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No. 1 volleyball fan
Winfree inspires Lady Pioneers
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Photos provided Hudson Winfree is the biggest WCMS volleyball fan. He was around the team all year and embraced by the Lady Pioneers. Pictured are, from left, Aubrey Oleksik, Stella Dunn, Hudson, Ella Wells and Izzy Geesling.
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Hudson Winfree was in team huddles and even was a line judge for the Lady Pioneers this season.

It seemed like everywhere the WCMS volleyball team went this season, they had a friendly face waiting. Through grueling summer work, hard times at home or thrilling wins on the road, the girls heard a voice from the crowd shouting encouragement and spreading cheer. By the end of the year, there was no mistaking who was the No. 1 fan of Lady Pioneers.  

Hudson Winfree stood alone in his sheer devotion and love for his team.

Winfree, 11, was a spark plug on the sidelines helping the Lady Pioneers pull off a CTC co-championship this year. The super supporter, who was embraced by his sister Presley Winfree and the whole team, played his role to perfection, helping become a beacon of success and will power for a team that morphed from underdog to one of the league’s top squads by the end of the year.

“Hudson is the best Warren County sports fan,” said WCMS volleyball coach Holly Palombo. “He loves sports, Warren County and his sister Presley. He was a big morale boost all year, especially in our road win against Coffee County. He was with us every step of the way, whether it was doing agilities before the game, dancing to Spice girls in the huddle or standing behind the bench cheering us on. 

“We love Hudson and couldn’t think of a better fan to help motivate our girls. He believes in them, we believe in them and, hopefully, they believe in themselves because of it.”

Hudson has been long known for his sports fandom and his softball skills. He’s a multi-time all-star in the Centertown recreation league, where the lefty is known for hitting mammoth shots and flashing the leather all across the infield.

Now that he’s entered sixth grade at WCMS, Hudson has shifted his love for playing sports into being instant energy from the sidelines. His knowledge of games is second-to-none and he’s ready to roll anytime he knows a ball will be bouncing or hit in Warren County.

“He’s just always around sports. He doesn’t get to play sports as much as he’d like to, but he loves sports in every way – watching them, playing them and rooting for his teams,” said Josh Winfree, Hudson’s father. “He’s grown up around so many of these kids and they’re just like family to him. They’re always finding ways to help him be a part of it. It’s amazing to see.”

Hudson is a mainstay on the courts in the McMinnville Special Games and during softball season, but the winter months are when his inner fandom is released. When his dad or mom, Jenna Sullens, are about to go to the game, they know Hudson is going to be hyped up.

He was in rare form in Manchester when the Lady Pioneers started their march toward a CTC crown. Hudson’s sister Presley wore a special puzzle piece ribbon that night, honoring Autism Awareness, and Hudson was in every group activity before the game.

He joined in for pregame agility work and was in the team circle right before the Lady Pioneers went on the court. By the end of the night, when the Lady Pioneers had taken home a victory and Hudson had been involved in the whole process, he was riding on Cloud 9.

“He was breaking it down with the team and giving everybody high fives. He already thought he was part of the team and we’re just so appreciative of them including him,” said Josh about his son’s big night.

Hudson won’t sugarcoat it for the Lady Pioneers though. He doesn’t hesitate to pass along his pointers when they’re needed because he loves winning as much as he loves sports.

“He’ll be hard on them. He’s in the game and he’s committed,” said his dad.

If asked, Hudson will gladly referee too. He was able to serve as a line judge at one game, getting some helpful guidance from WCHS principal and family friend Jacob Dunn along the way. In typical Hudson fashion, he was tough but fair with both teams and had a big smile on his face the whole time.

“He just does everything. He made his line judge debut at the JV game and he’s always making sure we have the ball ready to serve during games. He stays involved,” said coach Palombo.

Hudson’s parents couldn’t have been happier seeing their kids grow up and show out with the Lady Pioneers. It was a tremendous feeling seeing Presley and Hudson standing shoulder-to-shoulder embracing each other in the huddles this fall and knowing all the Lady Pioneers were there to support their super fan.

“The world has changed for kids. As they’re coming up, it’s a part of life and people are finding ways to be inclusive. Holly, the coaches and the kids have been great including Hudson and we’re so appreciative,” said Josh.

The appreciation was mutual for the Lady Pioneers, who loved nothing more than having Hudson there giving his all while they did too.