Hoke County High baseball coach Mike Ray will receive the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s Courage Award next week during its annual meeting at Chapel Hill.
Ray, 52, uses a walker and is coaching baseball from the dugout this season as the symptoms of his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) become more severe. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Last year, Ray used a cane or a fungo bat to get around. Now he does his coaching from the dugout.
Ray became an exceptional children’s teacher at Hoke in 1999 after serving in the U.S. Army for 22 years, including serving during Operation Desert Storm. He was named Hoke’s baseball coach in 2008.
“He has been an inspiration to all of us.” said Gary Brigman, the Hoke athletics director. “He certainly didn’t want all of this attention, but I thought it was important to share his story with everyone.”
The baseball teams in the Southeastern 4A conference, which Hoke is a member of, have started a fund to fight ALS and every time Hoke plays a conference opponent on the road, Ray is presented with a check for ALS research.
“It isn’t a lot of money, but it has raised awareness and shown Ray how much everyone cares for him,” Brigman said.
Brigman said one of his best moments in sports is seeing the opposing team seek out Ray after a game to shake his hand, pat him on the back or speak to him.
“Watching the kids do that has been incredible,” Brigman said.
The presentation of the Courage Award usually is a highlight of the NCHSAA’s annual meeting.
NCHSAA mulls spring football: The board of directors will meet next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Permitting spring football practice, which has been rejected several times in past years, is expected to be discussed.
The board also is expected to receive reports from the nontraditional schools committee and the education and athletics committees. The board will discuss nonboarding parochial school’s dominance in some sports.
Discussion of basketball seeding also is on the agenda.
Long balls: Delane Smith, a junior second baseman, hit a grand slam and a three-run home run in Wake Forest-Roleville’s 13-1 Cap Eight 4A softball victory against Broughton Tuesday. She hit both home runs over the left field fence.
Mustangs’ signings: Middle Creek recently had five athletes to sign letters of intent. Swimmers Kendall Pena and Torie Pena signed with N.C. State and the University of Indianapolis, respectively. Connor Talbot (Mars Hill), Kimmie Pittman (Methodist) and Samantha Mendez (Meredith) signed to play soccer.
Area leaders: Sophomore Emily Truelove of Cleveland has taken the area scoring lead in girls’ soccer. She has 43 goals and 18 assists for 104 points. She had four goals in a 7-1 win over Triton and three goals in a 5-2 win over Corinth Holders this week.
Alexis Shaffer (81 points) and Alexis Degl6 er (80) of Green Hope are second and third in scoring.
• In girls’ lacrosse, Sydney Holman of East Chapel Hill continues to dominate with 85 goals and 30 assists for 115 points. Broughton junior Kelsey Dupere has 60 goals and 23 assists for 83 points.
Apex senior Derek Sweet is first in boys’ lacrosse scoring with 32 goals and 43 assists (75 points). Broughton junior Davis Weaver is first in goals with 43.
• Apex junior Lindsay Hodge has a 16-1 softball record and leads the area in doubles with 10.