ON CAMPUS: The Top 10 of '12
As 2012 comes to an end and 2013 begins its reign, I take a moment to look back over the great accomplishments of our local collegiate athletes over the past year.
Some athletes led their teams to conference championships while others rewrote their alma maters' record books. A few even made national headlines.
Graduating seniors went out in style giving us their swan songs while underclassman wowed us leaving us looking forward to what may be in store next season.
In true David Letterman fashion, here are the Top Ten collegiate achievements of 2012.
Senior Clifford Blanquicet (Grace Christian) made the All-South Atlantic Conference team and played an integral part in helping Wingate win the South Atlantic Conference Men’s Golf Tournament Championship. During the season Blanquicet won first place medalist honors in the Wingate Pinehurst Challenge at National Golf Club and also tied for first in the Carolina Sands Invitational.
Freshman Dillon Frye (LCHS) (3-0, 1-0) contributed to No. 11-ranked NC State’s journey to the NCAA Super Regionals,The Wolfpack (43-20, 19-11) eventually fell to top-seeded Florida keeping them out of the NCAA World Series. Frye made appearances in 14 games this season with one start and had the third-best ERA on the team at 2.31.
Zach Furl (LCHS) finished his senior year making the record books for UNC Greensboro having appeared in 93 ball games over his career ranking him sixth all-time in appearances for the Spartans. Furl finished his senior year as one of UNCG's best relievers with a 3-0 record and two saves. Furl’s 4.03 ERA was the second lowest in the Spartan bullpen.
Ebony Murchison (LCHS) wrapped up her senior year at Morris College as an award-winning three-sport athlete playing volleyball, basketball and softball. In volleyball, Murchison led the Hornets in kills with 252, attack attempts with 717 and points, scoring 294 of her teams 542 points this season. In softball, she led or was second in five of the Lady Hornet batting categories.
In just his seventh game as an ECU Pirate, junior Akeem Richmond (SLHS) played an integral part in setting a new ECU school record for three-pointers made in a game as the Pirates routed St. Andrews 111-59. Richmond’s 5-for-10 shooting from behind the arc added to ECU’s 18-for-36 deep balls setting a new school record. After 10 games, Richmond is currently the Pirates' leading sharp shooter hitting 24-for-54 from behind the arc leading the team shooting 44.4 percent.
Now, onto the Top Ten Athletes of 2012 and their accomplishments.
No. 10 - Josh Kelly (LCHS) was named team MVP and helped lead the Appalachian State Club Baseball Team to a Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament Championship and a berth in the NCBA World Series at Golden Park in Columbus, Ga. Kelly finished the season with an impressive 8-1 record and several conference Pitcher of the Week honors for the Mountaineers.
No. 9 - Senior All-American Jonathon McCurry (SLHS) and fellow senior Carson Lanier (LCHS) led UNC Pembroke’s golf team to its first-ever Peach Belt Conference Championship and a fourth-place finish in the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional Tournament earning the Braves their first berth in the NCAA Division II National Championships at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Ky. Along the way, McCurry’s second-round 63 at the Magnolia Invitational in Orangeburg, SC set a new course record and tied a record for the lowest single round carded in the Peach Belt Conference as well as tied an 18-year-old UNC Pembroke record for lowest single round.
No. 8 - Senior Patrick Hamel (LCHS), goalie for No. 23-ranked Methodist University (15-2-3, 5-1-2), led the Monarchs to their first USA South Tournament Championship since 1995. With the conference title win, the Monarchs clinched the USA South's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Hamel finished his career with the Monarchs with a 15-3-3 record, starting in all 21 games, grabbing 69 saves and only allowing 19 goals on 146 attempts with six shutouts. For his efforts, Hamel was named to the USA South All-Conference team as well as being one of the 11 players selected for the USA South All-Tournament team.
No. 7 - Senior Morgan Andrews (Chatham Central), playing catcher for Guilford College, was awarded the 2012 Nereus C. English '26 Athletic Leadership Award; the highest award a Guilford student-athlete can receive reflecting academic excellence, athletic ability and leadership. A four-year captain and starter at catcher for the Quaker softball team, Andrews compiled a long list of athletic and academic accomplishments. She completed her senior year leading or second in 11 batting and fielding categories for the Quakers.
