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Culbreth brings experience, caring as he takes over as school system AD


By Earl Vaughan Jr.


David Culbreth said he’s always believed in what he calls “the connected kid.” That’s the kind of student who is given the chance to compete in athletics or take part in a cultural arts program thereby giving him or her as many different reasons as possible to show up for school.

Culbreth will get the chance to promote that idea throughout Cumberland County at the end of this month as he takes over as director of student activities for the county schools. Culbreth, currently principal at Pine Forest High School, will replace Vernon Aldridge, who is retiring from the school system after five years in his current position to become a sort of roving ambassador for a sporting goods company.

Culbreth brings a variety of experiences to his new role. He was a state champion wrestler at Seventy-First High School in 1987. He returned to his alma mater as wrestling coach and, in 1999, guided what may have been the best wrestling team in county history, sweeping both the dual team and individual state titles.

He had five individual state champions on that team and set a state record for most points scored in the championship meet, 191.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of experiences and been able to see a lot of perspectives,’’ Culbreth said. “I just hope in this new role I won’t forget all the things that I learned from those perspectives.’’

While Culbreth realizes that instruction drives everything, he thinks it’s also good to be passionate about the role activities play in a student’s life. “I truly believe we need to do everything we can to make sure as many students as possible have the opportunity to participate in high school athletics,’’ he said. 

An accomplished singer, Culbreth also knows the role of cultural arts is vital. “They are lifelong learners,’’ he said. “Whatever gets a kid started down that road, I want to support it.’’

Culbreth cited three things that are critical to being a successful coach. They include getting athletes out for team, checking with teachers on each athlete’s academic record and attendance and making the sport they are playing fun.

He said coaches who don’t do that are failing their athletes.

He knows from experience that winning state championships isn’t easy, adding as one of his former coaches told him, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

“If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can do great things,’’ he said.

“I go back to that connected kid. Coming to school. Doing positive things. There to learn.’’

Aldridge said he made the decision to retire in February, adding that it was not impacted in any way by the pandemic. As he looked back on his career, he is proudest of the fact he jump-started a program to get rubberized tracks installed at all 10 county senior high schools.

He is also proud of the Unified Sports program for special needs students and is hopeful it will get back on track after being temporarily suspended by the pandemic.

He sees the biggest challenge for the near future as rebounding from the pandemic and getting both fans and athletes back. He said there was a noted drop in the numbers of freshmen athletes going out for sports during the pandemic, as well as a drop in the number of junior varsity teams in all sports.

“We have some vaccination clinics starting this summer at the schools,’’ he said. “A key to getting us back to some kind of normal is encouraging folks to get vaccinated.’’


Aldridge is still a leader of the N.C. Athletic Directors Association and also has two years remaining as an ex-officio member of the N.C. High School Athletic Assocation Board of Directors. He plans to continue working with both organizations.

He also plans to spend more time with his family, wife Kellie and daughters Payton and Kylie. Payton recently graduated from Meredith College where she was a member of the softball team. She has returned to Fayetteville where she will pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at Methodist University.

Daughter Kylie will enroll at Virginia Tech in the fall where she is a scholarship member of the school’s softball team.

• Cape Fear High School won this week’s Patriot Athletic Conference wrestling tournament with a total of 175.5 points. South View took second with 131 while Westover was third at 105.5

Following are the individual weight class winners and their overall records:

106 - Samuel Aponte, Cape Fear, 18-0; 113 - Dakota Little, Westover, 21-0; 120 - Christian Rothrock, Douglas Byrd, 16-0; 126 - Richard Williams, Gray’s Creek, 18-0; 132 - Carson Boisvert, Cape Fear, 15-2; 138 - Eric Hansen, Cape Fear, 17-1; 145 - Calan Staub, Cape Fear, 18-0; 152 - Joshua Stephenson, Pine Forest, 17-0; 160 - Memphis Naegleria, Terry Sanford, 17-1; 170 - Gatlan Thompson, Cape Fear, 14-2; 182 - Jaden Paul, Cape Fear, 18-0; 195 - Jaleel Parks, South View, 12-1; 220 - Joshua George, South View, 12-1; 295 - Garrett Crockett, Gray’s Creek, 15-1.

• Brackets have been announced for this year’s Cumberland County Holiday Classic basketball tournament, which was postponed last year because of the pandemic.

The dates are Dec. 16-18. For the boys, the Roy McNeil bracket, named for the former Smith boys’ coach, will be held at Smith, while the Ron Miller bracket, named for the former South View coach, will be at Seventy-First.

For the girls, the Gil Bowman bracket, named for the former Terry Sanford coach, will be at Terry Sanford, while the Doris Howard bracket, named for the former Cape Fear coach, will be at Cape Fear.

The championship game in each bracket will be played Saturday, Dec. 18, at Fayetteville State’s Capel Arena.


• Brandie Ingram has been named the new girls’ basketball coach at Seventy-First High School.

Ingram is a 2010 Westover graduate who played on the school’s 2008 NCHSAA state championship team.

A graduate of N.C. Central, Ingram has served as an assistant coach at her high school alma mater for the last four years.


• Dr. Bill Shipp, the founding principal of Westover High School, passed away in Raleigh this week after a brief illness.

Visitation is scheduled Monday from 5-7 p.m. at Brown-Wynn Funeral Home in Cary. The funeral is Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Hayes-Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. A graveside service will be held at approximately 3 p.m. at Springdale Cemetery in Clinton.

• Fayetteville Christian School has hired former South View High School track and cross country coach Jesse Autry as its athletic director.

Also joining the school’s staff is Aaron Wilson, who will serve as volleyball coach.

Bryan Pagan, boys’ and girls’ soccer coach at Gray’s Creek High School, is leaving his position there to become girls’ soccer coach at Cape Fear High School.


June 4

Cape Fear 11, Overhills 2

Terry Sanford 11, South View 3

Gray's Creek 6, Pine Forest 1

Pinecrest 12, Jack Britt 1
June 8

Terry Sanford 6, Cape Fear 1

Gray's Creek 12, Overhills 0

South View 3, Pine Forest 2


Terry Sanford and Cape Fear were the winners in this week’s Patriot Athletic Conference girls’ tennis tournament held at Mazarick Park.In singles, Cape Fear’s Brooke Bieniek won an all-Cape Fear singles final, beating teammate Anna Piland 7-5, 4-1 (retired). It was Bieniek’s second consecutive conference singles title.
In doubles, the Terry Sanford team of Caroline Beasley and Mary Anna Stiles beat Caroline Averitt and Dajia Rucker of Cape Fear, 6-2, 6-1.