The spring was a roller-coaster of a sports season for NC State, but it wasn’t without its heroes.
By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Sam Highfill • Baseball
NC State reached the College World Series for the first time since 2013, only to get disqualified after players tested positive for COVID-19. But Wolfpack fans won’t forget freshman pitcher Sam Highfill’s memorable two-game performance against Vanderbilt. He pitched a two-hit shutout. Then, after positive tests forced the team to play short-handed, Highfill played first base, going three for four at the plate. He hadn’t taken batting practice in nearly a year. “As bad as the ending of our season was, that was a pretty cool way to go out,” Highfill says.
Fun fact: Before every start this year, he drank half of a Reign Orange Dreamsicle energy drink.
Anna Rogers ’21 • Tennis
Anna Rogers ’21 capped her Wolfpack tennis career with All-America honors again in singles and doubles and the team’s first-ever NCAA Final Four appearance. “The team we had was the strongest team that I’ve ever been on, and I knew how far we could go,” says Rogers, who will play professionally next.
Fun fact: Rogers always gave the team’s athletic trainer a fist bump before each match.
Elly Henes ’20 • Track and Field
Winning the 5,000-meter NCAA championship is impressive, but graduate student Elly Henes ’20 added a few more entries to the Wolfpack record books with her 2021 win. NC State won the same event 30 years ago, and the champion then was Henes’ mom, Laurie Henes ’92, now NC State’s head women’s cross country coach. “This is the most meaningful way to wrap up a collegiate career,” says Elly Henes, who plans to run professionally.
Fun fact: Henes throws up the wolf sign when competing, including while crossing the finish line of her championship-winning race.
Nate McMillan ’86 • Basketball
The Atlanta Hawks’ season seemed destined to fizzle — until March when Nate McMillan ’86 moved from assistant coach to interim head coach. Next, the team embarked on a winning streak, earned a playoff spot and reached the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals for the second time in its history. “[W]e want to try to take this momentum into next season and continue to improve,” says McMillan, who was named head coach in July.
Fun fact: The Raleigh native and former Wolfpack basketball star still has a house in his hometown and returns as often as he can.