This is my last week at The Mount Airy News.
In the fall of 2004, I landed my first full-time sports gig in Mount Airy. I have considered a change for the last couple of years. About a decade and many games later, the time has arrived.
Outside of three years spent doing newspaper layout and design work elsewhere, I have spent most of the past 10 years covering athletes and sporting events here in the scenic foothills of North Carolina, an area rich in talent and personalities for sure.
Thanks for allowing me the privilege of sharing your incredible stories.
I saw so many phenomenal athletes come through during my time here in the foothills.
I recall watching current major leaguer Dustin Ackley play baseball for the powerful South Stokes state championship teams, then covered him with the North Carolina Tar Heels during the Super Regionals in Chapel Hill. I remember talking to Ackley on the phone hours after he had been selected No. 2 overall by the Seattle Mariners in the MLB draft. It was a whirlwind of a week for Ackley, whose Carolina team was getting ready to play in the College World Series. The Walnut Cove native was always gracious to do interviews, and he always made time for his hometown newspaper.
There was one time when I was talking to him on the baseball field immediately after a minor league game when he played for the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. About a minute after I turned the voice recorder on, the post-game fireworks began to go off. He never missed a beat.
I recall the a newspaper photo of then-sophomore Michael Dobson after Mount Airy’s football team won its season opener in 2006. He became a star for the Granite Bears and led Mount Airy to a state football crown in 2008. Dobson made an impact with the East Carolina Pirates as a defensive back, and signed with the Seattle Seahawks last year. Dobson would appear in one preseason game with the Seahawks before being released. If it had been any other team besides the Seahawks, who had the best secondary in the league, maybe Dobson would have been around long enough to make the practice squad. Who knows? It is pretty cool to consider the possibility.
More recently, Scott Meredith, East Surry’s all-time leading basketball scorer, poured in a ridiculous 18 3-pointers in a game for Hargrave Military Academy over the winter. Not long after the video of his 55-point scoring outburst made its way to YouTube, the sharpshooter committed to Division I Saint Francis (Pennsylvania). Meredith was also a heck of a pitcher on East Surry’s historic state runner-up baseball team last year. I had a blast covering those guys during the 31-game win streak and memorable postseason run.
I covered some great teams over the years and this season was no exception. East Surry and North Surry’s baseball teams both made deep postseason runs this spring. Barry Hall, I’m glad our paths crossed, and I wish you the best after stepping away from the game after a hall of fame 40-year coaching career at East Surry. In 2A, North Surry made huge strides under first-year baseball coach Tony Martin this season; with a historic run that ended in the regional final series.
I had the chance to go to Raleigh a couple times during East Surry’s run of four consecutive state softball titles. Then there was the Mount Airy boys tennis teams that captured four state dual-team crowns in six years. Or East Surry’s four straight state golf titles.
Mount Airy and East Surry’s football teams contend for conference titles year in and year out, while the Granite Bears won it all in 2008 and came so close a year later. North Surry’s volleyball team won a couple of state titles and East Surry’s volleyball and boys soccer teams made unprecedented runs to the state finals in 2014.
Surry County is definitely basketball country, and if not for nine-time girls state 1A hoops champion Bishop McGuinness, who knows if Mount Airy or East Surry would have made a trip or two to the state title game over the past 10 years.
In the past decade, this area has produced individual state champions in everything from wrestling, cross-country and golf to tennis and indoor/outdoor track and field.
I want to thank the many coaches and athletic directors kind enough to take a few minutes of their time to talk face-to-face after games, chat for a few minutes on the phone, or respond to emails and text messages. Some coaches consistently kept their cards close to the vest, which I respected. Others were more transparent and often more colorful, which I appreciated.
I’ve had the opportunity to shoot Carolina Panthers football, Wake Forest football and Super Regional college baseball games and was able to document a baseball mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
What I’ll miss the most was getting to know and work with some great folks along the way. I’ll miss many of the athletes, coaches and great people in the community.
I’ll miss the Friday night football games. The chaotic deadlines that followed? Not so much.
Thanks again. It has been a fun ride.