By James Butler
With the school year completed, here is a look at Fayette County’s top athletic performers of 2015-16. Not surprisingly, McIntosh and Starr’s Mill are well represented.
GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR:
With a playoff run that culminated in the Lady Chiefs taking home the Class 5A State Championship, McIntosh captures the award for the best girls team in Fayette County in 2015-16. After falling to county rival Starr’s Mill in region play, the Lady Chiefs were able to keep their focus on winning one game at a time, and eventually routed 4-0 the Columbus team that had eked by Starr’s Mill in the semifinals.
BOYS TEAM OF THE YEAR:
The Chiefs’ boys basketball team did not take home a state title, but they had a very outstanding season as they finished 29-3 after losing to eventual state champion Miller Grove in the state semifinals. Head coach Jason Eisele’s team was senior-heavy and functioned as a true team.
GIRLS TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Riley Clark, Starr’s Mill Soccer
As a senior, Clark emerged as the Lady Panthers’ top offensive player and helped spearhead them into being the favorites to take home the Class 5A State Title. Though their upset loss to Columbus kept them from achieving a second consecutive state title, the Lady Panthers would have been hard-pressed to perform as well as they did without Clark’s offensive production.
BOYS TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Jordan Lyons, McIntosh Basketball
Despite being surrounded by several experienced college-level players, Lyons (pictured) showed night-in and night-out that his contributions to the Chiefs were invaluable. He averaged just over 19 points per game as a senior and averaged over 25 in four state tournament games.
GIRLS TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR:
Marcia Clark, McIntosh Soccer
In leading the McIntosh girls to the state title, Clark helped them regroup from a 3-2 setback to Starr’s Mill (which was followed by a lost to eventual Class 6A Semifinalist a few days later) and refocus down the stretch of the season. Clark and McIntosh notched their second state championship in three years and fourth in the last six years.
BOYS TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR:
Anthony McKissic, Sandy Creek Basketball
McKissic did take over a talented team when he became head coach of the Patriots, but he also maximized the talent at his disposal. This season under McKissic, Sandy Creek won its first region title since 2003. Sandy Creek won the Region 5-AAAA Championship and 21 total games, before narrowly falling to Lithonia in the state quarterfinals.
GIRLS RUNNER OF THE YEAR:
Alyssa LeClaire, McIntosh
LeClaire built off of her top-25 finish in the Class 5A State Cross Country Championships to win the Class 5A State Titles on the track in the 3,200 and 1,600 meters. LeClaire was dominant in her title wins, winning the 1,600 (5:05.95) by almost three seconds and the 3,200 (10:54.62) by nearly seven seconds.
BOYS RUNNER OF THE YEAR:
Michael Jones, Sandy Creek
While the Patriots did not have the muscle on the track they have had in previous years, Jones proved that Sandy Creek had another state champion in the fold. Jones took home the Class 4A State Title in the 110-meter hurdles.
GIRLS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Alexis Farley, Starr’s Mill
Farley did not bring home a state championship in 2016, like she did in 2015 (long jump), but her showing in multiple field events over the course of the season made her Fayette’s top girls field athlete. Even without the title, Farley had an excellent showing at the state championships, as she finished runner-up in both the long jump and triple jump.
BOYS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Ryan Spiecha, Starr’s Mill
Like his schoolmate Alexis Farley, Spiecha was one of the best in the state in a pair of field events. In addition to winning the Class 5A State Title in the shot put, Spiecha also finished third in the discus. The cumulative efforts of his performance in both events over the course of the season helped Spiecha edge Whitewater thrower and Class 4A Shot Put Champion Madias Loper for this honor
GIRLS GOLFER OF THE YEAR
Jocelyn Gao, Starr’s Mill
Gao was a consistent performer in the region and state meet for the Lady Panthers. She carded scores of 81 and 84 respectively in those meets as Starr’s Mill won region and finished fourth at state.
BOYS GOLFER OF THE YEAR
Alex Rogers, Starr’s Mill
Rogers was also very steady in helping Starr’s Mill win region and finishing fourth at state as well. Rogers contributed scores of 70 and 74 in those meets. The now high school graduate will golf collegiately at Huntington College.
GIRLS SWIMMER OF THE YEAR
Donna Blaum, Starr’s Mill
As a junior, Blaum continued a storied-book high school career by winning another state championship. Her 50-yard freestyle state championship was her second straight in the event. She won a year ago, when she also won a state title in the 100-yard butterfly. As a freshman, Blaum finished third at state in both events, and finished fourth in the 100 fly this season.
BOYS SWIMMER OF THE YEAR
Tan Dunn, McIntosh
Dunn followed up a terrific freshman season with a sensational sophomore campaign. He finished second at state in the 100-yard backstroke, third in the 50-yard freestyle, and was a part of McIntosh’s 200-yard freestyle relay team that finished second as well.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
Jake Lee, Sandy Creek
Lee notched the highest finish of any county wrestler at the state traditional meet, coming in as the runner up in Class 4A’s 113-pound division. The senior, who finished third at state at 106 pounds as a junior, also won sectional and area championships this past season.