Among the many trophies lining the cases in the Owen High's cafeteria are several representing the greatness of teams throughout the school’s 63-year history. Few, if any, capture the collective success of the athletic department like the Wells Fargo Cup.
The trophy is awarded by the N.C. High School Athletic Association at the conclusion of every school year. This year the Owen Warhorses and Warlassies brought it home, for the first time in seven years.
Formerly known as the Wachovia Cup, it is awarded to the top overall athletic team in each conference every year. Earning the school's 11th cup was no easy feat in the always competitive Western Highlands Conference, athletic director Anthony Lee said.
"We're in a conference with a bunch of county schools," Lee said. "A lot of people don't realize that, and we're a small niche in Buncombe County. Everyone in our conference is pulling from the entire county, and we're the smallest school in ours."
That often leaves the athletic programs at the school with a slight disadvantage.
"Those fan bases, counties and cities within those counties all focus their resources on their high school," he said. "Our community does a great job of supporting us as well, but it's not like we're the only show in town."
Six Owen teams finished in first place in the Western Highlands Conference during the 2017-18 school year. The boys and girls soccer programs were both undefeated in conference play, as was the boys tennis program. The girls cross country team won the conference title in the fall. Both swimming teams came out on top during winter competition.
"I knew we were in first place after the winter," Lee said before smiling. "But I didn't say a thing because I didn't want to jinx anybody."
Earning the cup is a credit to the student-athletes and coaches, said Lee, who in addition to being the athletic director is also head coach of the Warhorse baseball team and the offensive coordinator of the football team.
"The athletic tradition here goes way back to before I was even in the community," he said. "When I first came to North Carolina in 1983, I came to see a game at Owen, and I was impressed by how the kids in this community competed."
Lee believes it's that competitive spirit and willingness to work hard that sets this community apart, not athletic talent.
"I used to tell my daughters growing up 'if you're going to play a sport, then I'm going to help you be the best you can be,'" he said. "That's what I think our coaches do with our kids. They support them."
The athletic programs at the school will continue to thrive, Lee said, as long as the parents and community continue to support them.
"A lot of former Warhorses and Warlassies are parents in this community, and we want them to get their kids involved in athletics," he said. "We're proud to continue that tradition at Owen High School."