2021 Sports Year in Review
WAKE FOREST — It has been a wild up-and-down year for everyone in 2021. So many life-changing and hi...
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WAKE FOREST — It has been a wild up-and-down year for everyone in 2021. So many life-changing and historic events took place. The same goes for the local sports world, too.
As for me personally, I finally got to go on my honeymoon with my wife after last year’s COVID-19 pandemic forced us to stay close to home after the wedding. We have now been married a whole year and it was certainly a year to remember.
I also entered my seventh year here at The Wake Weekly serving the community by bringing the latest sports new stories around the block. Here’s a recap of how the 2021 sports season went for some of our local teams.
Heritage cross-country made school history, while Wake Forest’s boys team won its fourth conference championship in a row at Wendell Park Jan. 6.
Heritage produced an individual champion in both the boys and girls races for the first time in its 11 years as a program. Max Geckler won the boys race for the second year in a row. Ainsley Donovan won her first conference championship in the girls race.
Donovan won first place with a time of 21 minutes 14.77 seconds. The sophomore finished 23 seconds ahead of her teammate Michaela Brown.
The Huskies tallied 20 points to win their second conference championship in a row. Corinth Holders came in second at 63 points and Wakefield finished right behind them at 64 points. Wake Forest came in fourth with 91 points.
In the boys race, Heritage couldn’t dethrone the Cougars. Wake Forest won first place in the NAC 6 for the fourth time in a row.
The Cougars scored 29 points to claim victory. Wakefield finished second with 69 points and Heritage was right behind them at 70 points.
Nick Hottell finished first for Wake Forest and second overall with a time of 17:40.45. His teammate Andrew Mallo finished closely behind him at 17:41.49. Brandon Lamberti came in sixth at 17:59.88 and Jude Sandridge finished eighth with 18:10.41.
In volleyball, Heritage finished second in the NAC 6 conference and Franklinton placed runner-up in the Big East conference.
Heritage’s swim and dive team won five boys and five girls events to claim its second-straight NAC 6 conference championship Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
The conference title came down to a tight four-way race between Heritage, Wakefield, Wake Forest and Corinth Holders. Morgan and Derstine contributed with 29 points between the two to put the Huskies ahead.
Ava Lassiter also contributed 16 points for Heritage with her diving.
In other events, Heritage won the boys 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1 minute 46.16 seconds, beating out Wake Forest by a second.
James Bennison, who was a part of the 200-yard medley relay team, also won the 200-yard freestyle event with a time of 1:45.76, beating out David Quaresma of Wake Forest by one second.
Bennison also won the 500-freestyle with a time of 4:49.84. The freshman swimmer broke the school record by five seconds previously held by former Husky Grayson Davis back in 2013.
Another top performer for Heritage was Nina Nugent. The sophomore won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.54 seconds and the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 54.71 seconds. Nugent broke her own 50-yard freestyle record she held last year.
Nugent was also part of the girls 200-yard freestyle relay team that won first place with a time of 1:44.28, beating Wake Forest by 0.18 seconds.
Torin Doherty was another Heritage swimmer who performed well in the conference title meet. The junior won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 55.90 seconds. He also placed second in the 100-yard butterfly and broke Davis’ record in that event by finishing the race in 53.67 seconds.
Heritage’s last winning event was the girls 400-yard freestyle relay. The Huskies beat Corinth Holders by a second with a time of 3:54.49.
Heritage won the conference championship with 276 points. Corinth Holders finished second with 275 points, Wake Forest came in third with 208 and Wakefield brought up fourth with 193.
In the 4A state championship Feb. 13, Wake Forest’s Tate Bacon won the title in the boys 100-yard butterfly with a time of 49.27 seconds. The junior also finished second in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 49.75 seconds.
Both Heritage’s boys and girls basketball teams won the NAC 6 conference championship. Both teams had to defeat Knightdale in order to secure the title. The boys defeated Knightdale 72-45 on the road Feb. 12. The girls won by beating Knightdale 84-81 in triple overtime Feb. 16.
In boys soccer, Heritage won the NAC 6 conference championship for the third time in four years by beating Wake Forest 3-0 on the road March 9. The Huskies went undefeated in conference play at 10-0 and went 13-1-1 overall that season.
The Cougars got their revenge by handing Heritage its first loss of the season in the second round of the 4A state playoffs with a score of 2-0 March 19. Wake Forest ended up losing to Apex 4-2 in overtime in the following round March 20.
By beating Wake Forest’s boys lacrosse team in back-to-back games March 3 and 4, Wakefield took home the NAC 6 conference crown for the third time in four years.
