North Johnston's Savannah Massey, left, and Dylan Pinder will each attend the University of Mount Olive in the fall. Massey will serve as a cheerleader for the Trojans, while Pinder will bid to become a member of the track and field roster. Jimmy Lewis | Times
By Jimmy Lewis
KENLY — After collecting 17 state championships during his time at North Johnston High, Dylan Pinder isn’t prepared to just become an ordinary student at the University of Mount Olive. Similarly, senior Savannah Massey will trade her Lady Panther cheerleading pom poms for the green and white of UMO.
Both student-athletes officially announced their college destinations Thursday afternoon during an informal ceremony inside the North Johnston media center, with Pinder and Massey each opting for UMO. Upon arrival, Pinder, a wheelchair athlete, will try to become a member of the Trojans in all sprinting and throwing events and has discussed the possibility with UMO head coach Matt van Lierop.
After learning of her acceptance to UMO, Massey, an intended psychology major, sought and received a partial scholarship for cheerleading.
While Pinder competed unopposed during some of his events at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A state meet, he did garner some opposition along the way.
As a senior, he defeated North Brunswick’s Kenny Korff in the shot put and discus, logging an attempt of 15 feet in the shot and 40-10 in the discus. On the track, he bested Korff by over 15 seconds in the 200-meter dash, finishing in 50.97. Pinder, who cites his work ethic as ready for the collegiate level, was not opposed in the 100-meter dash. In previous years, he ran up against South Lenoir’s Bryce Floyd at the state meet.In all four trips to the state meet, Pinder was a perfect 8 for 8 in sprint events.
As far as competing for championships at the collegiate level is concerned, the Connecticut-based Eastern College Athletic Conference became the first college conference to sponsor varsity competition in adaptive sports at the NCAA level in the fall of 2015. UMO, which competes in Conference Carolinas for all sports, is currently not an affiliate member of that league. However, UMO’s peers in Belmont Abbey, Emmanuel, King and Limestone are.
Massey, the daughter of Chuck Massey and Paula Baker, considered attending Wingate and East Carolina before choosing UMO. A four-year cheerleader and three-year member of the varsity squad, Massey was a all-2-A Eastern Plains Conference selection in her sophomore and senior years. As far as any detractors who are slow to give cheerleading recognition as a sport, Massey prefers not to waste time in that particular debate.
“I don’t really get mad about it because I don’t care what people think,” Massey assured. “I love it, and that’s all that matters. But it is a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, just like any other sport.”