Overshadowed by the Wainstein Report, 2014 nonetheless remained The Year of the Tiger.
Chapel Hill High won three significant state championships in the calendar year – in men’s swimming, women’s basketball and women’s soccer – and the football team racked up its most wins ever.
Carrboro certainly didn’t stint on success, with a championship in cross country and top-three finishes in swimming. That helped Carrboro win a fourth straight Wells Fargo Cup for overall athletics excellence.
The biggest single win of the year was Chapel Hill’s 69-56 victory in the N. C. High School Athletic Association’s 3A basketball championship game. That game in the Smith Center completed an undefeated year (32-0) for the Tigers, the first undefeated team champions in school history, and gave head coach Sherry Norris her fourth state championship trophy.
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Chapel Hill’s state championship in soccer supplied a fitting end to the 35-year tenure of head coach Rod Benson, who had said throughout the season that he would retire at the end of the school year.
A deep talent pool
Chapel Hill captured the NCHSAA men’s swimming championship without taking a first place before the final relay. The CHHS girls finished second.
Carrboro nets titles
The Carrboro men’s tennis team (16-2) never lost to a 2A school and ended the school year on a great note by winning the still-young program’s first team championship. Carrboro blanked previously undefeated Brevard 5-0 May 17 at the Burlington Tennis Center for the NCHSAA dual-team championship.
A great run in football
Chapel Hill High won state championships recognized by the NCHSAA in 1919 in 1920. But this year’s CHHS football team made the school’s best run ever in the state playoffs.
The Tigers matched the 1964 Chapel Hill Senior High School team’s performance in reaching the state semifinals and did it with more wins (11) in a bigger playoff field.
Chapel Hill reached its high water mark in the third round of the state 3AA playoffs, where the Tigers upset No. 1-ranked and previously undefeated Southern Durham at Spartan Stadium, the defending state champions who had defeated Chapel Hill barely a month before on the same field in a regular-season Big Eight Conference game.
East’s field hockey dynasty
Rivaling the dynasty of UNC women’s soccer, East Chapel Hill (18-2) won its seventh straight N.C. Field Hockey Association championship with a 7-0 win Nov. 8 over Charlotte Catholic in the NCFHA final.
“This is the best team that I have ever coached,” East Chapel Hill coach Susan Taylor said. And that was saying a lot, since East has won 11 championships in 14 years.
In addition to the retirement of Ron Benson, the Tigers also got new a new basketball coach in 2014.
Lason Perkins, a top assistant under former head coach and athletics director Todd Morgan, served as interim coach for the Tigers men’s team in 2013-14 and guided the team to its fourth straight appearance in the state playoffs, but that was not enough to convince CHHS principal Salura Jackson to retain Perkins as head coach. Despite some protests by team members and their parents, Chapel Hill ended up naming former Reidsville coach Bill Walton to lead the Tigers. The affable and experienced Walton got the team off to an excellent start this season, with Chapel Hill going 5-3 in its first eight games; the Tigers’ wins include a sweep of archrival East Chapel Hill.
The coaching change for East Chapel Hill football did not go nearly as smoothly. Jon Sherman, who led East football for a single season, announced late in the school year that he was returning to his coaching roots in Fayetteville. That left East administrators scrambling to find a new replacement well after most coaches had signed annual contracts at their respective schools.
East Chapel Hill eventually found an excellent coach in Mike Holderman, a veteran of Pennsylvania high school football who had shown great skill in rebuilding a program in New Hampshire. But Holderman wasn’t confirmed for the job until mere days before the start of the season, and he had virtually no time to get his program in place. The Wildcats’ team, manned almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, struggled to a 0-11 finish and ultimately ended up forfeiting three of their last four games.
Holderman vowed to take advantage of his first true off-season period at East Chapel Hill to build up the team’s roster – and morale.
Carrboro leads the pack
Carrboro High School’s successful run in the state cross-country championships continued with another win by Maysa Araba and another team title for the Jaguars.
Araba won her second straight NCHSAA 2A girls individual crown on Nov. 1 in the state meet in Kernersville, marking the fifth straight year a Carrboro female has won top honors in the 5K event.
Carrboro, which finished second last year, won the team title for the fifth time in the last six years.
That’s an exceptional performance that stands out in a school district filled with great runners at all of its middle and high schools.
Other top Individual performances
• Carrboro’s dual-team tennis championship came one week after Jaguars Max Fritsch and Jake Zinn won the NCHSAA 2A individual championship in doubles.
• Carrboro sophomore swimmer Will Macmillan’s won two individual state championships — the 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley (in a 2A record time of 1:52.53) — and was MVP of the state 2A meet. Junior teammate Tom Bilden repeated as state champion in the 100 fly.
• CHHS sophomore Claire DeSelm was named the NCHSAA 3A championship meet’s most outstanding swimmer, after she won the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Junior teammate Anabelle Durham won the 100 free and 100 backstroke.
• East Chapel Hill’s Koya Osada won the 200 IM and 100 backstroke in the NCHSAA 4A state championship meet.
• No one had a better 2014 than Carrboro wrestler Dantre Veltri. After a diagnosis of Non-Hodgin’s Lymphoma early in the school year, Veltri fought his way through a series of chemo-therapy treatments and was given the “all clear” by his doctors in March – his lymphoma in total remission.
• Ben Griffin, the two-time NCHSAA 4A state champion from East Chapel Hill, Griffin won the Tar Heel Invitational in one of his first outings as a Tar Heel golfer, and he closed UNC’s fall season by winning the Bridgestone Intercollegiate in Greensboro.
• Chapel Hill’s year in football started auspiciously enough with the transfer from East Chapel Hill to CHHS of quarterback Connor Stough and wide receiver Arkavious Parks, both of whom provided the Tigers with all-conference play throughout the season. Chapel Hill’s excellent front line was led by the redoubtable Logan Tisch, who committed over the summer to Clemson and capped his high school career by playing in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
The Wainstein Report
UNC’s academic scandal, in which it was discovered that at least one UNC professor and an administrator had supplied student athletes with good grades for work they never did, cast a pall over all athletics in Chapel Hill in 2014.
The Wainstein Report, costing the state millions of dollars, supplied Carolina’s critics with all the ammunition they needed to belittle UNC in blogs and to talk down the Tar Heels at length. Years of UNC’s self-promotion of “the Carolina Way” was undone in a single afternoon.
Seldom noted by those who wrote or read the report was that the findings actually said very little about UNC’s coaches or athletic department personnel, and much more about the faculty and staff of the university and its College of Arts and Sciences. Some of UNC’s coaches complained that exculpatory testimony was omitted from the report.
Regardless, it will require decades for UNC to live down the scandal.