The 2021-22 school year was an memorable one for the Swansboro High School athletic program.

The boys basketball team made an exceptional run, the school flexed its girl power with new teams and standout athletes and a handful of coaches won Coach of the Year awards in the 3A Coastal Conference.

The league underwent realignment in the offseason, placing Swansboro in the same conference as West Carteret, Croatan, White Oak, Dixon and Richlands. The school won no team titles among the fall, winter and spring seasons, but there was still plenty of competitive finishes and individual awards.

The school’s female student-athletes brought home plenty of hardware and blazed new trails as pioneers in a new sport during the school year.

Two new athletic programs made a splash for the Pirates this school year with the girls wrestling team and girls lacrosse teams both making their debuts.

The school welcomed 30 wrestlers in January for the first-ever girls-only tournament in the eastern part of the state. West Carteret, Croatan, East Carteret, Havelock, South Brunswick, White Oak, Dixon and Richlands all brought wrestlers to the event.

The Bucs wrestling team, coached by Ken Gawronski, had nine girls on the roster, including Drew Rasenberger, Alexis Steffan, Bridgette Westbrook, Reilynn Swift, Maranda Pearson and Katie McElmon.

At the N.C. High School Athletic Association Women’s Invitational, Swift was the top finisher with third place at 152 pounds.

During the NCHSAA spring meeting, women’s wrestling was sanctioned as an official sport for the 2022-2023 school year with an inaugural official state tournament slated for 2023.

The girls lacrosse team had a strong roster of 21 in its debut season. The Pirates finished 6-10 overall and 2-4 in the conference. Freshman Tristan Douthat was the top scorer for the team with 35 goals and three assists.

Another freshman, Delaney Horton, was the top girls runner for the school during the year. In the fall, she placed second at regionals with a time of 18 minutes, 32.23 seconds and she placed fourth at the state meet in 19:07.27. Her regional time would have been good for second place at states.

In the winter, Horton placed second at the indoor track and field 1,000-meter run state championship with a time of 3:11.93.

In the spring, Horton led the girls soccer team with 14 goals and eight assists to help the Bucs finish 11-6-5 overall and 5-3-2 in the conference.

Senior Emily Matthews captured her third straight 3A Coastal Conference Player of the Year award in the fall despite playing through a major injury.

Matthews has been the first-place golfer in her conference since she was a sophomore. This year was no different as she averaged a 41 through nine-hole matches. She did it all playing through a torn labrum sustained during her junior season.

The Pirates were stellar during the winter sports season between an exceptional run from the boys basketball team and a bounce-back season for the boys wrestling program.

The Swansboro boys basketball team finished the regular season 20-2 overall and 8-2 in the 3A Coastal Conference. The team placed second in the league, but head coach Brett McFarland still won the Coach of the Year award.

Leading scorer Gerren Jones – 19.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game – was named to the N.C. Basketball Coaches Association District 2 team for his performance during the season.

Ken Gawronski took over the wrestling program before the 2021-22 season and earned a Coach of the Year award as he led the Pirates to a 20-6 dual team record and a second-place finish in the conference tournament. It was a solid bounce-back from a 13-13 finish in the 2020-21 season.

The Bucs tied for third in the 3A eastern region tournament, where Tyler Cowell, Isaac Gawronski and Theodore Yager each won a championship. Cowell was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

Cowell, who started the season late as he recovered from an injury, finished with a 29-3 record, Yager finished 49-6 and Gawronski 45-7.

The school’s girls basketball team also finished its season 11-11 overall and 5-5 in conference play and the boys swim team placed fourth at the east regional meet.

The school’s baseball and softball coaches were both recognized by the Coastal Conference as the best in the league.

Adam Daley got the nod after helping the baseball team finish 15-8 overall and 6-4 in the conference. Frank Peck earned the award for helping the Bucs go 16-7 overall and 6-4 in league play.

The softball team’s finish was a strong response to the program’s 4-7 finish in 2021. It won eight of its first nine games and every regular season loss came down to two runs or less.

Tara Lepore was the team’s top player, finishing with team highs in hits (48), runs (39), stolen bases (43) batting average (.623) and extra-base hits (6).

On the baseball diamond, the Pirates’ .652 win percentage was a solid upgrade from the 5-7 (.416) record posted last season. Their only league losses were to West Carteret and Croatan, two teams that advanced to the fourth and third round of the state playoffs, respectively.

Rusty Haswell led the team in runs with 31 and he tallied 23 hits, 11 RBIs and two triples on top of that. He also stole a whopping 27 bases and recorded eight double plays on defense. On the pitching mound, he tossed a team-high 34 2/3 innings, striking out 48 batters and posting a 4.64 ERA.

The Pirates had a solid fall season with strong play from the football, boys soccer and boys cross country team.

The Pirates placed second in the conference on the boys soccer pitch. Head coach Doug Kidd was named the conference’s Coach of the Year for helping the team finish 13-9 overall and 7-3 in the Coastal. The team advanced to the second round of the state playoffs before losing to Jacksonville 2-1.

Steven Floyd was the leading scorer for the boys team, finishing with 19 goals and eight assists.

On the gridiron, the Bucs went 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the conference for third place under first-year head coach Shea Townsend.

The team was pass-heavy with quarterback Hunter Johnson throwing for 1,478 yards and 12 touchdowns. His two leading receivers were Isaiah Bromelle with 421 yards and four touchdowns and Amare Caines with 420 yards and two scores. On defense, Wilkens led with 82 tackles, three forced fumbles and two recoveries. Wilkens was the only starter to graduate in the spring.

The Swansboro cross country team placed second in the conference tournament and top runner Cesar Brawner, who placed second in the conference meet, wound up finishing sixth at the east regional meet with a 16:38.31 clocking.

Email Zack Nally at zack@thenewstimes.com.

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