Six alumni were inducted into Durham Academy’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Dec. 6. This marks the fourth class of inductees for the Athletic Hall of Fame, which was established in 2013 and taps new members every other year.
The new inductees were introduced at halftime of the varsity boys basketball game vs. Charlotte Latin and afterward were honored at a reception in the new STEM & Humanities Center, sponsored by the DA Alumni Board.
Brandon Henry ’95 was a three-sport standout at Durham Academy, earning 10 varsity letters and was named MVP of the soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams his senior year. Henry was an Academic All-American, a two-time NCISAA All-State selection and two-time state champion in lacrosse. In addition, he was an All-Conference soccer player and was the Senior Athlete of the Year at Durham Academy. Henry was a four-year lacrosse letter winner at Dartmouth College. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his family.
“My brothers and I had the chance to address the varsity lacrosse team [earlier today] and talked about what sports meant to Durham Academy, and to us, and how tradition and brotherhood really filter through your life even when you’re older,” said Henry. “You come back and you haven’t really been here for a while, and things don’t change, and you form friendships that last forever.”
“Really, for me, [DA athletics] was always about being an underdog, and overachieving and working your hardest, and being the best and overcoming obstacles,” he continued. “And beating teams that think they’re going to beat you, but they come down here and they don’t. So that’s what it means to me and I think about it every day, a day does not go by that I don’t think about Durham Academy athletics.”
Brandon’s younger brother and his lacrosse, soccer and basketball teammate, Hunter Henry ’97, introduced him and presented his award.
“In many ways, Brandon blazed the trail in sports for me and our younger brother, Campbell,” said Hunter Henry. “A natural leader, very disciplined, he pushed us to our absolute limit. We competed in everything on a daily basis from driveway hoops to pingpong in our basement, games often ending with a brawl before we could finish. He never took it easy on us, never let us win, and taught us to give max effort.
“He wanted the ball at the end of the game,” he recalled. “You could count on him to deliver, to fight until the last whistle. He was the guy you wanted on your side of the fight every time, no matter the odds against you. One final comment about Brandon — beyond his excellence in athletics, he was also a leader in the classroom. He challenged himself to take honors classes, a full load of AP courses, and was a straight-A student. He was as focused and disciplined off the field as he was on it.”
Lauren Blazing ’11 was a three-sport star at Durham Academy, earning All-Conference and team MVP honors in field hockey, basketball and softball, was Senior Athlete of the Year and named TISAC Player of the Year her senior season. She was a multi-year NCISAA All-State performer and an All-American in field hockey, making her one of DA’s all-time greats in the sport. She played field hockey at Duke University, where she earned All-ACC honors, was a three-time All-American and helped lead Duke to the NCAA Final in 2013. Blazing joined the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2014, competing internationally for the United States. She attends law school at Yale University, where she is studying the law of policy and gender equity, especially in sports.
Blazing was introduced by varsity field hockey coach and former Lower School PE teacher Judy Chandler, who presented her award.
“The story goes that she was volunteered by a friend to play goalkeeper for the team,” recalled Chandler. “Not sure if that was a lucky push or fate intervening… When the team playing in front of you is excellent, goalkeepers will rarely get a chance to show off. It can be a difficult position to get noticed but Lauren played with class, grace and an incredible will to win. ... As a captain her senior year, she expected excellence from herself and those around her.
“Her freshman year was difficult because we had lost an incredible group of seniors the year before,” Chandler recounted. “This team may have been young, but [they] were very talented. She had her work cut out for her, helping us stay in games and learn to work as a team. Her quick-witted commentary kept the team relaxed while keeping them on their toes. I remember one game in particular at Charlotte Latin where she had 25 saves. After the game, some DA parents overheard some Latin fans commenting on her skill and hoping that she was a senior. I wish I had been there to see the look on their faces when one of our parents revealed to them that she was only a freshman.”
