Years ago, I decided I was enough of an authority on Warren County sports that I was fit to decide the “Best of the Best” athletes. Those awards fell by the wayside as I tried, foolishly, to forge new career paths. Now I’ve settled back in at my Hardee’s laden desk, I feel comfortable with rehashing the idea.
This issue, I’ll pick my top female athletes. Check Wednesday for my top male athletes.
Now to my top high school athletes, with categories I picked on my own.
Athlete of the year
In a loaded field of athletes, Fye stood out. Not only because of her stature, which made her terrifying presence at the net for the last four years, but because of her legacy. Long after Fye is done with sports, her name is likely going to be on the walls at Warren County High School.
Fye leaves Warren County as the all-time kills leader, helping her garner her teammate’s respect as she was voted team MVP three consecutive years. It was her leadership and ability which helped put the Lady Pioneer volleyball in the region the last two years – something which has only been accomplished a handful of times in program history.
But Fye isn’t just a great volleyball player – even if it’s what earned her a scholarship to Asbury College.
The senior also leaves school as the record holder in the triple jump, breaking it a few different times in her tenure. Those two records alone would be enough to make Fye a worthy choice, but she also was a standout in the shot put and ran the 200 meters and a leg on the relay team.
She’s just an incredible athlete.
Hailey Wood (volleyball, softball), Emily Mikkola (volleyball, basketball, softball), Tyra Wright (basketball)
Senior of the year
Quiet and confident is how I’d best describe Mullican.
Playing aside Fye in volleyball and Wood, the district MVP, in softball, there’s an argument Mullican wouldn’t be considered the best player on either team she starred on (she was all-region in volleyball and District 6AAA offensive MVP in softball). She was, however, the player you’d want to see in the middle of the action when a pivotal moment arrived.
Mullican may seem mild-mannered, but she’s aggressive and assertive. Opponents looking past her usually were greeted swiftly with a tomahawk spike, or heard the ringing of the fence when she launched a pitch.
Hope will be a missed veteran from two region qualifiers this year.
Sally Willmore (soccer), Abby Roller (soccer), Valeria Vargas (golf)
Freshman of the year
When the ball was rolled out for the biggest game in the 34-year history of the WCHS softball program, it was Johnson who had it in her hand first. Coach Gooby Martin (we’ll get to him soon) trusted his freshman to get the job done in the biggest moments of the year. And, for the most part, Johnson made him look like a genius.
Johnson won me over with her talent in the softball home opener. She was playing third base and charged a perfectly placed bunt from Coffee County in the first inning. It seemed like an impossible play to make, yet Johnson came up firing and showed off a bazooka of an arm.
Shortly after, coach Martin came on the field to coach third and I asked him, “Who is the girl playing third?” He said, “That’s Rhealee. She’ll be here three more years.”
Elia Atterson (softball), Erica Cantrell (basketball), Samantha Jennings (volleyball)
Most underrated athlete
Allison Vazquez (Wrestling)
There’s a short list of athletes in Warren County history who can say they qualified twice for state tournaments. It’s an even shorter list of athletes who can say they have multiple state medals.
Vazquez is on both lists.
The junior finished fourth in the state wrestling tournament in February, her second straight year making the podium. It won’t be a surprise if she is back again next year, only this time her sights will be set on the top spot.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she got there.
Vargas (golf), Bri Young (volleyball, basketball, softball), MaKenna Mason (soccer, softball)
Coach of the year
Gooby Martin (softball)
This wasn’t a difficult choice. When you guide your team to the school’s first-ever softball district tournament title, you also get to be the top coach on my ballot – the only one counted.
Martin is a true Warren County success story. He’s everything we hope and dream athletes from here one day become. Martin grew into a star here, went on to be drafted and play professionally, then returned to impart his wisdom on the next generation of athletes.
He should appear soon on another ballot – the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame.
Katie Rogers (volleyball), Shea Panter (basketball), J.W. Holt (golf)