A trio of Carroll County athletes signed the dotted line to continue their athletic careers in a special ceremony held April 18 at Carroll County High School.
Senior basketball player Mariah Carter signed her national letter of intent to play at Roanoke College, while softball player Emily Cook and football player Daniel Mitchell both made their intentions know to continue their careers at Ferrum College. And while the Carroll County Media Center was full of family, teammates and friends, there was one noticeable absence. The day has always been a favorite of CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson, who is still at Duke Hospital in Durham, N.C. awaiting a double lung transplant.
“He would have wanted to be here because he has been so supportive of all of our sports here,” Carroll County girls’ basketball coach Marc Motley said.
Motley believes Roanoke College may be getting a gem in Carter, who capped off an incredible senior campaign recently by being named first-team all-state by both the Virginia High School League and the Virginia High School Coaches Association. Also the Region 4D Player of the Year, Carter helped lead Carroll County to only its second regional championship in program history in 2018. She also set a single-season school record for points (513) this season and became one of just seven girls in school history to reach the 1,000-career point milestone.
“I think she might surprise some people,” Motley said. “We had a lot of kids graduate and she was the focal point of your offense and she breaks the single-season scoring record this year. She put the ball in the hole. She busts her hind end, she gets down the floor, she runs the floor and she knows how to finish in transition. And she made free throws. She shot about 80 percent. She led our team in shooting percentage, free throw percentage, scoring average, took more shots but also made a higher percentage than anybody else and I attribute that to being able to put the ball in the hole. She did a good job of that and she liked that role.”
Carter led the team in scoring with 19 points per game and finished second on the team in rebounds with 6.3 per contest. She also had a team-high 85 steals and led the Carroll in field goal percentage (46.4 percent) and shot a team-high 75.2 percent from the charity stripe, making good on 82-of-109 free throws.
“I don’t think there is any substitute for athleticism and I think she is a tremendous athlete,” Motley said. “I don’t see why she can’t score at that level also. I think she will fit in well.”
Carter said she also had offers from Ferrum College and UVa-Wise, but she had her mind set on Roanoke from early on in the recruiting process. She will most likely major in sports medicine.
“It was a really small school and I liked the way it was laid out,” Carter said. “The classes were very small and I liked that about it, and the coaches were really nice.”
A four-year starter for Carroll County’s powerhouse softball team, Emily Cook has improved every season since her freshman year when the Cavaliers won the 4A state championship. As a junior last season, she earned First-Team All-Conference 24 honors and second-team all-region awards. She led the team in hitting (.423) and hits (30) a year ago and was tied for second in home runs (3) and second on the team in RBIs (19), doubles (7), runs scored (16) and slugging percentage (.676). She also brings versatility to the Panthers as she can play first base, third base or pitch.
“Ferrum is going to get one who can play three different positions for them. She can play either corner, she can pitch and batting-wise she is tough,” Carroll County softball coach Rick Nester said. “She is one of the best hitters I have had her since I have been doing it and she is like that every night. The thing that is unfortunate for her, a lot of teams won’t pitch to her. They will take a chance of walking her and very seldom they will go inside on her. It is outside and she worked on going the opposite way and she has done that multiple times this year with long balls already. She has probably been our most consistent hitter for the last four years. She started on that in the ninth grade with the state team and she has not slacked off. She has picked up every year on her average, home runs, power, the whole bit, she has done an outstanding job.”
Ironically, Cook will join two other former Cavaliers at Ferrum who were also members of the 2015 Carroll County state championship team in Cheyenne Strickland and Tiffanie Moore.
“And I think she will step right in there with them and all three will be playing at the same time,” Nester said.
Cook said she was also recruited by Emory & Henry College and Randolph, but she fell in love with Ferrum’s campus.
“It’s kind of like around here. I really like their softball coaches and I know Tiff and Cheyenne and that helps,” said Cook, who was recruited as a first baseman and pitcher. “I think I will enjoy playing down there.”
At 6-4, 265 pounds, Daniel Mitchell was one of the biggest and strongest players on Carroll County’s football team. An offensive and defensive lineman, Mitchell said the Panthers recruited him as an offensive lineman, but he could play on either side of the ball. He was also recruited by Emory & Henry College, but like Cook, loved everything about Ferrum.
“It just felt like it is similar to home and it felt good when I went to the campus. All the football players, I really fit in with them and they are on a really good track to win a lot of football games,” Mitchell said. “It just felt better when I went to Ferrum and they have been doing a little bit better than Emory has and their criminal justice department is really good. That is what I want to go into and that is what Ferrum is really known for.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN