Asheboro Hall of Fame inductees represent special era

Asheboro High School

New class members hold precious memories

ASHEBORO – At the time about 15 years ago, it might not have been clear to a group of Asheboro High School athletes that they were involved in a special era for the school’s athletics department. It might be more apparent now.

Three of the newest additions to the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame are from that time frame, with Lindsay Cross from the Class of 2006 and the following year’s graduates Mike Eddy and Neal Pritchard.

“Maybe I’m biased, but the period I was going through, there were great athletes,” Eddy said. “It really was special to be a part of. You realize now that those were special teams.”

Cross was a standout in basketball and softball and also ran on the cross-country team. Eddy was an elite runner in track and field and also was a busy kicker on the football team. Pritchard excelled in basketball and baseball on the way to a professional career.

They’ll be among five inductees during Friday night’s football game against visiting Southwestern Randolph. They’re joined in the induction class by DeNeal McNair, a football and track and field standout from the Class of 1984, and John Thornburg, a wrestler, football and baseball player from the Class of 2012.

“I remember there being some really good teams,” Pritchard said.

Cross likes the idea of being part of an induction class that seems familiar. She said she knows the Thornburg family from church activities and has known McNair’s son since middle school.

“It’s special to be inducted in a class where I know the others,” she said.

The admiration for the Blue Comets is a theme for the inductees.

“I really loved my time at Asheboro High,” Eddy said. “Being on the teams at Asheboro High was really a formative experience for me.”

Eddy was Class 3-A state champion in the 400 meters, reaching the state team in all four seasons. He also won a state title in the 500 in indoor track and field.

“He ran like a deer,” Pritchard said. “That boy could run for days.”

That parlayed into a four-year career with distinction on Princeton’s track and field team.

Yet it was on the football field for the Blue Comets that left a particular impression. He racked up 136 points – a total believed to be a school record.

“When I went to the high school, for whatever reason they didn’t have a kicker,” Eddy said. “So I get pulled over to the varsity (as a freshman). … The offense scored a lot, so I got to collect a lot of extra points.”

Eddy also practiced as a wide receiver, but he said he wasn’t needed much for that role. He said the team was stacked with leaders, including quarterback Blake Brewer (who’s now Asheboro’s coach). He said the list of quality athletes was impressive for a team undefeated in the regular season.

“And we didn’t have (Pritchard) on that team,” Eddy said.

Eddy said Pierce Neel, an assistant coach for the football team, made a positive impression as his track and field coach. Eddy is a professor in geology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

He’ll cherish returning home to relive some of the memories this weekend.

“We all came together on those sports teams and in a place like Asheboro you come together and that helps form a community,” Eddy said.

• Pritchard said he was grateful for the support he received as an Asheboro athlete. He said he received valuable coaching throughout high school, then capped in his final years by Brian Nance (basketball) and Tim Murray (baseball).

“They brought in more people to help the athletes,” Pritchard said. “I felt like I was blessed with some great coaches along the way. I’ve always been appreciative of that.”

Prichard was a conference Player of the Year twice in basketball and baseball. That’s something no other Asheboro athlete has accomplished.

“I look back and I can’t remember many of the personal accomplishments,” Pritchard said. “I guess it was exciting, but I always judged it by ‘how did we do as a team?’”

Pritchard said basketball always seemed like a primer for the baseball season. He went on to play collegiately as a shortstop for Elon. From there, he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization for three seasons, twice playing on minor-league teams that won league championships.

“As long as I can remember, playing baseball was my dream,” Pritchard said. “I’m not sure if I would have gone to college if it wasn’t for baseball. That was my path.”

Pritchard, who lives in Randleman, gives hitting lessons and coaches a travel youth baseball team. He works with family in a trucking and grading business.

• Cross became Asheboro’s first all-state softball player, receiving that distinction twice as a first baseman. She was an all-conference player in basketball, while also running for the cross-country team.

“Basketball was definitely my favorite sport, but I was probably better at softball,” Cross said.

Cross said her parents made it possible to go from one venue to another while playing multiple sports growing up. Those activities helped her build friendships with athletes from other schools as well.

“Playing with them on the weekend, you have these friendships,” she said, noting Asheboro’s tight-knit community. “Then you’re (playing against) them. We still wanted to win for Asheboro.”

After high school, Cross had a standout career in basketball and softball at Randolph College.

“It’s a little tricky,” she said. “Those seasons kind of overlap in college.”

Cross, who also has a degree from UNC Greensboro, is a social worker for the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools.

• McNair was a two-time all-conference selection in football and three-time All-County participant in track and field. He became a member of a North Carolina A&T championship football team. More recently, he was a successful track and field coach for Asheboro and has served as a pastor for Vision of Unity Outreach Ministries in Asheboro.

• Thornburg won a state championship in wrestling as well as receiving all-conference recognition in baseball. He works for Trane in Raleigh after graduating from North Carolina State.

 

By Bob Sutton

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