liquid fire

Team Liquid Fire from Cape Carteret caught a 51.82-pound smoker to win the Swansboro Rotary Five-0 King Mackerel Tournament. Pictured from the left holding their tourney-winning king mackerel are, Crockett Henderson, Audrey Henderson, Mark Henderson, Joshua Henderson and Chris Waters. (Levey photo)

By RICH LEVEY

Tideland News writer

As we say goodbye to 2014, its time to look back at some of the stories that made major impacts in the community.

It was another vintage year for sports in the community, with teams and individuals making their marks in a variety of athletic endeavors.

Number one: Rotary king tourney

A pound of king mackerel was worth about $57,824 at the 35th annual Swansboro Rotary Club’s Five-0 King Mackerel Tournament.

That figure represented the difference between first and second place in the annual tournament, which was decided by 1.1 pounds.

After some anxious moments at the Swansboro Waterfront weigh station, the tourney winner proved to be a 51.82-pound king mackerel caught by Liquid Fire.

Captain Mark Henderson and the Cape Carteret team landed their smoker on the first day of the tournament, and had to endure some stressful hours as they waited for the weigh station to close Sunday afternoon.

Responsible for most of their anxiety was the OBX Girl from Tarboro, which was waiting patiently at the dock for the scales to open at 4 p.m.

The OBX Girl landed a monster king the morning of the second day and made a bee line back to the docks to weight their fish.

Captain Jim Dupree Jr. and crew hauled their big catch to the scale, only to see it tip the scale at 50.72 pounds – 1.1 pound short of the first place fish.

That meant Team Liquid Fire earned the top prize of $73,435, while the OBX Girl won $15,611.

Rounding out the top three was Capt. Phillip Crooms Jr. and his Emerald Isle-based boat, Money Grows on Trees, which caught a 49.36-pound king and won $13,334.

Henderson explained that it was hard to keep his mind off a big fish knocking him from the top spot as he fished Sunday.

“It was really nerve racking,” he said. “When you go into day two with the lead, you’re worrying about someone coming in with a bigger fish. We heard that OBX Girl had a really big fish and that was in the back of my mind most of the day. Waiting for all the other fish to be weighed makes for a long day.”

Team member Audrey Henderson, Mark’s wife, was waiting at dockside prior to the scales opening Sunday.

“Yesterday I was anxious because I knew our guys had a big king,” she explained. “It was just a matter of waiting for them to get back and weigh it in to see how big. Today I’m anxious because I heard on the radio that a couple of other boats had big fish, and you worry about getting knocked from the top spot. It’s a different kind of anxious, not as good as yesterday’s.”

But when the dust settled, the Hendersons had nothing to worry about.

“This has been an amazing experience,” said Mark. “This is a special tournament and it feels great to win it. It’s a great format and the guys from the Swansboro Rotary have really worked hard to make this a fantastic tournament. It’s a well put together, well organized and high-paying event, and we feel very blessed to have won.”

Team Liquid Fire, which fishes from a 375 Intrepid center console, powered by three Yamaha 350-horsepower four-stroke outboards, finished second in the 2013 tournament with a 42.6-pound king.

“Intrepid is one of the main sponsors of the tournament, and that makes it even more special for us to win,” said Mark.

The tournament was co-directed by Brandon Sewell and Justin Cleve. Sewell said this year’s event was a record-setter in a variety of ways.

“This year’s tournament was wildly successful and a record-setting event for the Swansboro Rotary Club.” he said. “After two days of fishing the 50 teams that came from all over the southeastern United States had a leader board unrivaled by any fishing destination in the country. 

“Intrepid Powerboats’ Liquid Fire Fishing Team, a local family-fishing team that has been a huge supporter of our tournament for many years, won the event with a 51.82-pound monster. We’re proud to announce that we presented them with the largest first place payout of any King mackerel tournament in the world, $73,435! Right here in Swansboro!”

Number two: Kidd honored

When Doug Kidd arrived at Swansboro High School in 2009 to take the reins of the soccer program, it was a match made in Heaven.

A successful, veteran coach with a passion for the game working at a school with a soccer-rich tradition, which shared his passion and love for the sport.

Swansboro was known statewide for its soccer prowess prior to his arrival, but Kidd has taken the Pirates to new heights.

His most impressive coaching job might have been with last spring’s girls’ team. Competing for the first time at the 3A level, the Swansboro girls went 25-3 overall, 11-1 in the Coastal Conference, and advanced all the way to the state title match. The Lady Pirates were denied a storybook ending to their season when they were upset 2-1 in the finals by A.C. Reynolds.

