield. When I mentioned how ridiculous that was, considering this was Football Friday Night, he quickly let me know it was not my concern. I looked at his wife, who was giving me “The Look.”
I understood what that look meant. I went over to the corner, sat down and minded my own business.
I love the guy. He’s very funny.

But back to the kids. There were several individual state champs besides the track stars at North Rowan.
Like Isabella Rusher in girls golf. And she’s only a freshman, folks.
Michael Ogden won the 2A state individual title in tennis. That’s right, another freshman.
North Rowan produced three state individual 1A wrestling champs in Marc Gonzalez, Will Robertson and Thomas Fowler.
Gonzalez? Freshman.
And let’s not forget a freshman at Salisbury that is on course for a title or two before she leaves: Jaleesa Smoot.
Watching her run the sprints in the 2A state meet was indeed an eye-opener. It was hard to believe she was finishing high while going against seasoned, more highly-touted seniors.
She’s 14 years old.
So let’s keep an eye on this class of diaper dandies and see what they have accomplished by the time they graduate.

Streaks were kept alive.
The Salisbury girls won the Sam Moir Christmas Classic for a record ninth straight time behind the play of Brielle Blaire.
And before you go, “Wow,” consider this. It isn’t even the longest streak of domination in the county. That honor goes to the South Rowan boys swim team that won its — ready for this? — 10th straight county championship.

There were close calls. West Rowan’s football team lost in the state title game but we all should remember how difficult it is to get to one state championship game. For coach Scott Young, it was his fourth straight appearance.
Speaking of close calls, Young suffered a heart attack on a Monday night, drove himself to the hospital and was at his team’s game at West Iredell on Friday.
In hoops, Salisbury’s girls and North’s boys came in defending state champs but couldn’t repeat, though still winning their conference and Moir championships. Salisbury’s football team, a defending champ, fell just short also.

There are fond farewells to athletes who have thrilled us for four years, namely North’s Cuthbertson and West basketball star Keshun Sherrill.

How important are sports to the schools? When the all-county athletes were named for the spring, South Rowan athletic director Angie Chrismon brought the student body together and had a pep rally.
A pep rally for all-county? That doesn’t happen just anywhere.

Feel-good stories?
How about the East Rowan basketball team, coming off a one-win season, and ripping off seven straight victories a year later? The underdog Mustangs became a beloved team in Rowan County.
But nothing could compare to the all-county baseball photo shoot and the looks on the faces of those East Rowan players as they gathered around Nathan Fulbright’s dad, Glenn. They threw their arms around each other and joked with this man, who has battled cancer for four years.
The smile on Glenn’s face was priceless.
It was the perfect way to end another priceless year in Rowan County sports.
“Rowan County’s just different,” Strunk once e-mailed me.
The kids and coaches make it that way. And we should feel privileged to get to tag along for the ride.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or