PILOT MOUNTAIN — All of the local high school athletic programs had moments of brilliance this season, but none was as consistently strong as East Surry’s. The Cardinals won just two regular-season conference titles during the 2015-16 academic year, but were near the top of the league in nearly every sport.
The strong, steady performances of East Surry’s student-athletes received their due on Tuesday evening, when East Surry won the Surry County Schools Athletic Cup, recognizing the school’s athletic program as the strongest among the three county high schools during the school year.
In addition to the Athletic Cup, the Cardinals also swept the county Athlete of the Year awards. The awards, sponsored by the Surry Telephone Membership Corporation, went to swimmer Kelsey Tunstall and three-sport standout Tyler Smith.
The Athletic Celebration recognized all of the all-conference, all-region and all-state performers in the various sports offered by East Surry, North Surry and Surry Central this year. Members of conference championship winning teams and their coaches were also recognized. The event was held at Pilot Mountain Middle School, with a hot dog supper in the school cafeteria followed by the awards presentation in the gymtorium next door.
In addition to the various athletic awards, door prizes were given in the form of cornhole boards painted with the school colors and logo of each of the three schools. These were awarded to three of the student-athletes in attendance, after being used in the “Best of the Best” competition, where athletes from each of the three schools competed in various games during the course of the evening.
The Best of the Best turned out to be the only competition that East Surry didn’t win. The Cardinals did have the early lead, but the other two schools came on strong later in the 12-event showdown, and North Surry ended up winning. Appropriately, the trophy ended up in the hands of senior Kaitlyn Sullivan, who represented the Lady Greyhounds’ softball team as an all-conference performer, and also volunteered to compete in all nine events that were open to the student-athletes (the other three involved coaches and the principals of the schools).
Perhaps the highlight of the competitions came when teams of a male and female athlete from each school were chosen to take part in a football-tossing game, where the competitors had to take one step back after each successful pass to their partner. This was a particularly star-studded event, with Western Piedmont 2A Offensive Player of the Year Avery Smith and Northwest 1A Offensive Player of the Year Tyler Smith, the quarterbacks for North Surry and East Surry, respectively, taking part. The contest quickly came down to those two, and Tyler Smith ended up winning it when he made a circus catch of a badly overthrown ball from his partner. The dazzling play, which brought cheers from the audience, may have distracted Sullivan, who then threw a low ball that Avery Smith couldn’t corral, handing the win in that event to the Cardinals.
Sullivan avenged that defeat with an outstanding performance in the final event of the night, running the final lap around the gym of a relay event to give the Greyhounds the win. For winning the “Best of the Best,” every North Surry student-athlete received a Chick-fil-A gift card.
In one of the events that didn’t involve the local athletes, the principals of the three schools had a chance to earn a point for their school by nudging a penny off of the stage using only their nose. Surry Central Principal Ceila Hodges, celebrating her birthday, won the event.
The event was sponsored by Carolina Carports, the STMC, Chappell Insurance, Lowe’s Hardware, M&M Granite, Piedmont Tire, SouthData, Surry-Yadkin Electric and WIFM 100.9 Radio. North Surry wrestling coach Eric Jessup and Surry Central athletic director Myles Wilmoth were the co-masters of ceremony.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.