Kidd clearly impressed his coaching peers with last year’s season with the Lady Pirates, because on Dec. 16 he was selected the National Soccer Coaches Association girls’ soccer coach of the year for the large high school division.

He will be presented is award at the annual NSCAA awards banquet in Baltimore, Md. on Jan. 15.

“This is a great honor for our players and our coaching staff,” said the coach. “It all comes down to them. This is an individual award, but it’s a team effort. The biggest reason for my success is the players going out there and getting the job done. I’m very fortunate to coach competitive kids who play soccer year round. They have a passion and love for the game, and that makes my job easy.”

The 47-year-old Kidd has been coaching for 24 years. He began his coaching career at Watauga High School in 1992 after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he played soccer. Kidd and his family moved to Swansboro in 2009.

Kidd has a career record of 722-286-91, with a 276-91-24 mark at the helm of the Swansboro boys’ and girls’ teams.

Under his leadership, the Lady Pirates have won seven conference championships, three state championships and one state championship runner-up.

His boys’ teams have won three conference titles and last fall advanced to the eastern quarterfinal match.

Kidd explained that there were several keys to his coaching success.

“I treat my players with respect and listen to what they have to say,” he explained. “Many of our kids play year-round and play for some great coaches, and are very knowledgeable about the game. I’m always open to listening to their opinions.”

He added that quality assistant coaches and senior leadership are also factors in his winning ways.

“I surround myself with good people. I feel like I have the best coaching staff around. Because I have a quality staff, it allows me to do some great things training wise. I’m able to turn over much of the responsibility to my assistants, which allows us to do a lot of position training.

“I also believe in going out and playing the best programs we can, facing teams that will make us better. I also believe in having strong leadership from our captains. As soon as the season ends, we get together and select our captains for the next year. I look for leaders on and off the field.”

Swansboro High School principal Chris André said Kidd has made the school proud with his accomplishments, on and off the field.

“Coach Kidd stepped into a program that was already established and managed to take it to new levels,” she said. “He has ensured that our athletes are well rounded, excelling in the classroom and on the field. He has found a perfect balance, which is hard to achieve. Coach Kidd has built a solid program, which has made Swansboro High School proud.”

Number three: Layko wins gold

Croatan High School’s Sammy Jo Layko capped her distinguished track and field career in grand fashion, winning her third and fourth individual state championships.

The Lady Cougar senior won her third consecutive state crown in the discus and her first in the shot put. Layko won the discus with a throw of 128 feet, 11 inches, handily topping second place Bria Roddy from Monroe who threw 112.

Layko also comfortably won the shot put with a toss of 39-6.5, defeating second place Amy Yarbrough from Hendersonwille who threw 37-7.5

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A track and field championships were staged at the Irwin Belk Track at North Carolina A&T University.

“This is obviously something I’ve been working hard for and a lot of people are proud of me, so it’s pretty nice,” said Layko. “I went in ranked number one in both events, so that was exciting. I’ve never done that well in the shot put before, so it was nice to bring home two championships.”

As evidenced by her three state championships, Layko has been the state’s premier discus thrower in the 2A ranks the last three years. The last time she failed to win the event in a regular season or post-season meet was in the state finals her freshman year. The last time she failed to win the shot put was in last year’s state finals, where she finished fifth.

Layko was far from peak form in the finals, coming well short of her personal bests in both events.

“I wasn’t particularly pleased with my throws in the finals, they were just average,” she explained. “But they won, so I can’ be mad about it.”

Layko was quick to point out that the lack of competition had nothing to do with her throws.

“I don’t really feed off other people’s performances, I just go out there and do my own thing.”

Last year Layko’s gold medal winning discus throw was 131-5 and her sophomore year it was 122-1. Her personal best is 142 feet.

Layko is an cool competitor in the throwing ring and she’s taken the same low-key approach to winning two gold medals in the state finals.

“It’s pretty nice, but I haven’t thought too much about it yet,” she explained. “I’ve been so focused on my grades and what I want to get out of my life. But I imagine when I do get around to thinking about it all, I’ll be really pleased with myself.”

Number four: Colborn is state champion

After knocking on the door the last three years, Andrew Colborn finally kicked it down.

The Croatan High School senior captured the gold medal in the 182-pound weight class in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 2A state wrestling championship tournament.

In his prior three tournament appearances, Colborn finished third, fourth and fourth.