No. 6 - Preseason All-American Trey Such (LCHS) broke Methodist’s career home run record by hitting 35 long balls. Such finished his senior year leading or finishing second in 11 batting and fielding categories for the Monarchs.
No. 5 - Dennis Godfrey (LCHS) graduated from Wake Forest University and signed a contract to play professional football in France for the Saint Ouen l'Aumone Cougars in the Elite Football Conference. Godfrey will play offensive tackle for the Elite A team and serve as the offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator for the B team, Juniors, Cadets and a Flag Football team.Their season lasts from February through June.
No. 4 - Junior Keeley Wood (SLHS) won the 2012 SAC Championship at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn. earning first team All-SAC honors and the SAC Runner of the Year award. She qualified for the NCAA Division II National Cross Country meet by finishing second place in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals. She then capped an impressive junior season by finishing 103rd out of 249 runners at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country meet in Joplin, Mo., setting a new personal record of 22:21.8, marking her as the top NCAA Division II Southeast Regional finisher in the competition. Wood was the second Wingate runner ever to advance to a national championship race. This past spring, Wood shattered two Wingate track records while helping to lead the Bulldogs to a Southeast Regional Championship. Wood set new records in the mile with a time of 5:23.63 and the 3,000-meter run with a 11:03.05 finish. At the Regional Championship she won the 5,000-meter run with a time of 19:25.98 helping to lock up the Southeast Regional Championship for the Bulldogs.
No. 3 - Senior Tobias Palmer (NHS) set a new NC State school and ACC record for most all-purpose yards in a game collecting 496 all-purpose yards against Clemson. His 277 yards on kick returns also set a new NC State school record for kick return yardage in a game and was six yards shy of the ACC record. Palmer’s career day included seven catches for 219 yards, three touchdowns and eight kickoff returns for 277 yards including an 81-yard scamper. His 496 all-purpose yards eclipses NC State’s previous leader, T.J. Graham, who had 336 last season and trumps the ACC record set by Wake Forest’s John Leach of 411 yards in 1993. Palmer’s career-best 219 yards receiving ranks third on the all-time single game receiving list, only behind two games turned in by Pack receiver Torry Holt in 1998. For his performance Palmer was named the ACC Player of the Week.
No. 2 - Aaron Mellette (SLHS) completed a record-setting career at wide receiver at Elon University setting several Phoenix, Southern Conference and national records while collecting multiple postseason All-American honors. Mellette led the SoCon and ranked second nationally in both receptions per game (8.82) and receiving yards per game (127.09) to earn all-league distinction for the third consecutive season. His league-leading 108 points this season came on 18 receiving touchdowns, which are tied for the second-most ever in a single season in SoCon history. In his senior season, Mellette caught 97 passes for 1,398 yards. He eclipsed 100 receiving yards in eight of Elon's 11 games, including matching career-highs with 237 yards and three touchdowns against Appalachian State. Mellette concluded his career with 4,254 receiving yards, 304 receptions, 44 TD catches and 23 100-yard games. All of those rank second in both Elon and Southern Conference history. Mellette’s efforts earned him selections to four All-American teams: the Walter Camp Football Foundation 2012 FCS All-American team, the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association and The Sports Network/Fathead.com. This is the third consecutive year that Mellette has received All-American honors. Mellette was also invited to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Jan. 26. The Senior Bowl pits college football’s best senior stars and top NFL draft prospects on teams representing the North and South which are coached by staffs from two NFL teams.
No. 1 - Junior All-American wrestler Mike Williams (SLHS) won the NCAA National Championship at the Division II National Tournament going a perfect 4-0 in the 165-pound class. His title gave the Braves their first-ever wrestling national championship (team or individual) and UNC Pembroke’s first national championship of any kind since 1982. Williams wrapped up his junior season with an impressive 34-1 mark, going 23-1 in tournament matches and 11-0 in dual meets. He led the Braves in major decisions with seven and was second in pins with nine. When wrestling against other Division II wrestlers, he finished a perfect 26-0. Competing in his senior year, Williams has already won two tournament titles and owns a 17-1 mark heading into Christmas break. In his career with the Braves, Williams has won 10 career tournament titles and compiled a 91-10 record.