Jeff Wilson undoubtedly had the best insight about the discussion of who would sit on the Mount Rushmore of Polk County High School athletics.
As I talked with the former Polk County coach and athletic director about the idea, he perhaps summed things up best with his first response: “Are you sure you want to do this?”
He makes a very valid point. Earlier in my professional career, when I worked at daily newspapers, every All-Whatever team always led to a steady stream of letters, phone calls and, eventully, emails questioning mind and occasionally body.
A project such as this is even more difficult – how do you look back across 31 seasons of competition (it’s the 30th anniversary of the school’s first season) and select just four athletes?
The answer is, you can’t, at least not without a lot of qualifiers.
More than 500 ballots, representing more than 2,100 votes, were cast by PolkSports readers. I also talked with a number of experts, coaches and administrators who have seen more than their fair share of PCHS athletic events since the first Wolverine teams began competing in 1989.
The experts asked some excellent questions. Is it fair to have a single list for boys and girls? How do we balance individual sports such as track against team sports such as football? What if we think there’s someone who merits a place that’s not on the list?
After reviewing the reader votes, after talking with the experts, we settled on this – two separate lists, one for boys, one for girls, with a strong case made for more than four athletes on each.
And, thus, here we go:
In both reader voting and consulting with the experts, eight names emerged as a common thread across both groups: Travis Aldred, Joel Booker, Chris Mintz, Jim Ollis, Derrick Overholt, Tyler Philpott, Jamal Tanner and John Spencer Wolfe.
Aldred, you may note, wasn’t on the list of nominees submitted by PolkSports readers for voting. Not only did a former teammate email a passionate argument for his inclusion, but two of our experts said he belonged not only on the list, but in the final four, citing his status as a two-time conference player of the year and his instrumental role in Polk County’s two boys soccer state championships, two of the eight team titles in school history.
The remaining seven names are also obvious selections – multi-sport standouts, state champions, school record holders, all-state athletes. You could build a strong case for any combination of any four names from that group.
The consensus from readers and experts, though, is that this foursome – Booker, Ollis, Mintz, Wolfe – represents as good a grouping as any.
Booker earned all-conference honors in three sports, was an all-state baseball selection and had a senior season to rival any:
- Football: 41 catches for 836 yards and seven touchdowns; 67 tackles, a sack, three fumble recoveries, three interceptions, six tackles for loss, a forced fumble and 10 pass deflections. He also served as Polk’s kicker and punter
- Basketball: Averaged 13.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, three steals, three blocks and three assists per game. Chosen for the Blue-White All-Star Game
- Baseball: All-state pick, hit 493 with 19 RBI, nine doubles, four home runs, 11 stolen bases and an .812 slugging percentage. Held 14 school records at the end of his career
Moving to Polk County prior to his junior season, Ollis left quite a mark in his two years as a Wolverine. He was named the NCHSAA Male Athlete of the Year in his senior season, one in which he also starred in three sports:
- Football: Ran for 1,118 yards and 14 touchdowns and threw for 10 touchdowns. Had 73 tackles on defense and averaged 44 yards as a punter. Selected for the Shrine Bowl
- Wrestling: Finished 29-0 to win his second straight state championship, the only Polk wrestler to own more than one title. Ollis also won a state title in South Carolina as a sophomore and finished with a 119-3 career record.
- Baseball: Hit more than .400, with more than 20 RBI and double digits in steals
Mintz made his biggest impact on the football field, a two-way standout who had Division I coaches flocking to Columbus before he signed with North Carolina. He finished his career with 74 catches for 1,588 yards and 11 touchdowns as a tight end and 454 tackles, 11 interceptions and 15 sackes on defense, primarily at linebacker. Mintz still holds the school record for tackles in a season and career.
A Shrine Bowl selection, Mintz also earned All-America recognition. He was also was a basketball standout, helping lead Polk County to the 1A state final as a sophomore, and lettered in baseball, golf and track during his career. Mintz later returned to Polk County and coached girls basketball for five seasons, his 86 wins still the most in the program’s history.
Wolfe’s six state championships in indoor and outdoor track are the most for any Wolverine male in any sport. He narrowly missed a seventh title in a third sport, placing second at the state cross country meet in 2008. He added a third place at the 2A state meet in 2009.
Wolfe won two indoor state titles, one each in 2008 and 2009, and dominated the outdoor 1A state meet in those seasons, winning both the 800 meters and 1600 meters. He was named the state meet’s most valuable runner in 2008, the only Polk male to ever win that award. He competed in national meets and won the Liberty Invitational as a junior with a time among the 25 fastest in the nation that year.
Experts and readers basically agreed on the four female athletes for the Mount Rushmore of Polk County girls sports – Jennifer Dimsdale, Karen Godlock, Jamie Hrobak and Hayley Kropp.
The first cross country meet I ever covered as a sports writer occurred in the early 1990s, a meet held at Lake Junaluska in Haywood County.
I only remember one thing about that meet – standing at particular spot on the course, where runners emerged from woods, and seeing a small figure clad in a Polk County uniform burst out of the trees and glide past where I stood. And then waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the next runner to appear.
That runner was Karen Godlock, the most decorated athlete in school history and an easy choice for our Mount Rushmore of female PCHS athletes. The leading female vote getter among readers, the unanimous pick of our experts, Godlock would no doubt earn a spot no matter what criteria is used.
Godlock won 21 state individual and relay titles in her career. She won three straight cross country crowns and also became the first North Carolina female to win the Foot Locker Cross Country South Region title.
Godlock won 18 indoor and outdoor track titles, including sweeping the outdoor 800, 1600 and 3200 in three straight seasons. She led Polk County to the 1991 state team title and was also named the 1993 North Carolina Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year. Godlock was named the most outstanding runner at the state outdoor track meet in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
Dimsdale’s resume is nearly as impressive. She won three straight state cross country championships, finishing second in her other state meet, and also claimed three indoor track state titles and six outdoor titles, joining Godlock as the only Wolverines with 10 or more state crowns.
Dimsdale was named the most outstanding runner at the 1998 outdoor track championships, where she won the 800, 1600 and 3200. She helped lead Polk County to state team championships in 1998 and 1999.
Hrobak also ran cross country and was a basketball standout, twice earning all-conference and all-area recognition. She averaged 11 points and 12 rebounds per game her senior season and still shares the school single-game rebounding mark.
But it was on the softball diamond where Hrobak built her legacy. Specifically, in the center of it, the preemiment pitcher in school history.
In her senior season, Hrobak finished 21-4 with an 0.38 earned run average and 249 strikeouts. She threw three perfect games and six no-hitters. And she wasn’t too shabby as a batter, hitting .500 with three homers and 27 RBI. She is the school’s career leader in wins, strikeouts, earned run average, innings and winning percentage.
Kropp earned all-conference recognition in three sports at Polk County – cross country, softball and basketball. She set a handful of school hitting records in softball while starring as a shortstop. Kropp finished with 18 career home runs, includig nine in 2015, and once reached base in 22 straight plate appearances.
But Kropp’s fame came on the basketball court, where she is the school’s all-time leading scorer, male or female, with 1,637 points. She owns 19 school records, several of those single-season marks set in her senior year when she averaged 26 points per game.
There are others who merit consideration – Brianna Cunningham, Elisabeth Elliott, Jenny McGrane, Kara Overholt. But the foursome of Dimsdale, Godlock, Hrobak and Kropp are the pick, joining their male counterparts.
Let the debates begin.