High School Sports

Jay’s Featured Athletes: Myers Park star Mark Dillon makes history, 41 years later

Myers Park’s Mark Dillon
Myers Park’s Mark Dillon Special to the Observer

Mark Dillon dreamed about playing for the Myers Park tennis team long before he ever stepped on the court for the Mustangs.

Dillon is the fifth person is his family to play tennis at Myers Park, joining his father, Mark, Sr. , his uncle, Steve, and his older brothers, Christopher and Reid.

Mark Dillon Sr. led the 1976 and 1977 Myers Park teams to state championships, before winning the individual state title in 1978.

So when Mark Dillion, Jr. finally started his own career on the Myers Park tennis team four years ago as a freshman, he already had great expectations.

He exceeded them Saturday by winning the N.C. 4A individual singles title -- just like his dad 41 years ago.

“I’ve been going to Myers Park tennis matches since I was eight years old watching my brothers play,” Dillon Jr. said. “I’d bring a racquet and hit a ball against a wall on the brick courts during the matches. I would imagine that I was playing in the matches. My brothers would introduce to the (Myers Park) players and they were like celebrities to me.”

Myers Park coach Ed Flynn knew that Dillon could have a special career.

“From the time he got here as a freshman, you could tell Mark (Jr.) wanted to play that No. 1 court and keep the family tradition going,” Flynn said. “You could tell the Myers Park tennis team meant a lot to him from the day one.”

The youngest Dillon, 18, has more than lived up to his family tradition of success for the Myers Park tennis team.

Dillon has more than 80 singles wins and more than 100 singles and doubles combined. And now he’s got a state title, too.

In additiona, Dillon has won the Southwestern 4A conference and 4A West Regional singles’ titles three years in a row. He was 4A state singles’ runner-up last year.

Dillon first established himself as Myers Park’s clear No. 1 player as a sophomore when the Mustangs’ boys went a perfect 21-0 en route to a 4A state (team) championship.

Last year, Myers Park (25-2) was 4A state runner-up.

This season, Dillon has been dominant for most of the season, going 19-2 in singles’ play and 5-2 in doubles before last weekend’s state finals. His only two losses came to highly-ranked out of state players in a tournament in Chattanooga earlier this season.

After winning his third straight 4A West Regional title over teammate Sam Dean May 3, his focus was on state.

Myers Park’s Mark Dillon won the N.C. 4A state singles title Saturday. NCHSAA Special to the Observer

“My dad (Mark, Sr.) won the state singles’ championship his senior year (1978) and I think about doing that (winning state singles’ title) all the time,” Dillon, Jr. said. “Getting really close last year (4A state runner-up) just makes me want to win it all even more, it’s inspiring.”

Next season, Dillon will attend University of North Carolina next year on the prestigious Morehead-Cain academic scholarship.

Dillon Jr., who boasts a 4.6 grade-point average, will study Business and Computer Science.

Dillon was awarded the Morehead-Cain Scholarship after a seven-month process than included six essays, eight interviews and three rounds of competition.

The ultimately irony is that Dillon grew up an avid N.C. State fan, as his father and uncle both played tennis for the Wolfpack.

In fact, Dillon has worn an N.C. State hat every day for the last five years on the tennis court.

The day after he won the Morehead-Cain Scholarship, he showed up to Myers Park practice in a brand new University of North Carolina hat.

“I wore that N.C. State hat every day for five years after my brother gave it to me as a gift,” said Dillon, who hopes to walk-on the North Carolina tennis team. “Now, I’m going to be wearing a (North) Carolina hat for the next four years.”

While Dillon is a star on the tennis and in the classroom, he also runs his own successful business called “Match Point Pens.”

Dillon has been making the wooden pens himself since he was in fifth grade and now sells them in seven stores across the region, including five stores in Charlotte, one in Atlanta and one in Washington, D.C.

All of the profits from the sales go to Tucker-Leighton Avram Tennis, a group that gives free tennis lessons to underprivileged adults and children.

“Mark Dillon (Jr.) is just a winner,” Flynn said. “Winner is a great way to describe everything he does. He successful at school, he’s got his own business, he’s a Morehead-Cain Scholar. He’s a great tennis player. His whole approach to life will allow him to be successful at whatever he chooses to do in life.”

Cameron Rose, Hickory Ridge Track: The Hickory Ridge junior earned the SW4A conference championship’s most outstanding male athlete pulling off the rare sprint triple in winning the 100, 200 and 400-meter dash, league titles at Myers Park May 2.

