The Apex High School/Apex Consolidated High School Sports Hall of Fame added six names in 2017, the second year of the hall of fame and the first since Apex High’s old campus at Laura Duncan Road began a demolition and rebuild.
This year’s inductees are four-sport star Rex Hawley, state track and field champion Douglas Noreen, soccer star Phillip James Howard, former Cougar Club president Bill Booth and coaches Robert G. Matthews and Bob Wolfe.
Apex High, which opened in 1920 as a whites-only school and had the Yellow Jackets as its mascot, and Apex Consolidated, which opened in 1932 for blacks and had the Tigers mascot, were integrated in 1970. The school adopted the Cougars mascot and relocated to Laura Duncan Road. The current student body is at the new Green Level High School campus for the rest of this academic year and the next before going back to a rebuilt Apex High in the fall of 2019.
Bill Booth (class of 1952): Booth was a letterman in basketball and baseball for the Yellow Jackets. At UNC-Chapel Hill, he joined the indoor and outdoor track and field teams and ran on an ACC champion mile relay in both sports. He made his biggest mark on Apex athletics afterward. He was the first president of the Apex High School Cougar Club and was chairman of the first Apex Lions’ Relays, an annual high school track and field meet that has grown into one of the largest high school events in the state.
Rex Hawley (class of 1985): Hawley lettered in four sports and was an all-conference star in football and baseball. He was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, where he started as a defensive back and punter. He batted .585 as a senior and set a state record with 41 stolen bases, earning him Wake County 3A Baseball Player of the Year honors. He was the first Apex athlete to appear in the Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” feature. Hawley also played basketball and track and field. He went on to play football at Richmond and was a four-year letterman at running back.
Phillip James Howard (class of 1983): Howard played soccer, track and field and cross country. He remains as one of the fastest sprinters in Apex history and was a three-time all-conference, all-metro and all-region soccer player, helping lead the Cougars’ program in its infancy. Later, he was an assistant coach for the soccer team for three years.
Robert G. Matthews (coach): Matthews came to Apex in the 1980s after 12 years at Meadville (Pa.) High School. He grew the soccer program into a regional and state power, winning four conference titles. He coached baseball as well and led the movement to get lights installed on the field. He was 110-60 across both sports at Apex. He was also one of the school’s top teachers.
Douglas Noreen (class of 2003): Noreen competed in six sports at Apex – cross country, basketball, swimming, golf, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field – but dropped basketball and golf by his junior year. In his senior year, he won the cross country conference title and then won three outdoor track and field events. He set five individual or relay school records that year, all of which still stand. He won the state 4A title in the 800-meter run and finished seventh nationally. He was The News & Observer’s boys’ track and field athlete of the year in 2003. He competed at Davidson in college and earned seven all-conference awards.
Bob Wolfe (coach): Wolfe was the head footabll coach at Apex from 1994 to 2012. He came as an assistant but was thrust into the head coaching role just weeks before the season began. Wolfe guided the Cougars to their best years, winning 104 games and two conference championships. He had winning regular seasons in 11 straight years, making the playoffs in 10 of them. He was selected to coach in the N.C. East-West All Star game in 1999 and in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in 2007.