It was Phillip Cooley’s first season as the head coach for Wakefield; he got to celebrate it with a conference title.
Wakefield’s historic season was short-lived as the Wolverines lost to Holly Springs 12-6 at home in the first round of the 4A state playoffs March 15.
In girls lacrosse, Wake Forest finished second in the conference, but made a historic run in the state playoffs. The Cougars played in its first 4A east regional title in school history at East Chapel Hill March 24.
However, Wake Forest lost 15-9. The Cougars ended the year with an overall record of 13-3, the most wins in one season in school history.
Speaking of school history, Rolesville’s football team achieved its first conference title by beating Heritage 29-21 at home April 1. Wake Forest had won the NAC 6 conference championship every year since the conference was created in 2016. Now the Rams are the new champs.
Rolesville continued making history by advancing to its first 4A state title game after beating Wake Forest 24-21 in overtime April 30. However, the Rams lost to Vance (now called Chambers) in the state championship game 35-14 May 8.
Wake Forest’s softball team won its first conference championship in seven years with a 10-3 win at Wakefield on Monday April 26. This is also the Cougars’ first NAC 6 conference title since the conference started in 2017.
Wake Forest finished the season 10-2 overall and undefeated in conference play at 10-0. The Cougars ended up losing to Apex Friendship 9-6 at home May 3 in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
Wake Forest’s boys golf team won its first NAC 6 conference title by beating Heritage 155-160 at Olde Liberty Golf Course on Tuesday April 27.
The Cougars finished the regular season undefeated. It’s the first time that has ever happened for the program since the school was in the 3A class. This is the first conference title for Wake Forest’s boys golf team as a 4A squad. The Cougars moved up to 4A in the late 1990s.
Liam Harris was the low medalist of the match. The Cougar shot a 36, while his teammate Josh Buxbaum shot a 37.
Brant Dattilo also had a decent day for the Cougars with a score of 40. His teammate Chris Gerhold shot a 42 to round out the scoring.
For Heritage, both Ryder Massey and Brett Hays shot a 39 each. Trevor Gregory was right behind his teammates with a 40. The loss for the Huskies was their second this season to finish second in the NAC 6 conference.
That same day, Heritage’s girls golf team defeated Wake Forest 125-134 at Olde Liberty Golf Club to win its second NAC 6 conference championship in a row.
The final match of the season came down between the top two clubs in the conference. The Huskies earned the victory by nine strokes to end the regular season undefeated.
The biggest difference in the match was Heritage’s Heather Appelson. The sophomore shot a 35, which is five strokes lower than the next competitor Mary Kathryn Hederick of Wake Forest.
Heritage’s Mary-Sears Brown shot a 43 to finish second on Heritage’s team. Kate Dawson rounded out the scoring for the Huskies with a 47.
It only took one goal in overtime for Heritage’s girls soccer team to claim the NAC 6 conference championship for the third year in a row. The Huskies defeated Wake Forest 1-0 at home Wednesday, April 28.
With the win, Heritage improved to 9-1-1 overall and 9-0-1 in conference play. The Huskies claimed the No. 7 seed for the 4A state playoffs.
Heritage ended up losing to Ashley 2-0 in the second round of the 4A state playoffs May 5.
Wakefield’s girls tennis team defeated Heritage 8-1 at home June 1 to win the NAC 6 conference championship for the second year in a row.
The first time the two conference rivals played, Heritage beat Wakefield 5-4 at home May 14. In the rematch, the Wolverines got even by sweeping the singles matches and winning two out of the three doubles matches.
Wakefield’s Emma Hulicki got the win in the No. 1 match. The sophomore defeated Heritage’s Chase Easterwood 7-5, 6-1. Hulicki also won the NAC 6 Conference Player of the Year award. The Wolverines finished the season 9-1 overall.
Franklin Academy’s Anisah Sison and Abby Armistead won their second 1A east regional championship in a row. The Patriots won the state title last year, but lost in the 1A state semifinals this season.
Rolesville’s track and field team won its third NAC 6 conference championship in a row — and the Rams did it at their home track June 5.
The boys team accumulated 187 points to beat out Wakefield’s 104. The girls team dominated the competition with 210 points compared to Wakefield’s 96 points.
One of the top performers for the Rolesville boys team was Michael Gupton. The junior won the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.71 seconds and the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.37 seconds.
Rolesville’s Zemir McKoy won the boys 300-meter hurdles with a time of 39.91 seconds.
Rolesville’s Micah Larry won the boys long jump with a distance of 21-feet-11-inches.
