Kelsey Peedin already has her grandma story. And it’s a story of past athletic greatness and accomplishment that she will share with only two other athletes from the modern era of Johnston County prep athletics.
Seventeen championships on the conference, regional or state level won across two sports during a four-year run, including state championships in two different sports. It’s the legacy that Peedin, Hailey Wood and Taylor Carroll, all graduates of Princeton High School on Friday night leave behind for not just future Bulldog generations but also future Johnston County generations.
“I’ll look at it even when I’m old,” Peedin said after helping Princeton win the 2016 N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A state softball championship last weekend. “It feels amazing. Im just overjoyed. I’m blessed and amazed to have been a part of such amazing teams. It’s been an awesome high school experience.”
Several schools have had great success over a short period of time in one sport, but winning two state championships in two different sports during a two-year or four-year period is a first.
“They are not only great athletes but also great people that are going to be missed dearly next year,” said Princeton assistant volleyball coach Paula Wooten and ardent Bulldog supporter. “Most athletes never get an opportunity to play for a state championship much less play for three and win two in different sports.”
Carroll and Peedin played varsity for all four seasons in both volleyball and softball, while Wood was a four-year starter in softball and a three-year contributor in volleyball.
When that trio and fellow Class of 2016 members Emily Woodward, Peyton Whitley, Hannah Davis and Lakyn Whitley helped Princeton win the 2014 state 1A volleyball championship, the win was kind of a surprise. A return to the state title game this past season wasn’t nearly the surprise that the previous year was, but the state softball title was still something the trio considered as unfinished business. And since Wood (Appalachian State), Peedin (N.C. A&T) and Carroll (Pitt Community College) were all signed to softball scholarships, it would be the perfect way to end an amazing high school athletic experience.
Surviving play in the conference with the reigning state champion in play — North Duplin — was a huge accomplishment for the Bulldogs. Princeton ended up beating the defending champs four times through the course of the regular-season, a playoff seeding game and the Eastern Regional Championship Series.
“I feel like this senior class has left something very big to stand up to because we’ve done a lot in our years here,” Carroll said.
If any area school has teams that come close to matching the run of the current class of Bulldogs, it’s their own. The Princeton girls basketball team had a dominating run from the early 1970s through the late 1980s that included three state championship game appearances. The Bulldogs’ baseball program won state titles in 1992 and 1994 with a runner-up finish sandwiched in between those wins. And the Princeton football team of the late 1970s/early 1980s made multiple deep playoff runs.
But none of those classes were able to spread their success across multiple sports to the extent that the Class of 2016 did.
“I can’t say enough about this current group of young ladies and what they’ve done,” said Princeton Hall of Fame member Rick Boyette, who coached those legendary girls basketball teams of the 1970-80s and is still a frequent substitute teacher at the school. “Their determination, ability to preform at the highest level, to respond to coaching, it’s all been an amazing thing to watch.”
And with the successes of Wood, Peedin, Carroll and the rest of the Class of 2016 ladies coming in a small town school, their names will be spoken often in the years to come.
“To me, being the past athletic director, just having the kids to perform to even be in the state championship is an honor to begin with,” said retired Princeton athletics director Al Musgrave, who was at the school from 1986 until 2011. “But Princeton’s been fortunate. We’ve had some great kids, we have some great kids and we have some great kids coming up.”
That may be the scary part of the equation for future Princeton opponents. Those little girls that move over from the elementary school to the combined campus of Princeton Middle and Princeton High schools are used to seeing Bulldog team wins on the highest level.
“All of these middle school girls, when they come over from the elementary school, they grow up watching these teams succeed,” Boyette said. “And they try to emulate that success. By the time they’re out there playing in high school, they’re motivated to achieve at the highest level because none of them want to be the first group who lets the run of success end.”
Princeton High athletes are quick to recognize that part of being a winning Bulldog.
“The younger girls always come out and support us,” Wood said. “They look up to us as role models so we try to be the best that we can be for them.
“And we just hope that they’re going to try to follow in our footsteps and make the name of Princeton known like we have.”
So what’s all of that hardware?
The Trophies pictured above
Front row, from left
2014 Regional Runner-Up Softball
2014 Regional Champion Volleyball
2012 Regional Runner-Up Volleyball
2014 State Champion Volleyball
2016 State Champion Softball
2015 Regional Champion Volleyball
2013 Regional Runner-Up Volleyball
2015 State Runner-Up Volleyball
2015 Carolina Conference Softball Champions
2015 Carolina Conference Volleyball Tournament Champions
2015 Carolina Conference Volleyball Champions
2013 Carolina Conference Volleyball Tournament Champions
2014 Carolina Conference Softball Champions
2013 Carolina Conference Softball Champions
2012 Carolina Conference Volleyball Champions
2012 Carolina Conference Volleyball Tournament Champions
2012 Carolina Conference Volleyball Champions
2013 Carolina Conference Volleyball Champions
Note: Two trophies are not pictured: the 2016 Regional Champion plaque and the 2016 Carolina Conference softball championship trophy.
Taylor Carroll, Kelsey Peedin and Hailey Wood compiled some impressive individual stats during the Princeton High School softball careers, which ended with the 2016 N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A Softball State Championship win earlier this month.
All three had more than 75 career hits, more than 75 run scored and more than 50 career RBI.
Wood was 33-8 as a starting pitcher with 403 career strikeouts and only 79 walks. She compiled a 0.84 earned-run average with 25 shutouts and seven no-hitters.
At the plate she hit .399 for her career with 89 RBI, a .660 slugging percentage and 52 extra-base hits.
Carroll had 123 runs scored during her Princeton career with a .409 batting average, 124 hits (44 extra-base hits) and 93 RBI.
Peedin scored 100 runs, drove in 52 runs and hit .321 for her career.
Compiled by Michael Held