By Thomas Sellers Jr.
This week’s Who’s Who concludes The Genuine Article’s look back at the 2013-14 TSSAA sports year.
& Devynn Brandon
There are two ways for a student/athlete to be involved these days. The old fashion way of traveling to school events, signing up for things and being active around your peers. The new way is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets. Brighton’s Lauren Kinney and Millington’s Devynn Brandon have used these tools to be the Most Involved for the Class of 2014.
Kinney kept her teammates posted on the latest Youtube links featuring Lady Cardinal Softball or post on www.millington-news.com. Thanks Rosey!
She would be spotted at basketball, football or baseball games. She also could be seen helping with concession stands, the Yearbook and being a support system for her peers. She is definitely a rose of a young lady.
Brandon has been involved in Trojan athletics since he was in elementary school. After watching his siblings shine for the Black and Gold, it was finally his turn to showcase his skills. Through basketball and track, Brandon left his mark.
But his friends would tell you about the character he was as a student from choir to participating in spirit building activities at the school. Brandon was frequent at games cheering on his classmates.
& Colton Hathcock
There are so many talented student/athletes in the coverage area. I narrowed it down to the strong arm of Brighton’s Colton Hathcock and the strong pipes of Millington’s Meghan Sands.
The 2014 Ms. MCHS Sands played volleyball and softball for the Lady Trojans. She sang the National Anthem before basketball games and had one of the best performances at Oscar Night. Sands has many avenues for success in her future.
Hathcock could have taken his talents many places as a quarterback or pitcher. But the Cardinal product decided Memphis Baseball would be his next stop.
The maturity of Hathcock from leading a football team to a District 13-3A championship will help him on the diamond in the next few years. He ended his run with Brighton Baseball helping the team reach Regionals. Leadership with natural talents usually spells out success. Both Hathcock and Sands have bright futures ahead of them.
& Austin Chambers
Most of the student/athletes I encounter develop a lasting relationship with this old reporter. But each year I single out a young lady and a young gentlman I’ve formed a deeper connection with. Tipton-Rosemark Academy’s Austin Chambers and Millington’s Ariel Trice are my winners this year.
Chambers was familiar with my work because his big brother Andrew was a student/athlete at TRA. Now as Andrew travels the world on mission trips helping others, his little brother is about to follow in his footsteps. Chambers is going to head to college and make a difference in many lives.
Chambers kept busy at TRA playing quarterback, small forward and joining his friend Logan Mayo on the best doubles team at the school.
But wherever AC saw me, he came to chat and catch up. He was always there to support a classmate and give me the good news about them. He never bragged on himself. Chambers wanted to update me on Andrew, promote a teammate or inform me on the latest about the school.
And when their tennis season ended too early, Chambers and Mayo joined the TRA Baseball team as managers to support their peers on the way to State. Chambers’ character passed every test over the years. And I’m glad and proud I can call a young man like that a friend.
Trice isn’t as talkive as Chambers. But she’s just as friendly, supportive and caring. From volleyball to softball, Trice was a hard-working player, a leader by example.
Between her sports, she would attend basketball games rooting for the Lady Trojans and Trojans. She had school pride wearing something black and gold to every football game.
Her sister Jessica entered high school this past year and Ariel was there to show her the ropes. Big sister even has passed the softball torch to her sister.
With all those responsiblities, it’s clear to see Ariel is an intelligent person. But what impressed me the most is her willingness to listen. Whether it was a coach, classmate or even me, Trice would lend her ears.
Through a few conversations, I’ve developed a respect and friendship with Trice. With her moving on to Indiana for softball, I’m sure Trice will be leaning on her support system to adjust. It will be time for us to give back to the young lady who has given to us.
& Jordan Browning
I like to fancy myself as dependable. So I would like to think I have an eye for dependability. And this year I have to honor TRA’s Jordan Collins and Millington’s Jordan Browning. Both have been clutch over the years. Browning (known for his trademark gooseneck) has hit his share of big shots for the Trojans. This past season Browning made the three-pointer to beat the Bartlett Panthers (see youtube.com for the exciting conclusion to the Jan. 24 contest).
Browning was coming up clutch even before he became a Trojan hitting a timely shot as a seventh grader for Millington Middle School against rival Woodstock.
