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In the game

Bethy Beard, a swimmer at Concord Cox Mill High School.
Bethy Beard, a swimmer at Concord Cox Mill High School. D&J Photography

Here's a look at some of UCity's star student-athletes, who are preparing to dominate this upcoming school year:

Bethy BeardBethy Beard was used to a non-public setting when it came to school. She attended a private school for seven years and was home schooled for three. Swimming helped her adapt when she enrolled at Concord Cox Mill High when it opened in 2009.

Beard became a member of the SwimMAC year-round program when she was 8 years old, but high school swimming requires a whole different approach to the sport.

Beard had been trained in the intensity of year-round swimming but she quickly came to appreciate the team spirit that high school swimming fosters. In her first season, she became the only Chargers girls individual swimmer to qualify for the finals in her events at the state meet.

“I’ve always wanted to participate on a high school team,” says Beard. “It looks better on a high school resume. And I’ve always liked team sports. I like the size of the team, which is probably 50 swimmers. It’s just a really great atmosphere and cheering with all my teammates and getting excited about states and regionals.”

Though she still trains primarily with SwimMAC, Beard usually practices with the Cox Mill team prior to meets. She’s still the Chargers’ top competitor, having finished inside the top 12 in four events at the 2011 3A state meet: the 50- and 500-yard freestyles, and the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays.


Erin JenkinsErin Jenkins is ahead of his time as a Vance track and field hurdler. When he finished third in the 300-meter hurdles as a sophomore at the 2011 4A state outdoor meet, the two athletes that finished ahead of him were seniors. For that matter, so were the three that finished directly behind him.

Jenkins had a solid state meet, adding a seventh place finish in the 110-meter hurdles and an eighth place as a member of the 1600-meter relay team. But his most impressive finish in the spring season may have come in the 400-meter hurdles at the Taco Bell Classic at Spring Valley High (SC) in April.

Jenkins finished with the best time of any North Carolina hurdler, but the college-distance event is not recognized as a high school event in his home state.

“Usually they say people who are tall and flexible are better hurdlers,” says Jenkins, who stands 5 feet 7 inches. “But I’m neither. I don’t think it really matters. You usually develop your own type of hurdling.”


Corey SeagerNorthwest Cabarrus senior shortstop Corey Seager may come from a rich bloodline of baseball players, but his swing is making a reputation for himself.

His oldest brother Kyle played at UNC Chapel Hill and is currently a farmhand in the Seattle Mariners’ minor league system. Another older brother, Justin, is entering his second year with the Charlotte 49ers program.

As a high school player, Corey is the most celebrated of them all. He has earned all-America status by Louisville Slugger and Perfect Game and has verbally committed to South Carolina.

Last fall, he was selected to play for the U.S. national 16-under team at the Pan-American Games in Mexico. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Shortstop as the U.S. won the gold medal.

“I got beer thrown on me during the first round robin game against Mexico,” says Seager. “There were 6,000 people there. When I first stepped into bat in the first inning, I got booed. I hit a double and scored our leadoff man. I got back in the dugout, was leaning on the railing and got beer thrown all at me. I ducked, looked back, and there were people all standing up behind me.”

During his junior season, Seager was so feared by opposing hitters that in 100 plate appearances he was walked 38 times, 20 of them intentionally. He still slugged nine homers, drove in 32 runs and batted .517.


Izzy BernalFor many standout teen soccer players, it’s fairly common that club play takes precedent over his or her high school team. That’s not the case with Concord Robinson’s Izzy Bernal. Though she quickly developed into an all-conference and all-region player, Bernal, a forward, didn’t play organized soccer until she stepped on Robinson’s pitch for her freshman year.

“Soccer was something I did for fun,” says Bernal. “I didn’t plan out to play for high school but I thought I would try something different. My mind was always on basketball for a while but (only) until I started playing (soccer) my freshman year. I loved it and I wanted to keep playing.”

Three times she has landed on the All-South Piedmont 3A Conference team, including her sophomore year when she netted 14 goals.

In the 2011 season, when she led the Bulldogs with 20 goals and 10 assists in 22 games, Bernal was named to the All-Region 7 team.

A gifted all-around athlete, Bernal is a high-scoring, ball-handling wizard for Robinson’s basketball team. She averaged 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season when she made all-league. Her ability to dribble through defenders and reward teammates with no-look passes has impressed onlookers.