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Blazing. “Durham Academy was such an important part of my life and my athletic experience ... I think just the teamwork aspect of sports and how important the people around you are, learning how to work hard for your friends and with your friends, it’s just an invaluable experience. … The coaches that I had here from the time I was in Middle School to the time I was a senior in high school really shaped the way I see the world and the way I see sports, so it’s a huge honor. ”
Cab Townsend ’87 was one of the best high school high jumpers in the nation during his career at Durham Academy. Townsend cleared 6’ in his first season as a sophomore, a milestone that only five other DA high-jumpers have reached in the last 45 years. A two-time individual state champion and leader of two Durham Academy state championship track and field teams, Townsend still holds the NCISAA record from his senior year with a height of 6’10,” which was the second-highest height cleared by an indoor high school jumper in the U.S. that year. He went on to better that mark, becoming a 7’ high jumper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Townsend is an attorney and lives in Atlanta with his family.
Townsend was introduced by former varsity track and field and cross-country coach and former Upper School math teacher Dennis Cullen, who presented his award.
“Cab didn’t come out for track as a ninth-grader,” Cullen recounted. “In reality, he didn’t come out for track as a 10th-grader, either. But he did come to watch an early season meet as a spectator. Rick Dike, who was both the athletic director and the field event coach for the track team, noticed Cab there that day, and when the event concluded, he asked Cab if he wanted to take a jump. Dressed in blue jeans and basketball shoes, Cab easily cleared the height that had won the meet. After the meet was over, Rick came up to me to tell me he thought he had a kid with great potential.
“Rick is the finest coach I have ever seen for the technique events, and Cab’s technique got better and better,” Cullen continued. “After he graduated from DA, Cab went on to jump very well at UNC. … But I have always found it interesting that with all those advantages, he never jumped higher at UNC than he did when he was working with Rick Dike here at DA. It was a special partnership. The two of them were able to communicate in a way that was very unusual. Cab grew bigger, stronger and faster at UNC, but Rick’s knowledge of technique and his ability to communicate with Cab was something that UNC was unable to replicate.”
“Mr. Cullen and Mr. Dike in particular were such a huge influence on my life,” acknowledged Townsend. “They took me all around the Southeast, taking me to track events, and the appreciation and care they showed for me was astounding. So I’ve really taken that with me over the last 30 years. … [They taught me about] persistence and dealing with adversity. When things don’t go well, moving past that and learning to cope with failure, and then growing and developing from that. I think that was one of the biggest things, and then also enjoying the success you have as well. And both of them are grounded and such great folks, it just made it easy. Easy folks to learn from, for sure.”
Lawrence Craige ’85 is one of Durham Academy’s all-time best tennis players. Craige came to Durham Academy as a sophomore in 1982. Leading the Cavaliers, he finished with an 82–1 career singles record, posting undefeated single records as a sophomore and as a senior. Craige won three consecutive NCISAA singles titles, which remains a tie for the most high school singles titles in North Carolina history. Craige went on to be a conference singles and doubles champion as a player at the College of William and Mary. He is an attorney and lives in Wilmington.
“This is a tremendous honor, very much appreciated,” said Craige. “I learned a work ethic, learned discipline, so it’s just a great chance to say thank you. We had a great group of coaches when I was here. My classmates, Brendan Moylan, Dave Beischer, Coach Engebretsen, Coach Murray, Coach Art Scott, Coach Hutchinson, just a great environment. On the last day of school, we had graduated, and Brendan Moylan and I, we knew we had it great here at Durham Academy — we didn’t leave, we stayed. We actually stayed here in the gym and we played pickup basketball all afternoon until finally I think we got kicked out and had to leave Durham Academy. I still remember that day very well.”
Craige was introduced by former DA board chair and current DA parent Brendan Moylan ’85, who presented his award.
“I have come to believe that Lawrence was one of the most disliked high school tennis players in North Carolina from 1983 to 1985,” said Moylan, humorously recapping Craige’s DA career. “It was not that he only lost one match in his Durham Academy career, winning 82. It was not that he played with incredible focus and drive, which he did. It was not because of his competitive nature and his will to win, which he had. No, it was because Lawrence was the epitome of a good sport,” he explained. “Lawrence combined fierceness with incredible humility. I dare say almost reckless humility. On the court, he was gracious, self-deprecating, played with joy, and a sincere smile was his game face. He was serene and unflappable, I think his coach and friend Art Scott would have referred to it as ‘Zen-like.’