“The feeling is indescribable,” explained Colborn. “It’s such a good feeling, it’s hard to put into words. The bus ride was much more fun with a first place, instead of a second or third.”

Colborn defeated Brevard’s Nick Siniard 3-2 in the championship match, to finish the season with a 29-0 record. The match wasn’t decided until Colburn scored a point in the second of two ultimate ride out sessions.

Making Colborn’s state title even more impressive was the fact that he had to recover from a torn ACL injured Aug. 22 in Croatan’s first football game of the season.

Colborn had to undergo major surgery to repair the damaged knee on Sept. 16. However, through his hard rehabilitation work, he made a miraculous recovery and was back on the mat in mid-December.

“If you had told me for months ago that I’d win a state championship, I’d have thought you were crazy,” he explained. “I guess overcoming the injury makes this even more special.”

Croatan head coach David Perry said Colborn’s dedication to recovering and getting back onto the mat was laudable.

“Andrew’s story is an example of true determination,” he said. “He made the decision to get back for his senior year almost immediately after he found out about the torn ACL.  He asked what was the quickest possible time frame for return, and the doctor said four months. 

“His plan was to return on January 16, which he did.  It took a lot of hard rehabilitation, getting up at 4:30 in the morning before school to accomplish this return.  He came back and won both the conference and regional tournament despite not being 100 percent.  This weekend he fulfilled his dream of winning a state title.”

Colborn explained that he began to rehabilitate his injured leg even before surgery.

“My dad told me that the stronger my leg was before surgery, the quicker my recovery would be,” he said. “I was actually doing some light strengthening work right after the injury.

“After the operation I set a goal of getting back on the mat by January 16. My physical therapist said that was realistic, but she had never heard of anybody doing it. The day after my operation she was at my house and we were doing range of motion exercises. It took a lot of hard work, but things couldn’t have worked out any better.”

When asked if he could have scripted a better ending to his high school wrestling career, Colborn said, “This was a storybook ending, I couldn’t be happier with the way it ended.”

Number five: Hemby is Player of the Year

In a conference loaded with super star football players, one person stood out above the rest.

Swansboro High School senior Markuise Hemby was named the 3A Coastal Conference’s Player of the Year.

Hemby becomes the first football player from Swansboro to win the award.

The 5-foot, 8-inch 160-pound Hemby did it all for Swansboro this year. As a wide receiver and tailback he led the team in total yardage with 1,891.

Hemby set a school record by hauling in 57 receptions for 1,098 yards, caught 11 touchdown passes and rushed for three more.

Hemby was also a force on the defensive side of the football, recording 64 tackles and picking off three passes from his cornerback position.

“We’re real proud of Markuise, he worked hard for this,” said Swansboro head coach Tim Laspada. “There are some great teams and players in our conference. This is a great accomplishment for a player on a team that finished fourth in the conference.

“I think the coaches made the right decision in picking him,” he continued. “He was the best player on both sides of the ball in every game we played this year.”

The Pirates went 5-6 overall this season with a conference mark of 2-4.

Hemby was both surprised and honored to be named the conference’s top player.

“This is a real blessing and I’m shocked I won,” he said. “I didn’t even know the conference had an award for the top player and our team didn’t finish as well as we wanted.

“But I have to credit my teammates and especially the coaches, for putting me in the right places so I could utilize my talents and reach my potential. It’s an honor for me, but it also lets people know that we’re building a good program here at Swansboro.”

Number six: Island marathon draws 1,500 runners

Emerald Isle was nearly wall-to-wall with runners the morning of March 29.

The Emerald Isle Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K race drew a field of over 1,500 registered participants.

This is the second year for the event, but the first with the addition of the 26.2-mile marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifying race. Saturday’s race saw 168 runners compete in the marathon, 711 in the half-marathon and 426 run in the 5K race.

Though there was a threat of rain at the begging of the race, the bad weather missed Emerald Isle and runners eventually saw sunny skies and were able to run in cool temperatures.

“We got very lucky with the rain holding off, we were concerned,” explained Race director Candace Dooley. “I think that the race went very well, almost flawless. It was nice to have sunny skies this year, although the cold and wind were tough. Our runners were very enthusiastic and complimentary of the race, and that is what motivates us.”

The winner of the marathon was Connor Belson from Chapel Hill who finished the course in 2:49.34.5. Jill Smylie from Swansboro was the top female runner, clocking a 3:14.53.8.

Bruce Newman from Stella won the hand-crank marathon with a time of 1:51.47.

