Each school year tends to take on a life of its own.
With that said, no matter where you look, the 2016-17 term will go down as a memorable one — particularly in the realm of high school sports.
Over the course of the past nine months, there were moments of exhilaration, shock and awe, as well as grief as Mother Nature put her strength on full display.
As students become graduates with the simple act of moving a tassel from one side of their cap to the other, so also ends another year of high school sports.
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What were some of the story lines that dominated the prep scene? Which moments do you remember most?
Just as you probably have a list, we at The Sun News have one as well.
Here is a look at the story lines that dominated the prep sports scene in the Myrtle Beach area, Horry County and the Grand Strand over the past school year:
In much the same way it made a mess of a large swath of coastal communities in South Carolina, Hurricane Matthew did much the same to the high school sports schedule.
Immense in size and nature, the seriousness of the storm was well known several days ahead of its landfall in the Palmetto State. Packing a punch in the form of blistering wind gusts and more than a dozen inches of rain, its mere presence impacted matters small and great.
In the tropical cyclone’s wake, extracurricular activities were far from the minds of all affected, who instead focused on their safety and recovery of property.
Learning a lesson from its scheduling fiasco in the aftermath of the “1,000-year flood” of 2015, the S.C. High School League (SCHSL) extended the fall sports schedule by a couple of weeks.
“No matter how you look at things, safety is always the top priority,” said SCHSL Executive Director Jerome Singleton last fall.
Twice as nice for Knaffle, St. James girls golf
The weight of high expectations did little to slow the momentum of sophomore golfer Smith Knaffle and her St. James teammates.
Despite having a target firmly on their backs all season, the Sharks embraced the challenge, leaving no doubt as to who was the best girls golf team in Class 4A.
Taming The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University, St. James claimed the 4A state title with a total team score of 630. It was the squad’s second consecutive championship, as it walked away with the 2015 3A championship as well.
The Sharks won by 38 shots over second-place Greenville, which earned a team score of 668. Daniel was third, earning a two-day total of 677.
Knaffle again put on a show, a year after marking her arrival as a superstar at the state level. She shot consecutive rounds under par en route to a 6-under 138 and medalist honors.
In addition to Knaffle’s performance, seventh-grader Adrian Anderson shot a 14-over 158 in her first trip to the state tournament, good enough to finish tied for 10th-place.
Myrtle Beach claims Lower State title
It was a moment Larry Church had waited years to share with his daughters, as well as a group of young women who had become much of the same.
As Americans took to the ballot box to elect a new president, no straw polls were necessary for the Myrtle Beach volleyball team to earn a Lower State 4A championship. The Seahawks downed visiting Lugoff-Elgin 3-0 (25-21, 25-9, 25-20) for the program’s first shot at a state title since 2011.
And while Myrtle Beach fell to Aiken in the 4A state final, what the team accomplished over the course of the 2016 volleyball campaign was not lost on Church.
“We have five of six starters returning from this year’s team, and we just finished the greatest season in school history,” Church said. “We played for the title in 2011, falling to Eastside, but then had some bad luck in the playoffs the next few years. We always made progress, and eventually found our way back this season.
“I think we will all learn from this. I’m not disappointed, because we lost to a really, really good team.”
North Myrtle Beach climbs ladder to playoff success
Upon taking the job in Little River, Blair Hardin made it his goal to change people’s perception of North Myrtle Beach football.
He believed … and eventually the team along with the rest of the community did as well.
The 2016 football season offered the perfect storm for Chiefs fans as they embarked on a journey that would take their beloved team to 11 wins, a share of the Region VII-4A title and a trip to the Lower State playoff round.
Making the accomplishment a bit sweeter were the trials and tribulations of the season, North Myrtle Beach weathering storms from Mother Nature, injuries and dismissals.
The 11 wins set a new school record, with its two playoff wins also serving as the most in program history.
Sullivan ousted at Green Sea Floyds
Things seemed to be on the up-and-up for Tony Sullivan.
Mere months removed from leading Green Sea Floyds to one of the more successful football seasons in its history, he was looking forward to building a program that lasted well beyond his days on the sideline.
All those dreams and aspirations fell by the wayside, as Sullivan was relieved of his duties as Trojans head man under confounding circumstances.
“If I’d have done something wrong, this circumstance would have been easier. But I had a lot of support, a lot of backing … and then I’m in a meeting and suddenly do not have a job,” he said shortly after receiving news of his dismissal.
During his five seasons at Green Sea Floyds, Sullivan was 13-39. As fate would have it, the former Trojans head man saved his best for last, leading the squad to a 6-6 mark and the program’s first playoff win in 13 years.
Green Sea Floyds hired Donnie Kiefer, one of North Carolina’s winningest active coaches at the time of his hire, as the program’s new head man in late March. As for Sullivan, he will serve as an assistant this fall at Broome High School, located outside of Spartanburg.
