The end of the 2018-19 sports season at Owen High School represents the conclusion of the athletic careers of the majority of seniors set to graduate on Saturday, June 15.
For 11 student-athletes, however, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in their respective sports.
Owen fielded 17 varsity sports teams this year, and athletes from seven of them plan to continue playing at the collegiate level.
The boys and girls soccer programs at Owen have enjoyed success in recent years, each going undefeated in the Western Highlands Conference in consecutive seasons.
Lorenz Hoover began his varsity soccer career for the Warhorses as a freshman in 2015. His offensive prowess made him a key figure on a team that has advanced to the postseason in each of his four seasons on the roster. Hoover helped lead the team to the third round of the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, and the second round in 2018.
In February, he committed to the soccer program at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
The Warlassies soccer program will be represented on the collegiate level by senior goalkeeper C.J. Graham and junior Camryn Bolick.
Graham, whose presence in goal helped her team advance to the third round of the playoffs this season, will head to Nashville, Tennessee, where she will join the Lipscomb University roster. The Bisons, an NCAA Division I program and member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, finished the 2018-19 season 15-5 with a loss to Duke in the postseason tournament last November. Graham, who lives in the Owen district, attended Nesbitt Discovery Academy in Asheville, which does not field a soccer team.
Bolick, the WHC Player of the Year and Owen Female Athlete of the Year this season, has been a force for the team since joining as a freshman in 2017. She plans to graduate early next school year, bypassing her senior season for the Warlassies.
Bolick will continue her career at Western Carolina University prior to the 2020-21 season, according to David Fiest, head coach of the Warhorses and Warlassies.
Three players from the Warhorse baseball team will take their talents to the next level, according to Owen athletic director and head coach Anthony Lee.
Senior Jaylen Allen, who pitched and played short stop for the Warhorses, will head to Dobson where he plans to play for Surry Community College. Catcher Trenton Messer will remain in the Swannanoa Valley, where he intends to join the roster at Montreat College.
Trent Smith a middle infielder for Lee's squad, will join Messer in Montreat or continue his career at Brevard College.
Owen's softball program will be represented at Catwaba Valley Community College, where outfielder Destiny Karber will join the school's new program.
Chesney Gardner wrapped up her athletic career at Owen by bringing home the Pat Best Memorial Trophy, given annually to the top female athlete in the state by the NCHSAA. She added the Dr. Lary & Jan Schulhof Division I Female Athlete of the Year award to her collection at the 58th annual WNC Sports Awards Banquet on May 19.
Gardner also took home the Owen Athlete of the Year Award for the second consecutive year as she prepared to head to University of South Carolina Aiken to continue her basketball career for the Pacers.
Noah Moore, who scored 1,000 points as a member of the Warhorse basketball team during his four-year career, intends to continue his career on the hardwood in college, according to head coach Clint McElrath.
Senior Audun Meyers, who is perhaps best recognized for the two seasons he lined up under center as the starting quarterback for the Warhorses, signed with Guilford College in Greensboro in February.
Meyers will play defensive back for the Quakers.
Senior Wyatt Lehman was named Male Athlete of the Year at Owen in May for his performance on the soccer field and basketball and tennis courts. He plans to continue his tennis career at UNC-Charlotte, where he will begin attending in the fall.
"We're very excited for these students," Lee said. "They give us a lot of their time, energy and commitment and for the ones who have a goal of playing in college, we try our best to give them that opportunity."
Sending 11 of the school's 200-250 student-athletes to play at the collegiate level is a testimony to the work of those students and the athletic program at Owen, Lee continued.
"We strive to have rigorous athletic programs here, and we make them tough," he said. "We have a lot of students who are really committed to their sports, not only in high school, but a lot of them started playing those sports long before they came to us."
Parents play a big role in the success of student-athletes, Lee added.
"Owen High School is small, but we have a lot of talent at this school," he said. "These parents work with us to help them develop their child and we're fortunate to have so many parents that are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to help the students reach their goals."