Robert Baraldi from Clayton was the half-marathon winner with a time of 1:13.20.9. The top female in the half was Katherine Price from Beaufort who clocked a 1:25.21.7.

Michael Siringer from Tarawa Terrace won the 5K with a time of 17:20.3. The first female 5K runner to cross the finish line was Blair Kelly from Raleigh with a 21:54.1.

The marathon was the first staged in Carteret County and Dooley said it took a lot of hard work to put it all together.

“To stage the first marathon in Carteret County was an honor. There are a lot of logistics that go into planning a race of that size and distance, and that gave us a few challenges. All of that hard work paid off though, when we watched our participants cross that finish line and complete their 26.2 miles.”

The event is a charitable event, with half the proceeds raised benefiting the Emerald Isle bicycle path and the other half being donated to the American Heart Association in honor of Suzanne Rush, the wife of town administrator, Frank Rush.

Number seven: Watkins all-state softball player

Alex Watkins made it three in a row.

The rising senior at Swansboro High School was named to the N.C. Softball Coaches Association all-state team for the third consecutive year.

Watkins, who pitched and played shortstop for the Lady Pirates, was named to the 3A all-state team as a utility player.

Watkins had a monster junior season and was an integral part of Swansboro’s second straight 3A Coastal Conference championship.

She batted .488 with 23 runs, 22 RBI, 10 doubles, five triples and had nine stolen bases. Watkins went 4-1 from the mound with a 2.38 ERA and had 22 strikeouts.

“This is really an honor, it shows that all of my hard work has paid off,” said Watkins. “I really wanted to out-do how I played last year and I think I was able to do it. I was most proud of being able to help my team, that’s what all the hard work is for.”

Watkins was quick to credit her teammates and others for her success.

“My teammates and coaches deserve a lot of the credit for my success because they push and support me so much,” she said. “My mother and dad, too. They deserve a lot of credit for helping me get here. I really want to thank everybody around me.”

Watkins, who has verbally committed to play softball at UNC-Pembroke after graduation from Swansboro, said she’s going to try to make it four-for-four next year.

“I’d love to make all-state four years. I guess I’m going to have to work even harder, but with all the people supporting me I think I can do it.”

Swansboro head coach Jerry Riggs said Watkins was an obvious choice for the all-state team.

“I was not surprised to hear that Alex earned all-state honors,” said the coach. “I think her level of talent alone would be enough for her to make the all-state team.”

Number eight: Pirate wrestlers win silver

It was only appropriate that the Swansboro High School wrestling team cap it’s most successful season ever with two more program-best performances in its season finale.

Led by silver medals from Jacob Butler in the 138-pound weight class and Juan Ramos at 182, the Pirates finished second in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 3A state wrestling championship tournament.

Morehead High School won the competition with 98.5 points, while Swansboro was second with 75.

The state tournament was wrestled in the Greensboro Coliseum.

The second place individual finishes were the highest for a Swansboro wrestler and the second place team finish was also a team best.

“We had a great time and I was really proud of the kids,” said Swansboro head coach Brandon Spiece. “We finished second in the state and even had the lead for a while. It would have been nice to have won, but to do as well as we did with only seven kids is really impressive. It usually takes at least 10 to win these things.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the guys, they wrestled as well as they did all season, I think everyone peaked at the right time,” he continued. “Everybody won a match and contributed to our success. It was just a great tournament and experience for all of us.”

Butler’s run to the finals was made even more impressive because of the fact that he was a number four seed. He won three close decision victories, before falling 3-1 in the finals to Samual Bartram from Union Pines. Butler finished the season with a 49-7 record and his 177 career victories makes him the winningest wrestler ever at Swansboro.

“Jacob really caught fire in the finals,” said the coach. “He had to come from behind to win his first two matches, then came out aggressively and won his semifinal match handily. His opponent in the finals is a kid who has been wrestling all his life. He’s a very savvy wrestler and had the perfect game plan to beat Jacob. Jacob was disappointed to lose but finishing second in the state in your final high school match is awesome. It’s very prestigious just to get to the finals.”

Butler has wrestled Bartram before and was familiar with his style.

“I’ve known the kid a long time and we’ve wrestled many times before,” he said. “We mirrored each other so I figured it would be low scoring and the first one to score would win.

“Of course it’s disappointing not to win first place, but I was OK with it,” he continued. “Juan and I were the first Swansboro wrestlers to ever make it to the finals, so I was proud of that.”

Ramos took a top seed into the tournament and competed like a champion. Two of his early round victories were major decisions and the third he won 7-5. But his opponent in the finals was one of the premier wrestlers in the state, Willie Bivens from Eastern Guilford.

