Boys MVP: Cisco Ferre, Hilton Head Island High
Girls MVP: Mallory Liggett, Hilton Head Island High
Coach: Bill Wrightson, Hilton Head Island High
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Boys All-Area: Colton Hennessey, HHH; Eladio Wilkinson, HHH; Ben Gilman, HHH; Sam Beattie, HHH; Brandon Pratt, BFT; Evans Beach, BLF
Girls All-Area: Carley McGlinn, HHH; Abby Gross, HHH; Ciara McMahon, HHH; Rebeka Parent, HHH; Lea Tierney, BLF
Fifteen years ago, the man who would mold the Hilton Head Island High School cross country team into what it is today wasn't involved with the program. He wasn't involved in any program.
As Bill Wrightson's daughter Christie ran her final season for the Seahawks, Wrightson realized how much he was going to miss the action.
"When she became a senior, the thought of not being a part of it anymore was tough," Wrightson said. "So I went to the coach, Chuck Rudolph, and asked to be a volunteer."
Six years later, he was the head coach. And nine years after that, Wrightson is again the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette Cross County Coach of the Year after leading the boys and girls teams to Class 3-A state championships this fall.
Cisco Ferre and Mallory Liggett, the leaders of Wrightson's teams, are the Boys and Girls Cross Country MVPs, respectively, for this season.
Wrightson says assistant coach Max Mayo was instrumental in getting his dynamic duo on the team. And since coming aboard, they haven't disappointed.
Ferre (15:39) and Liggett (19:18) each set personal records and were named all-state after third-place finishes at the state championships in Columbia.
"Both were everything we hoped they would be," Wrightson said. "Both are hard workers and both obviously have talent."
And both have the potential to lead their teams to a repeat. Individual titles aren't out of the question either.
As a junior, Ferre has one more season ahead of him, while Liggett is just an eighth-grader. And each was the highest nonsenior finisher in their state championship race.
"I think their future is ahead of them," Wrightson said. "It will be fun to watch them get better."
-- Mike McCombs
MVP: Kylie Nizolek, Bluffton
Coach of the year: David Crosby, Bluffton
All-area: Kasidy Beckel, BLF; Anna Lesemann Eddy, HHCA; Meredith Wipper, HHH
Kylie Nizolek hoped for the best for herself and her Bluffton High School girls golf teammates this fall.
She wanted a top-five team finish at state and hoped for a top-10 finish individually.
The Bobcats finished third, and though Nizolek did not play as well as she liked to close her final high school season, she came away with other accolades. She fired a 2-under 70 at the Region 8-AAAA tournament on Dataw Island's Morgan River course to finish second.
"I know we could have played better -- I could have played better -- but we weren't expecting to win (state)," Nizolek said. "We didn't have super-high expectations, but we were happy with that."
She finished the season with a 38 average and began counting down until early signing. She inked her intent to play golf at Queens in Charlotte.
The school had been recruiting her since February. Her work at Pinecrest Golf Club the past two years with coach Tim Moss had paid off.
"It was a perfect fit for me -- the school, the town, the team in general, the coaches were awesome," said Nizolek, who plans to major in sports management. "And (there are) a lot of opportunities in Charlotte after I graduate."
Nizolek will continue to play tournaments before enrolling at Queens, including the Vicki DiSantis Junior Girls Champioship held in Charlotte during the spring. She is unsure of her competitive schedule beyond that.
In nominating Nizolek as one of the area's top golfers, an opposing coach wrote "she was the most consistent, great attitude and fierce competitor we faced all season."
-- Stephen Fastenau
Boys MVP: Jake Minasi, Bluffton
Girls co-MVPs: Madison Field, Hilton Head Island and Lilla Felix, Hilton Head Island
Coach: Mike Lane, Hilton Head Island
All-Area Boys: Will Bootle, BFT; Nicholas Suaza, BLF; John Evans, BLF; David Funk, BLF; Camron Reid, BLF; Tristan Cummings, HHH; Clayton North, HHH; Ryan Naddy, HHH; Elliot Gayken, HHH
All-Area Girls: Laura Barras, BFT; Amelia Rzeczycki, HHH; Rachel Mangin, HHH; Victoria Gill, HHH; Sarah Reamy, HHH; Lilly Kerr, HHH; Ashleigh Pangilinan, BLF; Daniele Faciszewski, BLF; Kaitlyn Pangilinan, BLF; Brittany Pangilinan, BLF; Abigail Hess, BLF; Ali Shaw, BLF
Every Seahawk scored in the state championship meet, but it was Madison Field and Lilla Felix who shined as the Hilton Head Island High girls rolled to their fourth straight Class 3-A title.
