For a any coach to get to ride out on a wave of wins is a rare thing.
To see it happen twice in one year at the same school is truly remarkable.
Ron Benson ended his high school coaching career last weekend with Chapel Hill’s 2-1 victory over Matthew Weddington in the 2014 N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A championship game.
It was Chapel Hill’s first NCHSAA title in girls’ soccer, and it came less than two months after Chapel Hill girls’ basketball and volleyball Sherry Norris announced her retirement. Norris made her announcement shortly after her Tigers completed the school’s first undefeated season and won a second NCHSAA girls basketball championship.
Norris was in the stands at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Stadium to see Benson win his last game.
So was Chapel Hill athletics director Tim Bennett.
“They don’t come any better than Ron Benson,” Bennett said. “Ron Benson IS Chapel Hill soccer. We may have a new coach next year, but we’ll never be able to replace him.”
Former Chapel Hill athletics director and basketball coach Tod Morgan, now head basketball coach at Pikeville’s C.B. Aycock, had been following the soccer team’s progress all season. Within minutes of the final horn at Dail Stadium, Morgan tweeted his congratulations to Benson and assistant coaches Davis Boyle, Jason Curtis and Kevin Schoden.
“What a great way to ‘go out in style,’ Ron. So happy for you guys and proud of those young ladies,” Morgan texted.
He immediately followed that with: “A great year to be a CHHS Tiger ... 62 total team state champions in school history.”
Chapel Hill indeed has been one of the most successful athletic programs in North Carolina, starting with its back to back state football championships in 1919 and 1920.
Benson and Norris have added to that legacy.
Norris coached Chapel Hill to 540 wins in basketball. She is also the NCHSAA’s all-time leader in volleyball victories (732), with two state titles in that sport.
Benson's cumulative record for both boys' and girls' soccer is 695-274-83 (395-155-41 in girls' soccer alone.)
Benson is unlike most soccer coaches in the area, more a mentor than a trainer.
He’s been a vegetarian for most of his life, and he partly credits his attempts to live a healthy lifestyle for his being able to maintain a successful career for 34 years.
“My longevity in coaching has come from trying to do the right thing, having respect for the game, and not taking shortcuts,” he told a student interviewer earlier this year. “My lifestyle of eating healthy food, exercising and getting 7-8 hours of sleep has served me well.”
Benson grew up at Wrightsville Beach, and he’s hoping to get back down there to help him stay active in retirement.
“I plan to do a lot of gardening and a lot of surfing,” he said.