The reigning state champion at 182 pounds, Bivens brought a 47-0 record into the bout. He was also the number two ranked pound-for-pound wrestler in the state, according to retro rankings. On top of that, Bivens topped Ramos last year in the second round of the state tourney, 5-2. After a tight battle befitting of two undefeated wrestlers, Bivins squeaked out a 3-2 victory. Ramos finished the year with a 36-1 mark.

“Juan really wrestled well, he just didn’t get the win,” explained the coach. “I’d say he was the better wrestler, but the kid he faced was just an off-the-charts athlete. He got a quick takedown on Juan, but after that Juan shut him down.

“Juan got himself deep on five or six shots, but because of his (Blivins’) sheer athletic ability, he couldn’t finish them. This was one of those matches where I think the best wrestler didn’t win.”

Ramos said he gave it his best and fell to a quality opponent.

“I would much rather have won first, but if I had to lose to anybody it would have been him, he’s a really good wrestler,” he explained. “I worked as hard as I could to win it, there was nothing I could have done differently.”

Swansboro had seven wrestlers compete in the tournament and five of them reached the winner’s podium. Pirates Kasey Hill, Dakota Wakefield and Dane Mitchell all finished fifth.

Hill competed in the 120-pound weight class and finished the season with a 46-11 mark; Wakefield wrestled at 170 and finished 41-7; and Morton battled at 195 and ended the season at 43-9. All three wrestlers went 3-2 in the finals.

The Pirates had two other wrestlers, Nick Butler (1-6) and Dustin Childs (126) pick up a win in the finals. Both wrestlers went 1-2. Butler finished the season 46-8 and Childs went 49-10.

Number nine: Liles earns induction

In Eastern North Carolina track circles, John Liles is known as the Godfather.

That’s because there are few, if any, track coaches in the state with the coaching pedigree and status of Liles, the long-time head track coach at Swansboro High School.

The 63-year-old Liles was recently recognized for his accomplishments with his induction into the Onslow County Sports Hall of Fame.

A panel of 40 members, including past inductees and other members of the Onslow County, Camp Lejeune community, made the selection.

Joining Liles in the Class of 2015 will be Jacksonville’s Billy Joe Morgan. The two will be inducted at a ceremony in Jacksonville on March 7.

Liles joins fellow Swansboro High School coaches Joan Riggs, Bob Vroom and Ronnie Ross as members of the county Hall of Fame.

“I’m ecstatic, surprised, happy, it was an honor just to know I was nominated,” explained Liles. “I think this reflects more on the kids and the good athletes I’ve had over the years than me. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach kids and work with assistants who were willing to work hard and make the sacrifices it takes to become a good track team.”

Describing his track teams as “good” is an understatement.

Since 1984, Liles has coached the Swansboro High School girls’ track team to 19 conference championships. That period spans includes Swansboro competing as a 1A, 2A and 3A team.

He was named the conference coach of the year 10 times and had 13 teams win the east regional championship.

Liles has coached 10 state champions, his first Cindy Floyd in the high jump in 1982 and his most recent K.C. Watson in the pole vault in 2011.

Liles began his local teaching and coaching career at Swansboro Middle School in 1973. His track teams at Swansboro middle won 16 Onslow Athletic Conference titles in 17 years. Upon his retirement from teaching in 2002, the softball field at Swansboro Middle School was named in his honor.

Riggs, Swansboro High School’s legendary volleyball coach who was inducted in 2008, said Liles is the epitome of a caring and successful coach.

“He is genuine, caring and a wonderful teacher of the sport,” she said. “John instructs with experience and knowledge, he encourages with mighty motivation, and he has touched the hearts and lives of hundreds and hundreds of students that did not ever want to disappoint him.

“His sincerity and passion for track has taken Swansboro athletes in paths that this area would have never experienced if he had not become a dedicated and essential part of the Swansboro athletic program.

“The legacy of John Liles is no doubt track. However, his love of sports, and his love of Swansboro, has allowed us all to cross paths in this life with one who has a big heart, a faithful servant, and a wonderful friend.”

Though he retired from teaching in 2002, Liles continued to coach track at the high school. And with more time on his hands, he had more time to work on improving the high school’s track program.

Liles began a feeder program for the middle school and high school track teams in 2004. He started the annual Fifth Grade Track Meet, which drew teams from the town’s three elementary schools.

Being introduced to the sport an an early age lit a fire under many of the meet’s participants, who went on to star on the middle and high school teams.

