CHAPEL HILL — All year long, the bulletin board outside Mount Airy High School included the message “P4CP” along with whatever else was going on at the time, standing for “Play For Coach Price.”
On Thursday evening, the Granite Bears gave their former Athletic Director the greatest achievement of his career, 356 days after his death at the age of 52 from pancreatic cancer.
Price spent 13 years in charge of the athletic program at Mount Airy High School, serving in the role right up to his death on June 17, 2016. During that time, he worked tirelessly to make the MAHS athletic program a benchmark for all other 1A schools to try to match.
This year, the Granite Bears did it. Mount Airy High School is the first 1A traditional public school since 2008 to win the Wells Fargo Cup, emblematic of the top all-sports high school program in the state.
“We were speaking about it today,” said Jonathan Wilmoth, who along with Angela Mayfield took over Price’s duties following his death. “This has been a tough year for everyone. Winning the Wells Fargo Cup is the culmination of a lot of work.
“Coach Price did a lot of this. The athletic director’s job is a lot of time-consuming work, and he laid the foundation. Angela and I stepped in just to semi-fill his shoes.”
Mount Airy’s bid to become the first traditional (non open-enrollment, charter or parochial) school to win the 1A Wells Fargo Cup since Hendersonville in 2008 wasn’t even close. The Granite Bears won two team state championships, three West Regional titles, and had five teams reach the regional final. With a total of 515 points, Mount Airy beat runner-up Lincoln Charter by 137.5 points, a suitable revenge on that school for beating the Bears in the boys’ 1A regional basketball final in a controversial ending.
Eight of the top 11 1A schools in the final standings for the Wells Fargo Cup, given by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, were non-traditional schools. For the last nine years, one or another of these schools had taken home the award.
Only two other traditional schools were in the top 11 this year. Murphy was third overall, with 372.5 points, five behind Lincoln Charter, and Whiteville was eighth with 337.5 points.
Mount Airy’s margin of victory was the greatest of any school in any classification. In the 2A Cup standings, Carrboro beat Lake Norman Charter by 32.5 points, while in 3A, Marvin Ridge beat Weddington by 100.83. Green Hope outdistanced Cardinal Gibbons 515-430 in the 4A Cup.
“I’m so proud of all of our student-athletes,” said Wilmoth. “This was a complete and utter team effort, across all of our sports. It was a combination of work from our athletes, coaches and a very supportive administration.”
The Bears led from wire to wire in the race for the Cup. In the fall, Mount Airy reached the West Regional final in football, the state championship match in girls’ tennis, and finished tied for seventh in girls’ golf (which was counted as a third place among 1A teams, since this was a combined 1A/2A meet). They turned up the heat in the winter sports season, in which Mount Airy won the state championship in girls’ basketball (led by Mayfield, in her first year as a head coach), finished as state runners-up in boys’ indoor track, reached the regional final in boys’ basketball, and the state quarterfinals in wrestling.
Going into the spring, the Bears led by 130 points over Lincoln Charter. The Lions had a good spring — but so did Mount Airy.
The spring season saw a second straight 1A state boys’ outdoor track title for the Bears. Lincoln Charter won the state boys’ golf title, but Mount Airy came in fifth. The Bears actually extended their lead during the spring sports season.
Wells Fargo Cup points are determined by a system based on performance in state championship events. All schools that finish in the top eight positions (plus ties) earn points. In the playoff events involving teams from more than one classification, Wells Fargo Cup points are awarded based on the school’s standing against other schools in its own classification. If fewer than eight schools from a classification compete in a sport, only those schools that are represented are eligible to receive the Cup points.
Points are awarded for all sports as follows: 50 for first, 45 for second, 40 for third, 35 for fourth, 30 for fifth, 25 for sixth, 20 for seventh and 15 for eighth. In the event of a tie, the schools receive and equal number of points based on the number of teams that tie and the number of teams that finish higher in the standings. Five points are awarded for each sanctioned sport in which a school competes.
This was the 38th year the trophy has been awarded. Until 2011, it was known as the Wachovia Cup, changing its name when that company merged with Wells Fargo.
The last traditional school to win the award at the 1A level was Hendersonville, which beat out Bishop McGuinness for the 1A Wachovia Cup in 2008.
North Surry tied for 15th place in the 2A version of the Wells Fargo Cup, with 227.5 points.
2016-17 1A State Cup Final Standings
1) Mount Airy – 515
2) Lincoln Charter – 377.5
3) Murphy – 372.5
4) Franklin Academy – 370
5) Raleigh Charter – 360
T6) Gray Stone Day – 345
T6) Bishop McGuinness – 345
8) Whiteville – 337.5
T9) Voyager Academy – 332.5
T9) Community School of Davidson – 332.5
11) Pine Lake Preparatory – 312.5
12) East Carteret – 260
T13) Riverside-Martin – 242.5
T13) North Stokes – 242.5
15) Wallace-Rose Hill – 237.5
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.