CHARLOTTE – South Meck opened its doors in 1959, but in the nearly 60 years since, never has a Sabre athlete done what Haywood Ferguson accomplished in his four years wearing the school’s red, black and white.
The senior wrapped up the outdoor track and field season with a second-place finish at the NCHSAA 4A championship in the 800-meter run.
The 1 minute, 54.10 second time in the 800 was a personal best for Ferguson and also was the fifth-best time run in the state this year.
“I pretty much knew that the state meet was going to be the last time that I’d run for South Meck, so I wanted to leave everything on the track and not have any regrets for anything that I could have done better,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson ended his career with something no other Sabre has done before, when he claimed his 16th varsity letter.
Aside from starring on the outdoor track team, Ferguson runs cross country in the fall and doubles in the winter with swimming and indoor track and field.
He won the Western Regional during his sophomore cross country season and tied for 12th in the state this year.
During the indoor track season, he set a new personal best in the 3,200 and just missed the top 10 in the 1,000-meter race at the state meet. All of this while only training hard for a month because he was completing an all-conference swimming season highlighted by his 200 freestyle relay that won the So. Meck 7 championship.
But all of his work on the track and in the pool hasn’t hurt his grades.
It’s quite the opposite in fact.
“I don’t like to be bored,” he said. “I think it helps me to have a full life when I stay busy and that helps with everything from my sports to my schoolwork. And I enjoy being busy.”
Ferguson was also instrumental in reviving the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter.
He finished his senior year with an unofficial 4.8 GPA.
“I think it shows the type of effort required to be successful,” said South Meck track and field coach Greg Taylor. “We have so many kids that come out here and enjoy the sport, but they don’t really realize what it takes to earn 16 varsity letters. I think he’s a good example of how keeping yourself busy does bring results.”
Taylor said Ferguson often acted like an assistant coach, aside from being one of the state’s top 800 runners and a multi-sport star.
“His teammates look up to him for his running abilities and for his personality because he can be friends with anyone,” Taylor said. “He’s very intelligent and very mature. I’d like to have 20 more of him.
“With Haywood I didn’t have to drill in the fact that he had to work hard. He just knew. I provided guidance, and he executed. I can tell him what to do and he does it exactly the way you should do it. It’s been a blessing for sure to have that caliber of an athlete.”
Longtime Sabres swim coach Leslie Berens, who has coached the South Meck boys to three state titles and a runner-up crown during Ferguson’s four seasons, said Ferguson is a joy to be around and a great role model.
“His work ethic and dedication are exceptional,” she said. “That’s what comes out on the pool deck and he was such a great leader for us, and especially so as a senior. He shows great leadership in the pool with his training and making everyone around him better and rise up. I just love his attitude.”
Berens and Ferguson teamed to restart the FCA chapter. She said he was a big influence on their efforts, especially during his senior season.
Ferguson said it’s tough to walk away from South Meck, a school that’s brought him much joy along with athletic and academic success.
But he’s looking forward to his future at Appalachian State, where he wants to major in sustainable technology, a discipline which studies alternative energy resources. It’s sort of engineering, with a mix of problem solving, design and business thrown in.
And it’s probably perfect for the multi-tasking Ferguson.
“It’s a bunch of different disciplines that combines into a fast-growing field,” he said. “I think it could be really interesting and I like that it’s a mix of a bunch of fields into one.”
Ferguson knows he’s swam his last competitive race and he very well may have run his last competitive race. But, he’s not yet ready to be done with sports.
“I’ll always be involved in sports because I love them so much,” he said. “In Boone, there is so much to do outside with snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, hiking and all of the other things. I’ve kept up with mountain biking and hiking a lot, so I think I’ll do a lot of that and I’m definitely going to play ultimate Frisbee.”
As Ferguson looks toward Boone for his future, he said his time with the Sabres is something he’ll always remember. And being in the school record books for, among other accomplishments, having the most varsity letters is something he’s very proud of.
“It’s a really cool thing,” he said. “It shows I was competitive and consistent all four years, and it’s something I’m really proud of.”