Rolesville’s Jarwuan Tucker won the boys triple jump with a distance of 44-feet-3-inches.
Rolesville’s boys team also won the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 42.09 seconds and the 4x200-meter relay with a time of 1:33.14.
Jaidyn Ramsey was one of the top performers for the Rolesville girls team. The junior won the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.54 seconds and the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.50 seconds.
Joslyn Hamilton also had a big day for Rolesville’s girls squad. The freshman won the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.38 seconds and the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 46.46 seconds.
Hamilton also won the high jump with a height of 5-feet-2-inches.
Rolesville’s Jada Clark and Leiloni Sharpe tied for first place the girls long jump with a distance of 16-feet-1-inch. Clark won the triple jump with a distance of 33-feet-6.2-inches.
Rolesville’s Peyton Estes won the girls shot put with a distance of 33-feet-5-inches.
Rolesville’s girls team also won the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 48.20 seconds.
Franklin Academy’s Aaron Rovnak set two new state records at the 1A track and field state championship at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro Friday June 25 in the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter run.
In the 1,600-meter run, Rovnak ran a time of 4:17.39. The previous record was 4:19 from Brent Surratt in 2019.
In the 3,200-meter run, Rovnak ran a time of 9:27.48. The previous record was set in 1993.
Rovnak was also a member of the boys 4x800-meter relay team that finished third with a time of 8:39.44. The senior was later named the 1A state championship MVP for his record-breaking performance.
In the 4A state championship, Rolesville’s girls 4x100-meter relay team of Jaidyn Ramsey, Khaylan Brown, Omolayo Balogum and Joslyn Hamilton finished second overall with a time of 47.40 seconds.
Rolesville’s boys 4x100-meter relay team of Micah Larry, Jarwuan Tucker, Zemir McKoy and Noah Rogers finished fourth overall with a time of 42.71 seconds.
Larry placed second in the boys long jump with a distance of 22-feet-0.5-inches.
Wake Forest’s Andrew Mallo finished second in the boys 800-meter run with a time of 1:53.25.
Wakefield’s Paul Ward finished third in the boys shot put with a distance of 53-feet-5-inches. The senior also placed fifth in the discus throw with a distance of 154-feet-4-inches.
As a team, Rolesville’s boys squad finished fifth in the state championship with 34 points behind Ardrey Kell’s 40. The Lady Rams team placed ninth in the state championship with 24.5 points behind Mallard Creek’s 32.
In the 3A state championship, Franklinton’s Mikala Kearney finished fifth in the girls 300-meter hurdles with a time of 48.07 seconds. The senior also placed ninth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.29 seconds.
Wake Forest and Wakefield’s wrestling teams had great performances at the NAC 6 conference championship tournament at Knightdale June 5.
Both the Cougars and the Wolverines produced three wrestlers who finished first place in their respective weight classes. Wake Forest also had five second-place finishes and one third-place winner.
Wakefield had four runner-ups and two third-place finishes.
Rolesville also had a decent outing with three first-place finishers in the tournament. Heritage produced two first-place winners and two runner-ups.
Wakefield’s Daniel Martinez won the 106-pound weight class by pinning Wake Forest’s Bryanna Luihn in the second period. The sophomore is 14-1 overall this season.
Rolesville’s Jake Falk won the 113-pound weight class by pinning Wakefield’s Hagan Meyer in the second period. The senior is 12-0 overall this season.
Rolesville’s Frank Bianco won the 120-pound weight class by a 6-4 decision over Heritage’s Cael Bergquist. The freshman is 15-0 overall this season.
Wake Forest’s Zachary O’Briant won the 126-pound weight class by a 7-0 decision over Corinth Holders’ Blake Hines. The senior is 12-4 overall this season.
Heritage’s John Helmers won the 132-pound weight class by pinning Wakefield’s Kobe Masingale in the second period. The senior is 5-1 overall this season.
Wakefield’s Zachary Russo won the 138-pound weight class by a 6-3 decision over Corinth Holders’ Joseph Palmer. The freshman is 12-4 overall this season.
Heritage’s Jeremiah Smith won the 145-pound weight class by a 9-2 decision over Wake Forest’s Lucas Eudy. The junior is 6-0 overall this season.
Wake Forest’s Ben Lance won the 160-pound weight class by a 17-5 major decision over Wakefield’s Andrew Fanelly. The senior is 16-0 overall this season.
Rolesville’s Colby Hawley won the 170-pound weight class by pinning Wake Forests’ Thomas McHale in the third period. The senior is 14-2 overall this season.