Conway gets to see how the other half lives
For nearly a decade, Conway had not won a playoff game on the gridiron.
In regard to the school’s girls basketball program, it had been better than 30 years since its last region title. Heck, the Tigers’ softball squad merely wanted to be part of the party.
Each of those lengthy droughts came to an end during the 2016-17 school term, marking what those at Conway hope is the start of another golden era a stone’s throw from the Waccamaw River.
It started in late November, as the Tigers’ football team finally struck oil in the postseason, scoring a pair of victories over Goose Creek and Spring Valley. The Tigers eventually fell to Fort Dorchester in the Lower State semifinal round.
Whatever positive vibe was left from the fall sports season, it spilled over to the winter — in particular the Conway girls hoops team.
Under the direction of coach Shamae Hemingway, the team claimed the Region VI-5A title in thrilling fashion, Zakera Chadmon’s jumper with seconds left pushing the Tigers past rival Carolina Forest. Seizing hold of the momentum, Conway won its first three playoff games before bowing out to eventual 5A state champion Goose Creek in the Lower State final.
All Conway softball coach Mike Skipper wanted was “to see how the other half lived.”
His squad got a good glimpse this past year, claiming the Region VI-5A softball championship, followed shortly after by a district title as well. The twin conquests were program firsts for the Tigers.
Jackson, Green Sea Floyds make run at Class A girls hoops title
On a number of occasions, Tamara Jackson was the smallest player on the basketball court.
But by night’s end, few stood taller.
The Class A girls hoops all-state performer particularly made her presence felt this past season, helping the Trojans navigate to a Lower State championship.
In fact, during that Lower State A title tilt, Jackson’s 33 points helped the Trojans chip away at and eventually overtake East Clarendon, defeating their region rival 71-68 in overtime.
And while Green Sea Floyds would fall short of a Class A championship, falling 49-46 to Estill, it was its diminutive point guard who stood most prominently. As a result of her 31 points, Jackson outscored all players — male or female — in the Weekend of Champions.
Grigg sets state low mark, Waccamaw takes title
Holden Grigg and Patrick Golden tend to see each other often, both active on the state’s junior golf circuit.
So when the pair learned of each other’s individual feats last month, neither was surprised.
Taking on the Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club in Hilton Head, Grigg’s twin rounds of 65 earned him a 14-under par and medalist honors at the Class 4A boys golf state tournament. The Myrtle Beach standout’s two-day total of 130 also set a new low mark at the state championship level, a shot better than Golden the previous year in leading Waccamaw to a 2A title.
Speaking of the Warriors, one would have to excuse them if they had a mild case of déjà vu.
On the same True Blue Golf Club in Pawleys Island in which the team won a state title the previous spring, Waccamaw once again celebrated on its 18th green.
The Warriors claimed the Class 3A boys golf tournament with a low score of 578, beating second-place Bishop England by 37 strokes. Gilbert finished third with a two-day total of 627.
Following an opening round 72, Golden — who is headed to the College of Charleston — put a stamp on his prep career with a 4-under 68.
2016-17 Prep Sports Honor roll
St. James, girls golf: Taming The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University, the Sharks claimed the 4A state title with a total team score of 630. It was the squad’s second consecutive championship.
Waccamaw, boys golf: The Warriors claimed the Class 3A boys golf tournament at True Blue Golf Course in Pawleys Island with a low score of 578, beating second-place Bishop England by 37 strokes.
Briley Arnold, Waccamaw: Claimed a state championship in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:05.29. She also finished third in the 100-meter hurdles.
Holden Grigg, Myrtle Beach: Earned medalist honors with a two-day total of 130 at the Class 4A boys golf state tournament last month at Port Royal Golf Club’s Barony Course in Hilton Head.
Isaiah Ivey, Myrtle Beach: Won 4A state titles in the boys’ 50- and 100-yard freestyle swim events, in addition to helping lead the Seahawks to a third-place finish in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
Smith Knaffle, St. James: Shot consecutive rounds under par at The Hacker Course at Coastal Carolina University en route to a 6-under 138 and medalist honors.
Olivia McGonigal, Myrtle Beach: Earned state title in Class 4A girls backstroke event.
Patrick Sullivan, Waccamaw: Claimed individual gold in 50- and 100-yard freestyle events along with winning state titles as part of the Warriors’ 200- and 400-yard relay teams.
Waccamaw boys swim relay teams: John Grey and Jonah Crosby, Sean King and Patrick Sullivan teamed up to win state titles in the 200- and 400-yard relays.
Brianna Young, Socastee: At the Class 5A championship, she claimed a state title in the discus throw with a toss of 139 feet.
Athletes of the Year
High School Male Athlete of the Year: Peyton Derrick, Conway
High School Female Athlete of the Year: Tamara Jackson, Green Sea Floyds