November 04, 2009
By: By Korie Sawyer
GRCVB Sports Marketing

NCHSAA Championships Take Center Stage in Raleigh This Weekend

It's "Championship Saturday" in Raleigh this weekend as two North Carolina High School Athletic Association titles will be decided on the same day (Nov. 7), proving once again that the state capital is also the capital for high school sports in North Carolina.

The seventh annual NCHSAA Invitational Cheerleading Championships will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center, while Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of North Carolina State University will host the 34th NCHSAA state volleyball title games.

With more than half of the 80-plus championship events sanctioned by the state being hosted in the Greater Raleigh area, Karen Dehart, assistant executive director of the NCHSAA, says Raleigh is indeed the high school sports capital of North Carolina.

"I think it is safe to say that Raleigh has taken on this moniker, and rightly so," Dehart said.

Raleigh's central location within the state makes it the perfect place for these title contests and is an easy drive from any direction. A perfect location for a weekend getaway for families, Raleigh offers many sites to see, along with a wealth of quality hotels and restaurants. Visiting the Capital City is also a great way for high school students to experience what they learned in their North Carolina history classes.

"Students and parents who travel from the far eastern part of the state or from the far west may never have had the opportunity to visit North Carolina's state capital - it can become an educational ‘field trip' of sorts as well as a sporting event - essentially, a lifetime experience," Dehart said.

In addition, the Raleigh Sports Consortium, which is led by the City of Raleigh Parks & Recreation Department and includes NC State University and the Greater Raleigh CVB, has successful experience in hosting all sorts of tournaments and championships through the years.

"We have worked with this group for a little over 15 years and each person that we have worked with has shown nothing but genuine enthusiasm for being involved with NCHSAA events, and all have the highest degree of integrity and professionalism," Dehart said. "The staff in Raleigh is second to none."

And that's an important factor for the NCHSAA, which will be conducting four major championship events the same day, as two other state championships (in tennis and cross country) will be held elsewhere on Nov. 7. Dehart acknowledges that her team at NCHSAA, with just two sports directors and two sports support staff, are stretched thin on days like "Championship Saturday."

"Other department directors are required to cover an event so that we have that level of representation on-site for opening comments to the audience, to handle any issues that may arise, and/or to assist with post-event presentations," Dehart said.

That's why the city of Raleigh and the NCHSAA have been working overtime to make sure that "Championship Saturday" fulfills the expectations of the student-athletes, coaches and fans.

Scott Dupree, Vice President for Sports Marketing at the Greater Raleigh CVB, said the keys to success in Raleigh are experience, professionalism and a "can-do" attitude.

"The City of Raleigh Parks & Rec Department truly does an incredible job in taking the lead to prepare for and host the high school championships," Dupree said. "The City of Raleigh takes tremendous pride in being the home to more NCHSAA state championships than any other city. Diane Sauer and her team at Parks & Rec just do a fantastic job. They are real pros at this.

"And the folks at NC State really roll out the red carper for the NCHSAA. (Athletic Director) Lee Fowler and his staff have made it known that hosting high school championships on the State campus is a high priority for the University."

The NCHSAA acknowledges the ease of working with the Raleigh Sports Consortium because members recognize the benefits to hosting high school championships. This opportunity provides rewards for both the NCHSAA and the Greater Raleigh area. The student-athletes are able to experience and enjoy the outstanding sports venues, while visitor spending will bring a positive economic impact to the city.

"This is a win-win situation," Dupree said. "Raleigh is such a natural and popular destination for high school teams from across the state. Meanwhile, the City really benefits from having thousands of student-athletes, and their families and friends, spending a day or two in our town and discovering all that Greater Raleigh has to offer."

Local citizens can also benefit from the opportunity to see great competition among outstanding student-athletes.

Ultimately, the "championship weekend" would not be complete without a great sports atmosphere and competitive events.

Without question, fans at Reynolds Coliseum will experience four intense, emotional volleyball matches, while the Raleigh Convention Center will showcase North Carolina's most spirited high school student-athletes as a record 116 cheerleading teams have registered for the event. Both championships will include reigning champs and undefeated teams, all hoping to end their season with a big win ... and a big trophy for the trophy case back home.

In a state that includes national champions at both the collegiate and major league levels, high school sports can sometimes be overlooked. However, with strong community support and great sponsors, weekends like this one allow high school student-athletes the opportunity to be the center of attention and to steal a few newspaper headlines for themselves.

"Given that high school athletic programs showcase the great talent without all of the perceived or noted negatives sometimes associated with professional or college level athletics, and the fact that kids who participate in extra-curricular activities, including sports, have been documented to have higher GPAs, less disciplinary issues, higher graduation rates and similar positive attributes, the more young people who have the opportunity to participate, the better," Dehart said.

Dupree offered another reason why the NCHSAA state championships are so important to Raleigh officials.

"We love the fact that all year long, student-athletes from all 100 counties in North Carolina are setting their goals ‘to get to Raleigh' for the state finals," Dupree said. "For every one of these kids who are striving to win a championship, Raleigh is the ultimate destination."