South Charlotte

Runners beat challenges, win conference championships

The Butler volleyball team won their first ever, Southwestern 4A conference and tournament titles.
The Butler volleyball team won their first ever, Southwestern 4A conference and tournament titles.

Hayden Blalock, Providence, cross country, sr.: Hayden Blalock was just two weeks away from the first cross country meet of the season when the unthinkable happened.

Blalock, 17, was on an early morning tempo-run at McAlpine, before he would take a visit to UNC Asheville later in the day. Then something in his leg didn’t feel right.

The following day, doctors told Blalock, he had a second-degree, quad strain and wouldn’t be able to run until it healed.

“I was really disappointed just thinking, is this really happening to me, my senior year?” Blalock said. “But then, I realized I had to do everything I could to get back. So, I cross-trained, biked, swam, lifted, anything I could do to stay in great shape, so I would be ready when I could run again.”

Blalock returned to the Providence team, Oct. 1 and won the Wendys’ Invitational junior varsity race without pushing himself very hard. The next week, Blalock felt even better running the pre-conference qualifier.

But his season-changing moment came Oct. 20 at McAlpine Park. He clocked 16:40 to win the SoMeck8 conference championship -- by 13 seconds.

“It was a great feeling to win conference after all I had been through,” Blalock said. “I came out a little angry in that race. I felt like I had something to prove.”

Providence cross country coach, Steve Touranjoe said “I’m really proud of the way Hayden responded this season. He refused to give up. He just keeps on grinding. To win the conference the way he did, to pull away, was really impressive for anyone, much less a guy running in his third race of the season.”

Blalock said he hopes to continue his success at the regional and state cross country meets, before heading to college, where he says he has interest from coaches at Adams State University (Col.) and UNC Asheville.

Lilly Hallock, Charlotte Latin, cross country, sr.: The season just keeps getting better for Hallock. She ran a personal-best 19:20.69 to win the CISAA conference championship last month.

Hallock, who’s in only her second year of competitive running, didn’t know if she’d ever have the chance to be in this position. Two years ago, she was hospitalized with a life-threatening brain hemorrhage.

Noah Dolhare, Providence Day, cross country, jr.: Noah Dolhare, destroyed the field to win the CISAA conference title, running a 16:42.88, to win by nearly 58 seconds over his closest competition at McAlpine Park.

Dolhare broke 16-minutes for the first time ever, when he ran a 15:59.41 to win the Hare and Hounds’ Invitational.

Zach Mercer, Mooresville, cross country, sr.: Zach Mercer, won the North Piedmont conference championship in October, running a 16:15.30, to help the Blue Devils’ win their first team, league title since 2009.

Mercer also won the Iredell County championship last month.

Butler Volleyball Team: The Butler volleyball team won their first ever, Southwestern 4A conference and tournament titles late last month.

The Bulldogs (21-3, 14-0), won a school-record 14 straight games and capped their SW4A crown with a 3-0 win over Porter Ridge in the tournament final.

Butler, led by senior co-captains, Erin Hundley and Claudine Taylor, and caoched by Heather Webb, now look to make a similar run in the playoffs.

Chidera Udeh, Mallard Creek, volleyball, sr.: Udeh came up big for her Maverick team on their way to their first, MECKA 4A conference tournament title ever.

Udeh, a Marist University, N.Y., commit, had 14 kills in a 3-0 win over Hopewell in the MECKA 4A semifinals. She then had 10 kills and six digs in the Mavericks 3-0 win over Hough in the league championship match.

The Mallard Creek win also ended Hough’s 79-game conference win streak.

Hayley McNeill, Porter Ridge, volleyball, sr.: The Porter Ridge senior, libero had one of the best weeks of her Pirate career, registering 81 digs in three, SW4A tournament matches. McNeill, a Charlotte 49ers’ signee, had 20 digs in a win over Garinger, 34 digs in a victory over Myers Park and 27 digs in the SW4A championship match in a 3-1 loss to Butler.

McNeill, who is second in the state digs this season, has a school-record 655 digs so far this season.

Hailey Pendleton, Sun Valley, girls, golf, fr.: Pendleton shot a one-under par, 71, at Etowah Valley Golf Club to win the 3A West Regional title.

Pendleton is the first, Sun Valley girl to ever win a regional golf championship. She finished tied for 13th at her first 3A state meet.

The Southern Carolinas’ conference player of the year, averages a 36.5 per nine holes this season.

Sophie Holland, Cannon School, girls golf, fr.: Cannon School freshman, Sophie Holland, won the CISAA conference individual title last month by two shots with a 75 at Cabarrus Country Club.

Holland also led the Cougars to a team title the same day, where Cannon beat the field by 17 shots.

One week later, Holland led Cannon to an NCISAA state championship, also in October, as she finished fourth individually (all-state) with two day total of 151 (78-73).

Kathryn Carson, Lake Norman, girls golf, sr.: Lake Norman senior, Kathryn Carson won the 4A West Regional championship for the second year in a row, shooting an even par, 72, at the Mooresville Golf Club.

Carson, an East Carolina commit and North Piedmont conference player of the year, also finished tied for 7th (75-78) at the 4A state meet (Oct.. 24-25).

Jenna Thompson, South Mecklenburg, girls tennis, fr.: Thompson is undefeated in singles play this year. She won the 4A West Regional title last month, beating Myers Park’s Maddie Weber and Charlotte Catholic’s Rachel Marthinsen along the way.

Thompson also won the SoMeck8 conference singles’ championship this season.

Rose Kenny (fr.) and Megan Leonard (sr.), Charlotte Catholic, girls tennis: The Charlotte Catholic doubles team is 8-0 (going into state championships) after winning the 4A West Regional doubles’ title last month by defeating Myers Park’s Serena Evans and Leah Wallihan.

Kenny and Leonard are unbeaten in singles’ play this year as well for the 20-0, Charlotte Catholic girls’ tennis team that has won 139 of the 149 matches played this season.

Marisa Deininger, Community School of Davidson, girls tennis, sr.: The Spartans’ senior was 16-0 through regional play. She won the 1A West Regional championship Oct. 22.

Deininger, who has not lost a set this season (through regional play) is 32-1 since last year, when she won the 1A state singles’ title.

Deininger also won the 1A state doubles’ title with former teammate, Courtney Mudge, as a sophomore.

Ethan DeSilva, South Mecklenburg, soccer, sr.: The South Mecklenburg senior, outside defender is also one of the state’s top offensive weapons with 13 goals and 25 assists (leads class 4A) this season.

DeSilva (53 career assists) has an assist or more in 17 of the Sabres’ 22 games this season and has a goal or an assist in 26 of the last 29 games, dating back to last year.

DeSilva scored a goal and had three assists in a 5-2 win over Charlotte Catholic (Oct. 17), before scoring three goals and dishing out one assist two days later in 5-0 win over Olympic.

DeSilva is also proud of being a co-captain with seniors, Collyn Carpenter, Alec Hartman and Reed Hunnicutt.

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer:

Story includes statistics through Oct. 23.