For that reason, Field and Felix are the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette's Girls Swimming co-MVPs.
On what coach Mike Lane said, "was probably the most incredible day of my coaching career," Field won the individual championship in the 200 individual medley, breaking the school record with a time of 2:09.32. And in the 500 freestyle, Felix won with a time of 5:04.28.
Felix and Field were a part of the 400 freestyle relay team that won with a time of 3:38.46, and both were on the 200 medley relay team that, despite finishing second, broke the school record with a time of 1:51.70.
Felix also finished second in the 100 backstroke with a time of 58.98.
On the boys side, Bluffton's Jake Minasi led the Bobcats to a 12th-place finish at the Class 4-A meet to earn Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette MVP honors.
Minasi finished third in the 100 butterfly (51.26) and the 100 backstroke (52.43).
MVP: Mariana Gould, Hilton Head Prep
Coach of the year: Bob Brown, Bluffton
All-Area team: Sydnee Wheeler, HHP; Ellie Czura, HHP; Ellie Zimmermann, HHP; Taylor Childress, HHP; Catie Meighan, HHP; Katie Rankin, HHP; Madison Dillon, HHCA; Jennifer Oliver, HHH; Justine Wilson, BLF
Mariana Gould certainly made her time on Hilton Head Island count.
The Hilton Head Preparatory School senior moved to the Lowcountry in early 2011, after spending her childhood in Boise, Idaho. The tennis standout trained at Sea Pines while attending Heritage Academy, where she eventually met tennis director Job de Boer.
The Dolphins coach soon thereafter persuaded Gould to play for Prep. He saw the talent she possessed and the contributions she could make on the court for the defending state champions.
"It was different," Gould said. "High school tennis in Idaho is very different. The competition here is definitely more competitive than in Idaho."
Her results certainly didn't seem more competitive. The University of Georgia signee went 9-0 in her lone year at Hilton Head Prep, helping the Dolphins finish with an unblemished record and a SCISAA state championship for the second consecutive year.
Gould, ranked No. 21 nationally by tennisrecruiting.net, played at the No. 1 singles position all season on a deep and talented Prep team. She steamrolled her opponents, going 7-0 at singles and 2-0 at doubles. She never lost more than one game in a single set the entire season, de Boer said.
"Our team, we knew was going to be pretty strong from the beginning," she said. "Going through the year so routinely, it was great. Winning's awesome."
-- Chris Cox
MVP: Mackenzie Cooler, Bluffton
Coach of the year: Al Stern, Bluffton
All-area team: Sierra Davis, HHH; Mallory Lewis, HHH; Jordan Franklin, BLF; Haley Kohler, BLF; Olivia Walker, WB; Stevie DeSimone, HHCA; Miranda Weslake, BA
Mackenzie Cooler wasn't getting her hopes up for her final year in a Bluffton uniform. The youth surrounding her on the court didn't permit much excitement.
"I definitely wasn't expecting the team to be as good as it was," she said. "I thought we were going to lose in the first round of the playoffs and that was going to be it."
And yet, things seemed to fall into place for the inexperienced Bobcats. Led by coach Al Stern, the group finished 36-14-2, while capturing the Region 8-AAAA championship and advancing to the third round of the Class 4-A playoffs.
"We went pretty far," Cooler said, "and I'm pretty happy with how everyone played and came together."
Her work on the court helped push the Bobcats to their unexpected finish. The College of Charleston signee finished her season with 268 kills, 648 assists, 206 good digs and a serving percentage over 95 percent. Her performance helped her earn All-State honors, a spot on the 3-A/4-A South All-Star team and the Region 8-AAAA player of the year award.
"I remember back when I was in seventh grade, I always wanted to be the best," she said. "I wanted to be a Division I athlete. I lived up to my goals."
Her work for the Bobcats won't be what she remembers most about her final season, however. Her memory will instead be locked on her sister, Madison, and the development she showed during the year.
"(I'll remember) watching my sister get better, actually," she said. "Knowing how she was in eighth grade and (seeing) where she is now. Watching her grow up, I guess."
-- Chris Cox