BOONE — Four student-athletes, two coaches and a special contributor from the history of Watauga High School athletics have been announced as inductees to the WHS Athletic Hall of Fames for the 2021 class.
The student-athletes selected were Ricky Brookshire, April Cook, Joe Critcher and Jonathan Greene, the coaches were Lan O’Laughlin and Leigh Wallace and Jack Roten was inducted as a special contributor.
O’Laughlin moved to Boone in August 1979, beginning a 24-year teaching and coaching career at WHS. He served as both the boys’ and girls’ swimming coach for his entire career at WHS, served as the boys’ cross country coach for 10 years and began the girls’ cross-country program. O’Laughlin was also awarded the Northwestern 4-A Conference Coach of the Year award numerous times during his 24-year coaching career, most recently in 2001 — 2002.
As coach of the cross country teams, O’Laughlin oversaw 10 conference titles, four sectional championships and five top-10 finishes at the state level, including a state title in 1985 with the girls’ team. With the swimming programs, he coached nine conference champion teams, an individual state champion, a relay state champion and had one top-10 finish at the state level.
Over the years, O’Laughlin became more than just a teacher or a coach to many young adults growing up in the community. In recognition of his achievements and personal sacrifices, WHS set up the “Lan O’Loughlin Personal Achievement Award” to be given out each year to a deserving student. The award honors the qualities of personal effort, dedication, commitment, and self-sacrifice, recognizing the importance of these attributes in all aspects of a person’s life.
Wallace served as a cross country, track and field and girls’ lacrosse coach at WHS. She coached the cross country and track teams from 1993 through the 2003 track season. During her tenure, neither cross country team ever lost a NW4A Conference Championship during Leigh’s coaching career.
Coaching the boys’ team, Wallace’s teams were Regional Champions for six-straight years, three-time state champions, three-time state runner ups, had all seven runners earn all-region honors in 1995, had multiple runners earn all-state honors on five occasions and coached two boys, Joe Lion and Brookshire, to the Footlocker National Championship where they earned All-American honors.
Wallace also had an accomplished reign with the girls’ cross country team, who were Regional Champions three times, won a state title in 1995, finished second at the state level three times and fourth once. Four times in her ten-year tenure, Watauga had all seven of its runners earn all-conference and never had less than five all-conference runners, except in her first year of coaching when they had three. Only once in the ten years did Watauga have less than three girls earn all-region and they had at least one all-state runner every year of Wallace’s coaching tenure except 2000.
Wallace’s distance runners spearheaded the outdoor track program that saw Watauga win nine NW4A Conference Championships in her ten-year tenure. She coached Watauga boys distance runners to 33 individual Conference Championships, 16 individual Regional Championships and nine individual State Championships. Wallace also coached Watauga girls distance runners to 35 individual conference championships, 10 individual Regional Championships and five individual State Championships.
Additionally, Wallace was selected to organize and coach Watauga’s first girls’ lacrosse team in 2011. Although she had never played Lacrosse, nor even seen a game, she developed a competitive team before her death in 2012.
Wallace was best known for her perseverance, strong work ethic and passion for helping young people. In 2012, the Watauga Board of Education voted to name the lacrosse field at WHS in Wallace’s honor.
The team selected for induction was one featuring Wallace as an assistant, the 1996 boys’ cross country team. Head coach Randy McDonough’s squad won the NCHSAA 4A boys’ cross country state championship while winning all but two of their meets. During the season, the team finished second at the Wendy’s and Greensboro Invites behind Leesville Road High School — both times by less than 15 points — but would end up beating Leesville Road in the State Championship by 15 points. The team was coached by McDonough, Wallace and George Trivette and featured a roster of Lion, Brookshire, Ryan Woods, Jody Corum, Greg Horn, Jesse Lile, Jesse Pipes, Britt Marlowe, Joe Kitchens, David Stroupe and Luke Johnson.
Roten was an assistant football coach at WHS from 1984 to 1986 and was the head football coach from 1987 to 1995. He was also the head track coach from 1984 to 1988 and the throws coach for the track team from 1994 to 2000. Roten was the sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at WHS, having started in 1987 and was a local and state Special Olympics coach from 1987 to 1993.
Roten graduated from Appalachian High School in 1964, where he was a three-year varsity running back on the football team, point guard on the basketball team and sprinter on the track team. His senior year, he was MVP in football and selected to the All-Western Regional Team as Appalachian won the Western State Championship. He was also MVP of the basketball and track teams. Roten was the conference champion in the 100-yard and 200-yard dashes and ran the 200-yard dash in the state meet.
Brookshire is a 2000 graduate of WHS who participated in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field and was a three-time All-American. In 2000, Brookshire was the North Carolina Gatorade Athlete of the year. In 1999 and 2000, he was the 4A MVP of the state Track and Field Championships. During his high school career, he was an eight-time state champion and set all-time records in the indoor track two-mile run and outdoor one-mile run, 1,600-meters, 3,200-meters, 5,000-meters and 4x800-meter relay.
Brookshire was a two-time Footlocker Cross Country National Finalist in 1997 and 1999 and set numerous cross country court records. In 1998, he won “The Bear” which is a race to the top of Grandfather Mountain and was the youngest to ever win.
Brookshire went on to attend N.C. State University and was a four-time ACC Champion. He was part of three cross country team championships in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and won the individual outdoor track ACC 5,000-meter championship in 2003. That same year, he was the recipient of the N.C. State “Will to Win” award. He was first-team All-ACC four times and had a third place individual finish at the ACC Cross Country Championships in 2002.
Cook is a 1983 graduate of WHS who participated in volleyball, basketball and track and field, with track and field being her primary sport. In 1983, she was a 400-meter state champion and high jump state champion. She still holds the 3A state meet high jump record. She was the 400-meter 3A state record holder for 36 years. In 1983 she was runner up in the 100-meter hurdles. Following her time at WHS, she continued her athletic career at the University of Texas. In 1985 while at Texas, she was an All-American and five-time conference champion. She holds the Texas school record in the 4x800-meter relay.
Critcher is a 1979 graduate of WHS who participated in football, wrestling and baseball. He was named all-conference in all three sports and was a member of the Watauga High 1978 North Carolina 3A State Championship Football Team. In 1979, he was the most valuable baseball player at WHS.
Following high school, Critcher went played college baseball at Southeastern Community College in 1980 and 1981, being voted Most Improved Player in 1981. Following his time at Southeastern Community College, he went to play college baseball at St. Andrews College in 1982 and 1983, lettering both years. Critcher was the head baseball coach at Hoke County in 1990 and won the 4A North Carolina State Baseball Championship. He was the head baseball coach at St. Andrews College in 2000 and won the Carolina Virginia Conference Championship.
Critcher collected more than 100 wins as head coach at Hoke High School, St. Andrews College and the Scotland Post 50 Legion Baseball Team. He is a member of the Watauga County Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2007 and a member of the Hoke County High School Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
Greene is a 2005 graduate of WHS, where he participated in football and baseball, with baseball being his primary sport. While at Watauga, he was a Northwestern 4A All-Conference catcher and pitcher. He was also a running back on Watauga’s football team.
In Greene’s senior year at Watauga, he hit a staggering .561 with 46 hits (19 being doubles) and 38 RBIs with a school record 11 home runs. Following high school, he went on to play baseball at Western Carolina University, where he was a preseason All-American and All-Southern Conference athlete. At Western Carolina, Greene hit .331 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI’s in 2007.
An eighth round draft pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers, he played five years of minor league baseball and reached the double A level. In a career of 509 games, Greene hit 83 home runs and had 326 RBIs.