Rose won the 100-meter dash in 10.78, the 200 in 21.84 and the 400-meter dash in 49.63.

Rose’s performance also helped the Hickory Ridge boys win the Southwestern 4A team title.

Rose was the Cabarrus County championship’s most valuable player (MVP), April 17.

Philip Abner, Covenant Day Baseball: The Covenant Day sophomore pitcher had a game to remember going 6.2 innings, striking out 15 batters, while allowing only four hits to lead the Lions to a 5-2 win over Charlotte Christian May 2. Abner, who also went 1-for-3 at the plate with an RBI double in the same game, hit 91 miles per hour on the radar gun in the win.

Abner was 1-for-3 at the plate with an RBI in a tough, 6-5 loss (in eight innings) to Charlotte Christian April 30.

Abner, a University of Florida commit, is 6-3 this season with 86 strikeouts in 46 innings of work with a 1.22 earned-run average (ERA) on the mound for Covenant Day (15-10, 6-4 in the CISAA) this season.

Michael Forret, Metrolina Christian Baseball: The Metrolina Christian freshman went tossed a two-hitter, striking out 13 batters in 6.1 innings of work to help the Warriors to a 4-1 win over No. 1 seed Hickory Grove in the Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC) tournament semifinals, Apr. 29.

Two days later, Metrolina Christian beat Gaston Christian 16-4 to claim the MAC tournament championship.

Zach Terry, Fort Mill Lacrosse: The Fort Mill junior attackmen scored six goals to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 13-8 victory over Wando to claim S.C. 5A state championship at Irmo High April 27.

Terry had four of his six goals in the second half to earn the state championships’ MVP honors.

Terry had 56 goals and 13 assists for Fort Mill (15-3) this season.

Fort Mill won their first state championship in boys’ lacrosse since beating the same Wando team in 2014 for the title.

Luke Hackworth, Myers Park Golf: The Myers Park senior shot a 69 to win the Southwestern 4A conference tournament’s individual title at the Divide, May 2. Hackworth also earned SW4A golfer of the year with the victory.

Hackworth (69), classmates Thomas Eubanks (71), Grant Smith (74), junior Ben Moreland (76) and sophomore, Pearse Lucas (73) all earned all-SW4A conference honors helping the Mustangs (287 team score) to a 13-shot victory over the rest of the field (Porter Ridge, 300, second-place).

Hackworth will continue his golf career at College of Charleston beginning this summer.

Owen Swavely, Lake Norman Golf: The Lake Norman senior had a week to remember winning the I-Meck conference, individual title and the Iredell County championship (medalist) in a 24-hour span.

Swavely clinched the season-long I-Meck 4A conference title and I-Meck 4A player of the year honors, firing a 39 in the regular season finale at Trump National, Apr. 29.

Swavely beat Hough’s Ayush Bodhale by one-shot for the conference title.

The next day, Swavely shot a 76 to earn co-medalist honors with teammate Luke Perrino at the Iredell County championships at Statesville Country Club.

Swavely is averaging a 37.0 per nine holes this season.

Ben McCartney, Charlotte Christian Golf: The Charlotte Christian sophomore shot an even par 72, to earn co-medalist honors (with Charlotte Latin’s Wilson Thrift) at the CISAA championships at Providence Country Club, Apr. 30.

McCartney’s performance also helped Charlotte Christian to a surprising third-place finish as a team, according to Knights’ golf coach, Mike Nedrow.

McCartney leads Charlotte Christian with a 77.0-scoring average this season going into the NCISAA state championships at Grandover Resort in Greensboro, May 13-14.

Lake Norman Charter Golf Team: The Lake Norman Charter golf team stayed undefeated winning its eighth straight South Fork 2A conference match in a row at Catawba Country Club, April 29. The Knights won the South Fork 2A title in the process.

Senior, Ian Johnson, and sophomore Carter Busse both tied for second in the season long individual standings with a cumulative score of 342, to lead the way.

Freshman, Ben Bailey and senior, Jace Arko, were also named to the South Fork 2A all-conference team.

Lake Norman Charter golf coach Eric Johnson was named South Fork 2A conference golf coach of the year, as his team was 121 shots better than the competition in league play this season.

Charlotte Observer Girls’ Athletes of the Week

Netanya Linares, Cuthbertson Track: The Cuthbertson senior won the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC) field athlete of the year honors after winning three individual events at the SCC track and field championships at Weddington May 1.