Wakefield’s Jaivon Williams won the 182-pound weight class by a 6-4 decision over Wake Forest’s Kalin Sykes. The senior is 14-4 overall this season.
Wake Forest’s Caleb Beaty won the 195-pound weight class by pinning Heritage’s Seth Johnson in the first period. The sophomore is 13-1 overall this season.
Beaty ended up winning the 4A state championship June 26. The sophomore took down Lake Norman’s Carson Floyd at Glenn High School in Kernersville in a 6-4 decision. Beaty is the third Wake Forest wrestler in school history to win a state title.
Heritage’s baseball team won its first conference championship in school history by beating Wake Forest 4-3 at home Tuesday June 8.
However, the Huskies wouldn’t celebrate long as they lost to Hoggard 5-4 in the first round of the 4A state playoffs June 15.
The NCHSAA brought back the regular high school sports schedule for the 2021-22 season with fall sports.
Heritage and Wake Forest both tied for second place in the NAC 6 conference in volleyball. Millbrook won the conference title.
In the final girls golf match of the regular season at Heritage Golf Club, Wakefield’s girls golf team finished second in the match behind conference champion Millbrook to finish second in the NAC 6 standings Wednesday, Oct. 13.
As a team, Millbrook scored 128 compared to Wakefield’s 134. Heritage finished third in both the match and the conference standings after scoring a 135. Wake Forest came in fourth with 147 and Rolesville in fifth at 185.
Another big accomplishment for Wakefield was that Terra Schmitt won the NAC 6 conference player of the year. The senior tied Heather Appelson’s score of 36 in the final match of the regular season, but she scored 214 over six matches throughout the year.
In cross-country, Heritage’s girls cross-country team won its third NAC 6 conference championship in a row after beating out Millbrook by nine points Monday Oct. 18 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
Ainsley Donovan and Charlotte Wakefield finished second and third overall respectively for the Huskies. Donovan ran a time of 19:40.58 and Wakefield clocked in at 19:45.99.
Heritage’s Ella White and Madison Groves were difference makers as well, finishing sixth and seventh respectively. White ran a time of 21:05.58 and Groves clocked in at 21:07.91.
Heritage’s girls team scored 30 points to take the title and Millbrook scored 39. Wakefield came in third with 81 points and Wake Forest finished fourth with 87 points. Wake Forest’s Olivia Fischlein finished first overall with a time of 19:37.39. Wakefield’s top runner was Emma Grace Fischer, who finished eighth overall with a time of 21:20.84.
As for the boys conference championship race, Millbrook finished first with 24 points and Wake Forest came in second with 49 points.
Heritage’s girls tennis team finished the regular season with its best finish in school history at second place in the NAC 6 conference by beating Wake Forest at home 8-1 Thursday Oct. 7.
The Huskies finished behind Millbrook and ahead of Wakefield with an overall record of 10-3 and a conference record of 8-2. Heritage lost to Millbrook twice and swept the Wolverines this season, which is also the first time in program history that has happened.
Heritage qualified for the 4A state tournament as a team for the first time in school history.
Franklin Academy’s Anisah Sison and Abby Armistead continue to cement their names into the history books by winning their third girls tennis doubles team regional championship in a row. The pair of Patriots defeated Raleigh Charter’s doubles team 6-2, 6-3 in the 2A Mid East regional championship at Burlington Saturday Oct. 23.
The two seniors started their regional championship streak as sophomores, where they ended up becoming the first doubles state champions in school history. This past season as juniors, Sison and Armistead won regionals, but lost in the state semifinals.
Wakefield’s boys soccer team won its first conference championship in school history after beating Heritage 3-0 at home Monday Oct. 18.
Not only is it the first time the Wolverines won a conference title, but it’s also the first time the team has swept Heritage in a single season since 2012. It’s also the first time Wakefield has shut out Heritage twice in one season.
With the win, Wakefield improved to 10-4-3 overall and 7-1-1 in conference play. However, the Wolverines lost to Apex Friendship 3-1 at home in the first round of the 4A state playoffs Monday Nov. 1.
In football, Wake Forest, Millbrook and Heritage tied for first place in the NAC 6 conference after the Huskies defeated Rolesville 43-40 on the road Oct. 29. It was Heritage’s first conference title for football in school history.
However, it was Rolesville who ended up going deeper into the playoffs. The Rams lost to Cardinal Gibbons 36-28 on the road Dec. 3 in the 4A east regional final.
What a year it was for high school sports. Did I forget anything significant or leave something out from 2021? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll include it in next week’s print edition.
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