Before every practice, Lambert boys’ lacrosse coach Rich Wehman asks his players to run four laps around the field. This past season, without fail, Sean Carruthers led the pack.
One day Wehman forgot something on his way out of the stadium and returned to find Carruthers running extra laps on his own. To the veteran coach, this kind of commitment serves as a perfect example of why Carruthers is different from most athletes.
It’s why a kid who entered high school without much fanfare left an All-American. It’s why he was named a co-captain with just one varsity season under his belt.
And it’s why Carruthers became the 2014 Forsyth County News Boys’ Lacrosse Player of the Year.
"In my mind, there was no one more deserving," said Wehman. "He had a phenomenal season. He continued to grow as a player and took his game to whole new level."
"It’s pretty cool, I’m really thankful," Carruthers said of the award. "I was able to be a part of something special, even though we weren’t able to win it all in the end."
Carruthers’ work ethic allowed him to grow leaps and bounds in 2014, as he racked up a team-high 56 goals to go along with 31 assists. His services propelled Lambert to yet another deep playoff run, one that came a single win shy of a Class AAAAAA crown.
Still, the Longhorns managed to reach the state title game for the fourth season in a row—a feat few programs can match, and one that wouldn’t have been possible without Carruthers and his goal-scoring prowess.
"We had a great year," Carruthers said. "Our team was really tight; we were one of the closest teams I’ve ever played on. Even though we came up short we won a lot of big games."
Having scored so many times, Carruthers has a lot of memories to reflect on from 2014. His favorite memory, however, doesn’t involve any personal achievements.
It happened down in Florida against Bolles High School, when the Longhorns earned a decisive 16-5 victory. Carruthers doesn’t recall scoring that day, but he does remember seeing more than 10 teammates find the back of the net.
The Longhorns didn’t always win with this method, but their ability to do so allowed them to advance far in the playoffs.
"We were expecting it to be pretty close," Carruthers said of that contest. "At least 11 different people scored. It was one of those games when we realized, ‘We have a really good team.’"
Carruthers spent his first year at Lambert with the freshman squad and didn’t crack the varsity roster until his junior campaign. A late bloomer of sorts, he came into his own at a steady rate—going from a little-known freshman to a starter in 2013 and a star this spring.
"He’s a kid that definitely surprised us," Wehman said. "We knew he would start for us at the beginning of [his junior] year, and as the season went on we were marveling at him, saying he got better and better."
With his high school career in the rearview mirror, Carruthers is now preparing for his next step: Mercer University.
He’ll redshirt with the Bears in 2015, which will give him time to adjust to the pace and intensity of the collegiate game without burning a year of eligibility. Wehman believes Carruthers will succeed at the college level, if only for one simple reason.
He’s always getting better.
"I think we started seeing Sean last year, junior year, he was improving every game," said Wehman. "This year he took his game to a whole new level. That’s what great college players do."
"I’m just excited to see what it’s all about," Carruthers said of Mercer. "I know it’s going to be a huge change of pace. I know they already have a lot of big guys. I’m just looking forward to working hard and seeing what happens."
As Lambert lacrosse moves forward, the void Carruthers has left behind will be tough to fill. Much of that void is what he brought to the field, but perhaps more is what he brought to the locker room.
Along with fellow co-captain Spencer Wilson, Carruthers helped create an atmosphere at Lambert that, over time, led to success on the field. It was never more evident than after the Longhorns lost the state championship, when the players expressed just how much they meant to each other.
"The thing about Sean is he set the example for the kids. He was a role model," Wehman said. "I think that’s something that will stick with the program. He really made a difference with young kids."