Linares won the 100-meter hurdles (14.76), the high jump (5-2) and the long jump (17-5). She also finished as SCC runner-up in the pole vault in a personal-best 11-6.

Linares will continue her track and field career at Wofford College beginning this summer.

Chioma Asiegbunam, Lake Norman Charter Track: The Lake Norman Charter star won two individual events and helped two relays to victory at the South Fork 2A conference championships at North Lincoln, May 1.

Asiegbunam won the 100-meter dash (12.31) and set a school and personal-record to win the 200-meter dash in 25.59 seconds.

She also teamed with Katie Eisley, Jordyn Earl and Ryan Selden to win both the 4 X 100-meter and 4 X 200-meter relays. The Knights’ quartet set a new school record in the 4 X 200-meter run with a 1:43.54.

Asiegbunam led the Lake Norman Charter girls’ team to a third-place finish at the South Fork 2A conference championships.

Emma Brown, Watauga Track: The Watauga junior won all four events she competed in at the Northwestern 3A/4A conference championships to lead the Pioneers’ to a league team title at Lenoir Rhyne University, May 2.

Brown won the long jump in a personal-record 16-8 and the 100-meter hurdles in a personal-best, 15.27.

She also won the 300-meter hurdles (49.51) and helped the 4 X 100-meter relay team to victory (with Brooke Byrd, Ava Williams and Maddy Watson) in 52.94.

Kaitlin Coleman, Charlotte Catholic Lacrosse: The Charlotte Catholic senior midfielder had a historic game with nine goals, seven groundballs and seven draw controls to help the Cougars to a 27-13, second round playoff win at Hickory, May 2.

Coleman’s third goal in the same game was the 200th of her Charlotte Catholic career.

Coleman has 54 goals, 16 assists, 66 groundballs and 69 draw controls for Charlotte Catholic (14-4, 4-1) this season.

Brittany Snyder, Hickory Ridge Softball: The Hickory Ridge sophomore pitcher led the Ragin’ Bulls to a SW4A conference tournament title with three straight wins on the mound last week.

Snyder was at her best when her Hickory Ridge team needed her most, going all seven innings with six strikeouts to help the Ragin’ Bulls to a 5-3 win over Independence in the SW4A tournament championship game at Butler, May 3. She also went 2-for-3 at the plate in the same game.

Snyder also got the win over Porter Ridge, tossing all seven innings with eight strikeouts to lead Hickory Ridge to a 3-1 victory in the SW4A semifinals, May 1.

Snyder is 14-2 on the mound with 139 strikeouts in 114.1 innings of work this season with a 2.88 ERA for Hickory Ridge (16-6, 12-2 in the SW4A) this season. She is also hitting .576 with three doubles and 16 RBI.

Favour Spear, Gaston Christian Soccer: The Gaston Christian senior had back-to-back, hat tricks to lead the Eagles to the MAC tournament title last week.

Spear had two goals in the MAC semifinal win over host, Metrolina Christian, Apr. 30.

The next day, Spear poured in three more goals, including the game-winner with 1:11 left in double overtime to give Gaston Christian a 4-3 victory and MAC tournament championship.

Spear, a Liberty University signee, had 46 goals and 13 assists for the Eagles (11-3, 6-1 in the MAC) this season.

Tori Clifton, Shelby Soccer: The Shelby junior forward/center back had a game to remember leading the Golden Knights to a 5-4 overtime win over R.S. Central April 29.

Clifton played the first 35 minutes of the game at center back with Shelby facing a 3-0 deficit.

Clifton scored the next three goals to tie the score at three.

After both teams scored goals, the game went into overtime, Clifton scored the game-winner.

Clifton added two more goals in a 2-0 win at Chase May 1.

Madison Humphries, Crest Soccer: The Crest junior had eight goals in two wins over Stuart Cramer and Forestview last week.

Humphries started her week with two goals in a 4-1 victory at Stuart Cramer, Apr. 29.

The next day, Humphries scored all six goals in a 6-3 win over Forestview.

Humphries, who is a college soccer recruit according to Crest coach, Zach Wortman, has 34 goals this season and 94 goals in her high school for the Chargers (13-6, 11-3 in the Big South this season).

** Information published today includes statistics through April 28.

Want to nominate an athlete?: Athletes of the week highlights high school players with outstanding performances. The goal is to recognize all athletes in all sports, both the most accomplished and the underrated or underappreciated players. If you want to suggest someone to be included in the Athletes of the week column, send email to Jay Edwards at edwardswork23@gmail.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.