It’s likely to be quite some time before local schools enjoy another class like 2014.
This year’s seniors, newly minted Saturday as high school graduates, delivered some of the greatest achievements in team sports that Chapel Hill and Carrboro ever have seen. Perhaps the best ever.
Every school in Orange County had at least one individual state champion.
Chapel Hill had the best year — bringing home N.C. High School Athletics Association championships in men’s swimming, girls basketball and girls soccer.
Notably, the Chapel Hill women, in their final season under basketball coach Sherry Norris before her retirement, produced the school’s first undefeated NCHSAA champion by finishing 32-0.
That gives the team a special place in CHHS history, which has a championship pedigree dating back to the state football champions of 1919 and 1920. And it places the 2014 Tigers alongside the undefeated, unscored upon Lincoln Tigers of 1961, who won consecutive N.C. High School Athletics Conference championships before the historically black school merged with Chapel Hill Senior High.
“A coach’s dream is to have an undefeated team, and to be able to be undefeated and win the state championship,” Norris said. “These girls did that this year, and the players just showed a great deal of poise and determination, and would not let anyone take that undefeated season from them. Very rarely do you have that.”
Norris ended up being voted the Associated Press Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. Weeks after that, she retired after 38 years as a head coach.
Norris left Chapel Hill with four titles — two in volleyball and two in basketball — and more than 1,200 victories. She remains the state’s all-time leader in volleyball victories (732) and had more than 500 career victories in basketball.
Here’s a look at the other top performances of 2013-14.
Like all her teammates, game MVP Alex Kimball felt an extra motivation to win because head coach Ron Benson was to retire at the end of this year, his 34th with the Chapel Hill program.
“For this team, this group of seniors, to send Benson off with a championship means so much,” Kimball said.
Kimball, headed to the University of North Carolina’s team next season, fed Mia Spencer for a goal that tied the championship match at 1-1 with 26:27 remaining. With barely 90 seconds left, Megan Dell took a pass out of the right wing from Sofie Nielsen and scored the game-winning goal.
The CHHS girls finished second in the NCHSAA championship meet behind western N.C. powerhouse Marvin Ridge.
CHHS sophomore Claire DeSelm was named the meet’s outstanding swimmer, after she won the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Junior teammate Anabelle Durham won the 100 free and 100 backstroke.
Making its third straight appearance in the state 2A championship finals, Carrboro blanked previously undefeated Brevard 5-0 at the Burlington Tennis Center for the NCHSAA dual-team championship.
“It definitely feels good because we’ve been working for this for four years,” said Aaron Hiller, the lone senior among Carrboro’s top six singles players. “After losing twice, we definitely had a lot of motivation today. Our hard work and dedication really helped us pull it out.
Carrboro (16-2) never lost to a 2A school, dropping decisions only to NCISAA champion Cary Academy and by a 5-4 score at the home of NCHSAA state 3A semifinalist Chapel Hill.
The team championship came one week after the Carrboro team of Max Fritsch and Jacob Zinn won the 2A doubles championship in the NCHSAA’s individuals’ tournament.
“They really, really stepped it up in the finals and played some great tennis,” Carrboro tennis head coach Jon Noyes said. “They faced some really good competition in the tournament, and they played solid the entire way — never letting any bump in the road bother them.”
In the final, East’s Wildcats beat Carrboro 2-1 in overtime to claim their sixth straight state championship and the 10th overall in the history of their school.
Carrboro, making its first appearance in the NCFHA final four, defeated Chapel Hill 3-1 in the semifinals at Forsyth Country Day School.
But Maysa Araba clocked one of the fastest times (18:03.66) ever recorded by a female on the 5-kilometer course in Kernersville. She pulled away from runner-up Brittany Stanley of Mount Pleasant during the last 800 meters and was 17 seconds ahead at the finish line.
But 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.