BOYS TRACK & FIELD
Andre Watson was reluctant, but he bought them anyway.
The Whale Branch sprinter had recently arrived back in the States after a three-year stint in Okinawa, Japan, when he decided to buy a new pair of spikes for the upcoming track season.
"I always wanted to wear the ones I brought from Japan," recalled the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette's Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. "I thought, 'Maybe these will break my streak. I'm not going to win every track meet anymore.' "
Yet he went against his instincts and bought the spiffy new spikes. And it wasn't long after that when he realized he was winning anyway. And winning big.
"It's not the shoes, it's about how hard you work," he said.
That was never more apparent than at the state track meet in Columbia back in May, where the senior won the gold in the 100- and 200-meter dash, with the latter breaking an 11-year-old state record. His 21.16 finish in the event edged the mark established by Richland Northeast's Airese Curry in 2001 by a hundredth of a second.
"Every day I look at the trophy I got," Watson recalled of the state meet, where he also helped the Warriors win the 4x400 relay. "I think about all the things that I put in to get to this point, from the beginning of the season when I bought the brand new pair of spikes."
Watson credited his teammates for the Warriors' big year. He said they welcomed him early on despite his lack of history with the group.
"I felt like I'd been here all my life," he said. "I appreciated that from them. They helped me strive to be the best."
Athlete of the Year: Andre Watson, Whale Branch
Coach of the Year: Brad Taracuk, Whale Branch
All-Area: Alvin Brown, Ridgeland; Antione Johnson, Ridgeland; Wesley Scott, Ridgeland; Xavier Capers, Ridgeland; Charles Jiles, Whale Branch; Devonta' Glover, Whale Branch; Dee Delaney, Whale Branch; Devonte Alston, Whale Branch; Henry Jenkins, Beaufort High; Martin Washington, Beaufort High; Jack Manesiotis, Hilton Head High; Desmond Bonaparte, Hilton Head High; Matthew Alex Couch, Hilton Head High; Justice Oliver, Battery Creek; Shakil Gause, Battery Creek; Jamario Williams, Hilton Head Christian Academy
Chris MacMurray wasn't having fun during his sophomore campaign with the Hilton Head Island High soccer team.
A year removed from an all-state season as a freshman, MacMurray was moved to defender by Seahawks coach Wayne Quinlan in 2011, where he promptly began to carry the team's weight on his shoulders.
"Soccer is my passion," he said. "Sophomore year I didn't have fun. I put too much pressure on myself."
So MacMurray decided he would try to enjoy himself more during his junior year, when he was moved up to midfielder. What followed was MacMurray's best season to date, as his key goals and assists in clutch moments helped lead the Seahawks to their first-ever state title game. He has been selected as the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette's Boys Soccer Player of the Year for 2012.
"I don't think there's a player in our area that means any more to their team than Chris does to ours," Quinlan said. "He does a good job of raising others up around him. He's got a good head for the game and reads the game well.
"You can't put a price tag on what he does for our team."
MacMurray netted three game-winning goals this season for Hilton Head High, which included an overtime score against St. James in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs.
"It kind of just happened. The ball just fell at my foot at the right times," MacMurray said. "In soccer, you run for 80 minutes and you only touch the ball at your feet for two. It's all about getting yourself in the right position.
"It just happened that the ball always somehow found me when I was in the right spot at the right time."
Added Quinlan: "That's where you define great players. They're at their best when their best is needed. ... I think the sky is the limit for that kid."
Player of the Year: Chris MacMurray, Hilton Head High
Coach of the Year: Wayne Quinlan, Hilton Head High
All-Area: Christian Faale, Beaufort High; William Lopez, Battery Creek; Conner Akers, Beaufort Academy; Wanerger Velasquez, Bluffton; Martin Sotelo, Hardeeville; Adrian Morales, Hardeeville; Mike Ritterbeck, Hilton Head High; Bennett Murphy, Hilton Head High, Ruben Romero, Hilton Head High; Logan Clark, Hilton Head Prep, Zach Reynolds, Hilton Head Christian Academy.
Hilton Head Prep tennis coach Danny Nash knows he doesn't have much teaching left to do when it comes to Andrew Schafer.
"He's a kid you don't have to coach," Nash said. "He eats the right things, makes the right choices, understands the strategy of the game. He goes out, gets it done."
Schafer has certainly made life easier of late for Nash and the rest of the Dolphins. In two years, he has yet to lose a No. 1 singles match at Hilton Head Prep and helped lead the Dolphins to the SCISAA state semifinals this year, where they bowed out to rival Hilton Head Christian Academy. Schafer is the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette's Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
"He's our rock. He's our ever-present winner," Nash said. " ... In the two seasons, I think he lost one set. To say that he's dominated high school tennis would be an understatement."
Schafer is ranked as the top in-state prospect for 2013 and the No. 17 overall player in the same class, according to TennisRecruiting.net. The tennis star recently committed to South Carolina over offers from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
Schafer came to Hilton Head Island from Frederick, Md., where his parents had to travel long distances just so their son could face elite competition.
