CHAPEL HILL – Two major awards will be presented to schools at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Annual Meeting on Thursday at the Smith Center on the University of North Carolina campus.
Freedom High School in Morganton is the eighth annual winner of the Exemplary School Award while Princeton High School is the winner of the 2014 Sportsmanship Award.
The awards are given as a cooperative venture among the NCHSAA, the North Carolina Coaches Association and the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association. In addition to a trophy and a banner for display at the respective schools, each school receives a $1000 cash award.
The Exemplary School Award recognizes the top overall school in the state in terms of the “total program,” including but not limited to athletic success, scope of athletic opportunities offered, facilities, community interest and involvement, academics and the like.
Freedom High School in Burke County is an ethnically, socially and economically diverse school that successfully brings together those on the higher end of the social and economic spectrum, a large number of students on free and reduced lunch and a large exceptional children’s program while also sending students to Ivy League schools and the service academies, all part of the “Patriot Nation.”
The school has a great tradition in athletics, winning the state 3-A men’s basketball title this year in the Smith Center with a huge following from Morganton, but also winning state championships in golf, volleyball and women’s basketball in recent years, advancing in the soccer playoffs and winning the conference football championship this year.
Freedom also has an outstanding band program, regularly winning Grand Champion trophies in competition, a Math Team that has competed on the national level, a top Drama Department and an award winning Art Department, to name a few. The Anchor Club has been named the top Anchor Club in North Carolina several times, all part of the “total program.” The school has also committed its student-athletes to sportsmanship and accountability.
Princeton, a small 1-A school in Johnston County, says that its athletic program is based on the foundations of “integrity, honor, class, dignity, sportsmanship, team and love of family.”
Athletic director Marty Gurganus notes, “Like any competitive school we desire to win. But winning in itself is not enough. We want to win with integrity and if we happen not to win we want to be gracious in defeat. Our slogan is ‘Princeton Pride – A Way of Life.’ Princeton Pride is not just a slogan but those words represent who we are. It is the way we feel and the principles we live by.”
Sportsmanship is vitally important at Princeton, beginning with the coaching staff and extending through the athletes and fans. Princeton states that “sportsmanship is about honoring each other and our opponent, along with the officials who help bring order to each event.”
The school instructs its cheerleaders to cheer for their teams and never against the other team, and instructs its cross country runners while out on the trail if an opponent is hurt and needs someone to care for them, then caring for them is more important than crossing the finish line.
"Freedom and Princeton have set themselves apart during the 2013-14 academic year by earning these prestigious honors," said Davis Whitfield, NCHSAA commissioner. "We applaud their commitments in the areas of overall excellence and sportsmanship."