Dependable in the classroom as well, Browning could also be counted on to step out of the spotlight when needed. His junior year the Trojans were loaded with 10 seniors. He worked with that group knowing when to shine and when to let the talent around him be showcased.
Collins was a similar personality on her TRA Softball teams. Over the years players like Roxy Kimes, Mady Kate Gantt and Ashton Needham got most of the headlines. Meanwhile Collins went about her business playing solid shortstop and grooming her approach at the plate.
All that hard work came in handy this past season with Collins coming up with the big hits to deliver TRA its second softball State championship. Collins started her prep career with a title and made sure it ended that way.
She came to work every day with the mindset to do her part to make her team better. She wasn’t worried about headlines and getting the spotlight. Collins wanted to simply win.
& Luke Walker
TRA’s Ashton Needham and Millington’s Luke Walker are kindred spirits in athletics. Both enjoyed early success heading into their senior years. Both were champions with unfinished business. And the duo lived up the hype and overcame the pressure to reach new heights in 2014.
Walker has been a longtime standout for Trojan Wrestling. And after reaching State his junior campaign, he was the favorite in the 182-pound division in West Tennessee. Walker nearly went perfect in his division en route to the Region championship.
Watching Walker on the mat was like witnessing Vincent van Gogh paint Starry Night. Walker would use different styles, techinques and methods to quickly finish off an opponent. He was so good, if he wanted to just work on some strategies, he would keep his foe on the mat until he figured it out.
Walker’s days in the gym, running and lifting allowed him to do that. And I think any motorist in Millington the past 24 months has seen Walker running along the street at least once.
While Walker was running, Needham was in the batting cage or the pitching circle. With a mom for a coach, you’re going to find your way to a softball field to get in some work.
Along with all the discipline exercise Needham did to improve, she has the heart for the game and mentality of being a team player.
Known as a hitter, Needham knew entering the 2014 season she would need to pitch to give the Lady Rebels a chance at success. The next great TRA pitcher in line is Rachel Whitley, an eighth grader. Needham knew she needed a season of no pressure.
The senior took on all the challenges on and off the field to help her team succeed. So it was fitting Needham tossed the final pitch to get the out for TRA’s second State title.
& Robby Roach
Ok, I’ll admit picking the winners for his category was too easy. You have a pair of valedictorians with Millington’s Lauren Lester and Munford’s Robby Roach. I guess soccer makes students smarter.
Lester maintained the best grade-point average at Millington balancing a busy schedule along with soccer. The whole time she kept a humble approach. The girl from Millington has made her town proud with her achievements in the classroom and on the field. Lester will move on to do great things and I feel she will make sure Millington benefits from her day of study at UT-Knoxville to become an Aerospace Engineer.
Roach will be attending Southeast Missouri State. Before heading to Missouri, Roach showed me and the rest of the area he was a vital part of the best soccer team in Munford history. As the Cougars rolled off the victories, many of his teammates got much deserved press. But the efficent example on the field wearing No. 17 was Roach.
He did the little things to set up goals for teammates like Jesper Kemp and Tyler Futrell. Roach was there for backup for midfielders like Jaylen Hill.
Being there for his teammates was no problem for Roach because he said the entire team has supported him and pushed him to achieve in and out the classroom.
Mr. and Ms.
& Connor Alexander
The faces of the Class of 2014 for The Genuine Article are two champions. TRA’s Ashton Needham and Connor Alexander led their teams to mega success in 2013-14. They had the golden touch as pitchers, hitters and leaders for their teams. When I reflect back on all the greatness from this past TSSAA sports calendar, many faces will pop into my mind. But Needham and Alexander will be near the top.
Needham took the lessons from past TRA greats to guide her young team to the Division II-A State Softball title. A coach’s daughter, Needham used her intelligence to win. A veteran of varsity ball, she took her experience to get through crucial situations. And born with a natural set of skills, her power hitting and pitching shut down all the competition.
Alexander is gifted as well. Lessons from his father and older brother made Alexander an above-average player for years.
In his senior campaign, Alexander lived up to the expectations dominating from the mound. He pitched all the big games leading TRA to the State championship game.
These two student-athletes made the year special and now they and many of their peers are heading onto the next level to continue the good times.
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