“He was unwilling to engage in the gamesmanship that so many see as critical to gaining an edge, and that he undoubtedly faced in almost every match from his opponents,” Moylan continued. “My hope is that when people think about Lawrence's high school tennis they never separate ‘the what’ from ‘the how.’ It is that synergy that makes Lawrence's achievement timeless. Records are ephemeral, character is not. We learn some of our most valuable lessons in life not from our teachers or parents but from our friends and peers. ... I still remember the joy and awe of watching him play and am forever grateful.”
Tracy Hardaker Rankin ’91 was a three-sport athlete at Durham Academy, earning varsity letters in field hockey, basketball and soccer. Rankin was a three-time All-Conference basketball player and one of only two DA basketball players to be named a three-time NCISAA All-State player. Rankin was one of Durham Academy girls’ all-time top three in career points per game. She was also the first and one of only six female members of the 1,000 career points club, totaling 1,323 career points. Rankin graduated holding nine school records, four of which still stand. She was also an All-Conference field hockey player and the Senior Athlete Award winner in 1991. Rankin lives and works in Nashville with her family.
Rankin was introduced by former varsity girls basketball coach and current girls golf coach and Upper School PE teacher Greg Murray, who presented her award.
“As an athlete, Tracy Hardaker was blessed with incredible natural ability — she could run faster and jump higher, she was skilled at every turn,” said Murray. “But it was her competitive heart, unmatched work ethic and humble leadership that set her apart. She defended the goal in soccer, was amongst the best in field hockey (making All-Conference multiple times) and even recorded some fleet times on the track. Heck… I think she would have likely been amazing in the pool, on the tennis court, on the diamond, playing horseshoes, whatever she pursued. But I was blessed that she chose basketball as her first love. I had the privilege of coaching her for four years on the hardwood. What I remember most is how Tracy made a young coach much better because of her leadership by example, her toughness, her will to win, her willingness to do whatever it took to help and inspire her team.”
“I’m extremely honored,” said Rankin. “The coaches were such tremendous mentors to me, my brother and my sister — we still frequently refer to their leadership and how much they affected our development when we were adolescents. Team sports infiltrate so many lessons related to perseverance and discipline and creating a high bar for yourself and a collective whole working towards something that you can be energized for.”
Kristin Weinhold Weaver ’99 is one of Durham Academy’s most outstanding swimmers ever. She won six NCISAA individual championships, was on several state championship-winning relay teams and set state records in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. She is still a DA record holder, and was All-Conference, All-State and a three-time swimming All-American. DA varsity girls swimming won three state championships during her tenure. Weaver was also an outstanding softball player, earning All-Conference honors twice. She swam for Penn State University, where she was a Big Ten record holder and earned All-American honors. Weaver lives in Durham with her family.
Weaver was introduced by Middle School history teacher and JV girls cross-country and track and field coach Virginia Hall ’91, who presented her award.
“If you know anything about swimming,” Hall explained, “you know that it takes a huge level of commitment — a lot of hours and early mornings back and forth looking at a black line on the bottom of the pool, plus drylands, weights and long weekends at meets. I had forgotten that Kristin did take a break from year-round swimming at age 13 for a couple of years. So, what did she do during that break? She played softball for DA and ended up being All-Conference her freshman and sophomore years. ... Surpassing these physical achievements are the relationships and impressions Kristin made on those around her. Obviously, she was inspiring with her speed as a sprinter in the pool, her strength and commitment. She was confident, but never arrogant, and a fun, supportive teammate. … She is so much more than an accomplished athlete — she is loyal, compassionate, humble, hard-working and someone I truly admire.”
“I started with swimming as a varsity athlete in seventh grade and just the memories that I have, have taken me not only through college, but every day,” said Weaver. “[To be with] my friends and the camaraderie and to come back here and to be celebrated is so exciting. … [At DA I learned about] being part of something bigger. Swimming is a very individual sport, so being part of a high school team in a sport that is very individualized is a very big thing. So the memories of … the relays and the cohesiveness we had as a team has definitely carried through, and I still keep in contact with some of the swimmers and some of the coaches for sure, and it’s a really wonderful thing.”