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Female Athlete of the Year: Salisbury’s Webb shined in soccer, running

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Salisbury rising senior Sutton Webb tends to bring a significant amount of sunshine wherever she travels.

The Rowan County Female Athlete of the Year attacks life with a smile and regarded COVID not as a forbidding hurdle, but as a terrific opportunity to expand her horizons.

Webb succeeded so thoroughly that she’ll receive the Tracy Connor Award, which is given annually in honor of the South Rowan High and Wake Forest University athlete, Connor is one of the best ever to come out of Rowan County.

“It was a very strange school year for sports because the seasons were switched around and all mixed up,” Webb said. “But instead of making things harder for me, the scheduling changes actually made them better. I really didn’t have to juggle sports. I never thought I’d get the chance to run track in high school because it’s normally at the same time as soccer, but this year I got to do both. It was a wonderful experience.”

The Tracy Connor Award goes to Sutton Webb

Maybe it was wonderful, but it also was weird. For Webb, it meant running cross country in the chill of December and January instead of the heat of September. She played soccer, which is her thing, mostly in April and May. Track and field season peaked in late June — well after graduation.

While a lot of what Webb did involves running, she’s massively versatile when it comes to her wheels. There aren’t many who could compete in every event from the 100 meters to the 3200, but she’s one of those people.

“The 800 probably is her best distance, but she could have done well in any running event,” Salisbury track coach Todd Parker said. “She’s one of the fittest girls in the school as well as one of the fastest. We tried to be thoughtful and strategic with her and try to get the most points that we could.”

Even with everything topsy-turvy, there was never any doubt this would be a special year for female athletes in Rowan County. Carson and West Rowan had terrific multi-sport athletes in the senior class. Salisbury had exceptional seniors as well. Lillie Rusher played tennis and soccer at a state level, while Ellen Yang was the school’s best softball and volleyball player and even placed baseball starting second baseman on her very unique resumé.

But it was hard to find an argument against Webb, who competed at a state level in all three of her sports.

“Sutton is the type of athlete who will improve any team she’s on,” said Sallie Pittman, who has coached Webb in cross country. “If you meet her, she’s so nice, but there’s a different persona that comes out when she’s competing. She can be fierce on the field.”

The 5-foot-6 Webb is best known as the All-State soccer phenom who committed to the University of Georgia as a sophomore.

She got started in soccer at age 4 and announced her presence at Salisbury with a monumental freshman season in the spring of 2019. She racked up 43 goals, including six in one game, and added 15 assists. She was the Central Carolina Offensive Player of the Year.

Salisbury soccer coach Matt Parrish compared Webb to Jack Fisher, who excelled for Salisbury in a wide variety of sports.

“Like Jack, she’s going to be competitive in any sport she tries, and she’s going to excel in any sport she tries, tiddlywinks, lawn darts, whatever,” Parrish said. “She’s going to do whatever it takes to be good. She’s already gotten about every accolade there is for soccer. Great athlete, great academically, great human being. That sums her up.”

Webb’s 2020 soccer season was wiped out after just three games by COVID, but she overwhelmed opponents during Salisbury’s condensed, 14-game 2021 season with 36 goals and eight assists. She won her second CCC Offensive Player of the Year award and was Rowan County Co-Player of the Year.

Even with two fragmented soccer seasons, Webb has scored 82 career goals, with 27 assists.

The work Webb puts into the running sports is mostly as cross-training for soccer, but she doesn’t hold anything back.

She was fourth in the CCC Cross Country Championships (22:17) and seventh in the 2A Midwest Regional (22:32). She ran 21:35 in the 2A State Championships to finish 26th in a field of 94.

When Salisbury’s 12-2 soccer season ended with a third-round loss to eventual state champ Lake Norman Charter, Webb decided to join the track and field team and made an immediate impact.

“Track was totally different for me, but different in a good way,” Webb said. “I got to get to know a completely different group of girls from the ones I hang out with on the soccer team. I had to learn how to run the relays, which was all new and a real challenge. I had to learn how to make and take the handoffs, but everyone helped me, and we were successful. The 800 was my best event because I’ve got the stamina to run it (two laps) and still have some kick left for the end of the race.”

Webb helped Salisbury shine in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays and was Rowan County (2:34) and CCC champion (2:35) in the 800 meters. She finished fifth in the county meet in the 200.

“She came to us late from soccer, or she would have done even better,” Parker said. “She was a great teammate in track. She’s humble. She works. She’s coachable. You have to remember this is a girl who received a major D-I scholarship offer in soccer when she was still a sophomore. But she was willing to do anything that she could to help our track team. She’s an amazing kid in so many ways. She can relate to anyone and everyone. I’m sure she’d tell you that some of the best times she had in track were the bus rides to the meets.”

While some Division I athletes will head to college after the first semester this winter, Webb plans to put in a full year at Salisbury. Soccer will be in the spring, and there’s no way  she’d miss her senior soccer season, and not just because school records are in reach. Parrish has been a positive influence on her life and she loves her teammates.

Parrish said when he got the word from Webb that she planned to return, he started adding tough non-conference games to the Hornets’ schedule. With Webb, the Hornets will be willing to take on just about anybody.

“I’m extremely excited about going to college at Georgia, but I don’t want to rush it,” Webb said. “I’m enjoying high school. I don’t want it to go by too fast.”

She’ll spend this summer working out and handing out frozen yogurt at Salisbury’s sweetFrog location.

Soon, it will be time for Webb to start running again. And no matter the distance, she’ll be great at it.

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