Fall Athletic Season Wraps Up With Four CHCCS Titles
The athletic programs at Chapel Hill High, East Chapel Hill and Carrboro High School notched plenty of great achievements during the fall sports season, including four team and individual North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) titles: men’s soccer at CHHS, women’s cross country at Carrboro High, and top individual finishers in cross country in both women’s (CHS) and men’s (East). The tradition of excellence across the seasons and sports continues in all three high schools.
Most recently, and to fanfare and excitement, the men’s soccer team at CHHS earned its second straight NCHSAA title on November 17 by beating Marvin Ridge, 1-0. What made the playoffs even more exciting for many local sports fans was that East Chapel Hill’s team was Chapel Hill High’s opponent in the semifinal game on November 14, a game that CHHS won 2-0.
Coach Jason Curtis also coaches the women’s soccer team at CHHS, and they won their own state title last spring. He’s only been head coach since fall of 2014, but he had worked alongside legendary men’s soccer coach, Ron Benson, since 1999, and he took the reins when Benson retired. In 2016, CHHS lost to Marvin Ridge in the finals, so the rematch two years later was a sweet reversal.
Curtis is clearly very proud of his players. In an interview with WRAL following the game, he said, "They’ll do whatever, they can win a sloppy game, like the second half,” Curtis said. “We can pass it around like the first half, good set pieces. Different guys step up … it’s a good group of kids. " He praised the CHHS fans, saying, “You can tell how many people are here, it’s a great community, it’s a great culture for our team, it’s just fun.”
Tim Bennett, CHHS athletic director, said, “Coach Curtis and his staff have done an amazing job working with our kids. They have continued building on the success that Coach Ron Benson started more than 30 years ago. The tradition and pride in our program is special. Our players work hard and believe in the coaches and each other. They have fun playing the game, and the results show on the field. CHHS is very proud of the way that our players represent our program.”
Cross country yielded the three other state titles at the championship meet on November 3; Carrboro High’s women’s team took first place, as did their freshman runner, Hannah Preisser. The top men’s runner in the state was George Hotelling of East Chapel Hill High.
The women’s cross country tradition at CHS is extraordinary for a high school that only opened in 2007. In that time, the women have now won six state 2A titles, and the individual title has gone to a CHS runner for six years as well. Coach Mimi O’Grady noted, “Our long time successful girls’ program went through a rebuilding period with a very young varsity team in 2016. I told the girls that if they gave their all, and worked very hard, we could be the state champion team by 2018. This possibility fueled them for two years. In 2016, we finished 10th at the state meet. In 2017, we finished 4th. The team saw the progress and they began to believe in themselves. Hard, hard work and belief in your training makes real growth happen.”
April Ross, athletic director at CHS, said the success of the cross country program is due to “both incredible talent and incredible coaching. Just having talented runners isn’t enough. The excellent coaching pushes those runners to success.” With state champion Preisser only in ninth grade, and no seniors on this year’s team, CHS continues to build its amazing tradition.
O’Grady mirrors the pride expressed by many of the district’s coaches. “My first priority is always to develop a close knit team. We (Matt Straub, Lucus Lyons and I) coach the ‘whole person’ and not just the ‘runner’ portion of our athlete. We develop very positive relationships among teammates and coaches. Then we weave consistent, well rounded training into the mix. We definitely are goal oriented, and aim for excellence in both big and small things, all season long. The team is very, very close, and they go above and beyond in the race setting because they care about each other, and race for something larger than self, they race for each other.”
The fourth state title this season belongs to cross country runner, George Hotelling, of East. He won the individual 3A title with a time of 15:46.9, and beat out many other top runners from across the state. Coach Stephen Marquis said of his senior, “George has been a good team leader this year most importantly. He has worked hard and communicated well with me which is key to a successful season. I think George and I both knew he would have a chance at a State title if he ran to his potential. He really ran a smart and tough race at the same time. I was really happy for him.”
Randy Trumbower, athletic director at East, echoed the praise from Marquis. “George peaked at the right time. He ran a great race, and Coach had him well-prepared.”
Congratulations to all of the title holders!