Jackets honor best in athletics, academics
Lee County High School held its 2012-13 Winter Sports Awards Night Wednesday night. The Yellow Jackets celebrated sporting successes and named team MVPs.
While athletic honors were announced, academic recognition was a major part of the evening and deservedly so.
Twelve Yellow Jacket wrestlers reached the 4A Mideast Regional Championships while 16 Jackets on the squad earned Academic All-Conference honors in the Tri-Nine.
There was no need to list names for Academic All-Conference spots for Lee County swim teams or gymnastics. All 30 swimmers and all six varsity gymnasts earned all-conference awards for their work in the classroom.
On the Lady Jacket basketball team, 13 players earned academic honors and 18 of 23 varsity cheerleaders did.
Many of the student-athletes did well with both while putting in lots of long days for the past few months.
Jacket swimming practice starts at 6 a.m. each school day at Sanford Nautilus. Meets on weeknights usually wind up with getting home around 11 p.m., said Lee County head coach Mark Kline while recognizing both teams he coaches during the awards ceremony.
Kline, who was voted Tri-Nine Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches, didn't make that announcement himself. Athletic Director Steve Womack, doubling as the emcee for the night, was about to give the news when Kline's swimmers beat him to the punch.
The Jacket wrestlers put in lots of long nights and long weekends in having 12 Jackets reach regionals and earning a program-record 18 dual match wins in an 18-7 overall record.
"In my 17 years of coaching, I've had better wrestlers, but in this squad, I've never had as good of a team," said head coach Harry Stryffeler.
Daquan Holt, who had a 24-9 record at 138 pounds, was named team MVP. Kyle Flood, at 132 pounds, was given the squad's Coaches Award to go along with First Team All-Conference honors in the Tri-Nine.
"Eight guys wrestled state champs at some point during the season," Stryffeler said.
Sloan Bycura, in his first year earning a letter this season, wrestled a defending state champ and, Stryffeler said, came off the mat saying, "geez, he was good," without knowing his opponent's caliber.
"I just said, 'yeah, welcome to varsity,'" Stryffeler said.
John Nguyen, a two-sport athlete in the same season with wrestling and swimming, earned the wrestling program's Academic Award. Dalton Messer was named Most Improved for Jacket wrestling.
With eight seniors this season, Jacket boys basketball improved from last place in the Tri-Nine to fourth place and a state tournament berth this season, Lee County's last in 4A and the Tri-Nine. Lee County goes from a 4A program to a 3A program and the Cape Fear Valley Conference in 2013-14.
Senior Dante Graham was named team MVP by head coach Reggie Peace and junior Dewaun McEachin was recognized for being named First Team All-Conference.
Lady Jacket JV basketball finished second in the Tri-Nine and 14-5 overall. Shantel Bennett was named team MVP.
Indoor track head coach Angela Murchison handed out six individual honors and four academic all-conference awards, meaning most of her small squad picked up something.
Kentrell French, Ian Frye, Zach Gordon and Allegra Hogan earned conference academic places. Hogan was the MVP in distance events. James Foushee was MVP in sprints and Sharrod Berryman was MVP of field events. Gordon won the team academic award while Frye was Most Improved and French won the coaches award.
Gymnastics head coach Kathy McLeod-Edwards wasn't sure she'd be able to have a squad once the 2011-12 season concluded, but the Lady Jackets fielded JV and varsity gymnastics teams this season and Lady Jackets finished third in the Tri-Nine.
All six varsity gymnasts, Leah Bradley, Kaylyn Clark, Ramsey Diven, Katy Hancock, Katie Lewis and Haley Mundy, made the all-conference academic team.
Bradley, Clark, Lewis and Mundy did double duty as Yellow Jacket cheerleaders as well.
Cheerleading season starts and May and lasts through basketball season, said head coach Tracy McNeill, so is nearly a year-round commitment and, in a way as the cheerleaders travel to football and basketball, is a multi-sport effort by itself.
While going through individual awards, McNeill praised coaches award winner Allie Davis, who cheers at home games only, but hasn't missed a Lee County home game in four years.
"This young girl is the epitome of a cheerleader," McNeill said.
"She is absolutely the best cheerleader Lee County High School has ever had," she said.
The Jackets will be losing 17 senior cheerleaders. McNeill said her seniors have already been accepted at colleges such as Campbell, North Carolina St., UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, Appalachian St., Meredith and East Carolina.
"I've been very blessed to be with these girls for four years," McNeill said.
Lee County High School Winter Sports Awards
JV girls basketball
MVP - Shantel Bennett
Varsity girls basketball
MVP - DeJa Bland
Academic - Allie Eyers
Most Improved - Quitta Wilson
Coaches - Meredith Love
9th grade boys basketball
MVP - Allan Negron
JV boys basketball
MVPs - Duane Bland and Tyler Thomas
Most Outstanding Prospect - Frank Wishart
Varsity boys basketball
MVP - Dante Graham
Academic - Chase Arrington
Most Improved - Tre Wells
Coaches - Jason Payne
MVP - Katie Lewis
Academic - Haley Mundy
Most Improved - Ramsey Diven
Coaches - Haley Mundy
Best Prospect - Brook Such
MVP - Katelyn Thomas
Academic - Elizabeth Gay
Most Improved - Austin Francis
Coaches - Allie Davis
MVP - Phillip Morie
Academic - Stephen Kirik
Most Improved - Dalton Cox
Coaches - Jon Mills
MVP - Morgan Vogelsang
Academic - Caitlin Claffey
Most Improved - Joli LeBrun
Coaches - Shannon Allen
MVP (distance events) - Allegra Hogan
MVP (sprints) - James Foushee
MVP (field) - Sharrod Berryman
Academic - Zach Gordon
Most Improved - Ian Frye
Coaches - Kentrell French
MVP - Daquan Holt
Academic - John Nguyen
Most Improved - Dalton Messer
Coaches - Kyle Flood