"I had to travel an hour and a half to Virginia to play with the top kids in that area," he said. "We decided it was time for a move."
It was an easy decision for the family to settle in the Lowcountry, as his father works for the military on Parris Island while Schafer trains at Smith Stearns Tennis Academy.
"Hilton Head has a great name and some great coaches, so we just decided to come down here," Schafer said. "It's been a great (decision) for me."
He's already begun to look forward to next year, where he says his goals are to break into the top 10 of the national rankings as well as earn as spot in the U.S. Junior Open.
Maybe Nash can help get him there. If there's any coaching left for him to do, that is.
Player of the Year: Andrew Schafer, Hilton Head Prep
Coach of the Year: Eric Wammock, Hilton Head Christian
All-Area: Nick Bybel, Hilton Head Christian; Hampton Drake, Hilton Head Christian; Charlie Drake, Hilton Head Christian; Robert Loeb, Hilton Head Prep; Jared Woodson, Hilton Head Prep; Malcolm Kates, Beaufort High; James Bachety, Beaufort High; Chris Davis, Bluffton; Dustin Jagos, Whale Branch
The club was feeling good as it laid in Woody Woodward's hands.
The Hilton Head Prep golfer was competing in last year's Junior PGA Championship, where he shot a fourth-round 66 thanks to six birdies to finish in a tie for fifth place. It was then that he realized his game was finally returning.
"That was kind of the point where I went, 'Alright, I feel good about where I'm at.' "
Woodward had experienced his share of ups and downs, as the West Virginia native endured a pair of surgeries on his left shoulder within a year -- the last one coming in April 2010 -- that temporarily derailed his success on the course.
"It took a long time to get back to where I felt my game was good enough to really play competitive golf, to play at the high level I'm used to playing at," he said. "It came back a little quicker than I was anticipating."
But Woodward returned in style after the trying period. Playing in his first full year of high school golf, the Wake Forest commitment helped lead the Dolphins to the SCISAA Class 3-A state championship, where he claimed medalist honors after shooting even-par 72 on both days of the tournament. Woodward is the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette's Boys Golfer of the Year.
"Being about to ... get everything where I feel like I needed it to be made golf a whole lot easier," Woodward said. "It was definitely a blast playing high school golf again."
Woodward, named to the all-region team with a stroke average of 35.86, can actually thank his long layoff for part of his success. Following surgery, the rising senior spent most of his time on the greens, where he was able to significantly improve his short game.
"He can flat out roll it," Dolphins coach Kyle Maloney said. "He's never out of a hole. Ever. He putts and putts and putts at practice.
"He can be in some pretty precarious situations. ... He knows in his mind he can get it up and in from anywhere. Whether it's from 6 inches or 35 feet."
Player of the Year: Woody Woodward, Hilton Head Prep
Coach of the Year: Kyle Maloney, Hilton Head Prep
All-Area: Alec Weary, Bluffton; Andrew Orishack, Hilton Head High; Taylor Simonsen, Beaufort High; Tyler Williams, Hilton Head Prep; Phillip Loeb, Hilton Head Prep; JD Lehman, Hilton Head Christian; Bryson Nimmer, Hilton Head Christian.
Nick Bautista was in unfamiliar territory.
The senior lacrosse player for Hilton Head Island High School was being called upon like never before. It wasn't like coach Joe Monmonier had much of a choice, either. Bautista was one of only two seniors in 2012 for the Seahawks.
"My junior year, all those (seniors) ran the whole field," Bautista said. "I was just kind of tagging along and trying to help out as much as I could. This year was different. I had to almost control everything."
Not that it mattered. After waiting in the wings for three years, Bautista helped lead Hilton Head High to the Lower State finals while netting 37 goals and a team-leading 27 assists this season. Bautista is the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette's Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
"He was always overshadowed in years past by other seniors and never really got the recognition he deserved," Monmonier said. "He took leadership to a great level. He and the other senior (Justin Shaw) did a great job leading the team. He was able to shine and made his teammates better."
Bautista also collected the state's Midfielder of the Year honor as well as a spot on the U.S. Lacrosse All-American team. But Bautista was more interested in his team's accomplishments on the field, where it finished with a 10-5 record despite a roster with 14 underclassmen.
"Coming in, we had a lot of young guys," he said. "Everyone was kind of underestimating us and I feel like getting that far was a big accomplishment. We were working really hard on the practice field and everything. I'm really proud of the guys for making it that far."
Bautista, who will try to play club lacrosse at USC next season, will certainly be missed by Monmonier and Co. next year. That's no surprise, given what the senior accomplished on the field in 2012.
"He was our guy," Monmonier said. "He started out this season trying to get more of a team concept and really (succeeded). ... He went out and dominated pretty much every team we played."
Player of the Year: Nick Bautista, Hilton Head High
Coach of the Year: Joe Monmonier, Hilton Head High
All-Area: Nate Jones, Hilton Head High; Madison Gayle, Hilton Head High; Andrew Kirby, Hilton Head High; Robert Moody, Hilton Head High.