D.J. HumphriesWhen D.J. Humphries enrolled at Mallard Creek High during the spring of his freshman season, he proclaimed himself a tight end by trade.

“We said, ‘You’re going to play left tackle and you’ll hopefully make a lot of money doing it one day,’” says Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri.

In two seasons, Humphries has turned into one of the best high school offensive lineman in the country, and one of the most sought after. Palmieri says Humphries had probably 50 collegiate scholarship offers on the table at the beginning of the summer.

At 6 feet 6 inches tall and 280 pounds, Humphries is a big man on campus. Palmieri says his prodigy doesn’t rest on the laurels of his size. He’s also one of the team’s hardest workers and is a monster in the weight room – he can bench press 365 pounds, power clean 335 and squat 515.

“When I was a lot younger, first or second grade, I was average height but a little chubby,” says Humphries. “I hit a big growth spurt during the fifth grade and since then I’ve been bigger than everyone else.”

Palmieri expects Humphries to graduate high school early in January and to enroll in college at the start of the spring semester.


Mackenzie MoyerMackenzie Moyer has been pitching for her travelling softball team for approximately eight years, which is the same length of time she has attended Concord’s Cannon School. However, Moyer was never able to combine those endeavors – pitching for Cannon’s softball team – until last spring, her junior year.

The result was the Cougars’ first state championship, though Moyer would never take the credit. A varsity starter since eighth grade, Moyer had always played the position that had the most glaring hole to fill. In 2011, that hole was on the mound.

Moyer gets much more enjoyment out of softball by being with her best friends than she has winning a state championship or being named all-state three times. She puts up pretty good numbers just the same: .569 batting average, 40 runs batted in and a 16-2 record with 155 strikeouts.

“I’ve played my whole softball life with Amber Kimrey, Melissa Race and Stacy Mroz,” says Moyer. “And they are a big part of why I still play softball. They have always been not only my teammates but my best friends. Nearly every memory that I have of softball includes them.”

Moyer is also a three-year starter on Cannon’s basketball team.


Becca LukasikLong before Becca Lukasik picked up volleyball, and long before she played for coach Patti Chason at Hickory Ridge High, they were neighbors in Harrisburg. Chason has known Lukasik, literally, since the day she was born.

That’s why Chason dotes on Lukasik’s character and her other extracurricular activities as much as she does her volleyball skills.

Lukasik was a middle school cheerleader before she latched onto volleyball by practicing with Chason’s daughter, Jessica, who just recently finished a four-year collegiate career.

Now a senior, Lukasik has played two years on Hickory Ridge’s varsity team and became an all-conference outside hitter last season. She ranked third on the Ragin’ Bulls with 130 kills and a 95 percent serving accuracy.

More importantly, Lukasik is ranked third among her class entering her final school year and is a three-year member of student council. She was voted the student council’s executive board vice-president for this school year.

“Tony Farr, a childhood neighbor, left a truly remarkable and lasting impression upon me as a child which has helped to mold the person that I am today,” says Lukasik. “He was in a car accident as a teenager that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

“This obstacle however, did not keep him from attending college, getting married, having a family, working, or even doing daily chores such as mowing the lawn He taught me so many life lessons that I can truly reflect upon and appreciate now that I am older.”


Chris CatonAs Chris Caton reached ninth grade at Northside Christian Academy, there was only one thing preventing him from winning a private/independent schools state wrestling championship: Northside didn’t have a wrestling team.

Caton has attended Northside since his preschool years but considered transferring to a high school that had a wrestling program. Instead, Chris’ dad, Jerry, approached the athletic department about forming a team.

Jerry received the school’s full support. With his dad as the coach, Chris already has three state championships as he enters his senior season.

“Being part of the first wrestling team at Northside was a good experience,” says Caton. “It taught me how to be a better leader, teaching the other kids the fundamentals of wrestling. The majority of them did not know how to wrestle. Other than teaching them how to wrestle, it taught me how to build relationships with them.”

Chris is even more decorated outside of scholastic wrestling. He’s ranked by national publications and has earned All-American status at the Prep Nationals annual tournament. Jerry says Chris is being recruited by numerous Division I colleges.

Having wrestled since the age of 9, Chris has multiple state championships through AAU and USA Wrestling. Chris has also played baseball and football at Northside.