A big reason for Liles’ success as a coach is that he’s a tremendous recruiter of athletic talent. Track is not high profile sport, played in front of capacity crowds under the lights on Friday nights.

Rather, track meets are run on weekday afternoons, often in front of only handful of parents and fans. On top of all that, track practices are hard work of seemingly endless repetition.

But despite those factors, kids like competing for Liles. Swansboro’s boys’ and girls’ track teams both typically have around 40 athletes, more than just about any team in the area.

And there’s one big reason students choose to run track at Swansboro – they like Liles. He has an engaging personality and though he pushes his athletes hard, he still manages to make it all fun.

He’s still friends with many of the students he coached over 30 years ago.

“I love the kids and we have great kids at Swansboro,” said the coach. “I’ve also been able to surround myself with assistant coaches who feel the same way and are great to work with.

“The kids know how much I love the sport and that I have a little knowledge about it. We work them hard but try to keep it fun and interesting for them. A lot of the kids develop a passion for track and they take a lot of pride in the success of our program. It’s easy to be successful when you have athletes like that.”

Liles also instills in all of his athletes a “team first” mentality. Each member of the squad plays an integral role in the success of the Pirates.

“We’ve won a lot of meets with out depth, not necessarily the best athletes,” he explained. “I’ve always said that second, third, fourth and fifth place finishes are what win meets. A point we earn for fifth place is just as important as the ones we get for a first. When we win it’s a total team effort. The girls picking up points for a second, third, fourth or fifth place finish are just as important as the ones winning the medals.”

One of Liles’ assistant coaches is Ronnie Crittenden, a 1988 Swansboro High School graduate. Crittenden has a unique perspective on Liles’ coaching prowess, having played for him as an athlete in middle school and high school, and coached with him the last 11 years.

“Coach Liles does a fabulous job of getting kids interested in track,” he said. “He introduces them to the sport in the fifth grade and many of them stick with it from then. Since he knows them for that long, by the time they get to high school they already have a relationship.

“He can spot a kids’ potential, direct them to the right events and work with them to get the most out of their abilities,” he added. “He’s honest with his athletes and stresses the importance of everyone contributing. That way, everyone on the team feels like they’re making a contribution to the team’s success.”

Crittenden has seen first hand the influence Liles has made on the local track scene.

“It’s ridiculous the number of kids he’s kept up with over the years. It’s amazing that he seems to remember all of them, no matter how long ago he coached them. It seems like wherever we go for a meet, there are some of his former athletes to meet him.

“We were at a regional meet once at UNC-Wilmington and the coaches who were running the meet saw me and asked if I knew where the Godfather was. That’s what they call him around the state because he knows so much about track. Coach Liles wasn’t even in charge of the meet, but the guys who were needed his help.

“I remember he was a great role model for me when he was my coach, and I see that in the kids today. He puts his heart and soul into what he does and the kids love him for it.”

Liles said he has no plans on retiring any time soon and wants to continue working with the program as long as he’s enjoying himself and making a difference.

“As long as I love the sport and love the kids, I’ll keep going,” he said. “Coaching track helps keep me young, I’ll stay with it as long as I can contribute to the team.”

Track is a family affair for the Liles family. His grown children, Katie and Jeffrey, were both multi-sport standouts at Swansboro. Jeffrey is currently the track coach at Apex High School. And his wife, Minette, also a long-time educator, continues to assist him with his coaching responsibilities.

“There’s no way I would have been able to do this without the support of a very understanding wife. Minette tells me on the first day of practice in February that she’ll see me again in May. She’s been there with me the whole way and still runs the long jump and does the computer for me at meets. And most importantly, she’s always been there to listen to me at home.”

Number 10: Horvath is all-state runner

For the second straight year, Swansboro High School sophomore cross country standout Paige Horvath has earned the title of All-State.

Horvath battled a talented field and wet and muddy course to clock a 20:04 and finish seventh in the NCHSAA 2A State Championship Meet, run at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville.

Last year Horvath placed eighth after clocking a 19:25.

“The course was really bad,” said Horvath. “Last year it was muddy, but this year it was even worse. You really had to be aware of your surroundings, you couldn’t take your eyes off the course.

“I felt really good going into the race and my goal was to run around 19:00,” she continued. “But once I got there and saw how bad and slow the course was, I knew I’d be running for a good place, not a good time. I was seeded 14th, so finishing seventh was pretty good.”

Horvath added that she’d like to break the 19:00 mark next season.

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