By James Butler
All eyes in Clayton County high school athletics are now aimed at the upcoming 2016-17 school year, but now is also a perfect time to look at who excelled in the 2015-16 in this county superlative list.
GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR:
Mount Zion Basketball
The Lady Bulldogs went 25-5, and knocked off rival Jonesboro to become the Region 4-AAAA champions. While Mount Zion’s season came to end in the second round of the state tournament, that loss to defending champion Buford does not mean that the Lady Bulldogs were not one of the better teams in Class 4A. Buford went on to lose to eventual state champion Americus-Sumter in the state semifinals. Nevertheless, coach Tiesha Wilson’s team only lost three games to Southern Crescent teams this past season.
BOYS TEAM OF THE YEAR:
Looking to three-peat, Jonesboro failed just short with its heartbreaking loss to Liberty County in the Class 4A State Championship Game. In addition to the loss, the game was heartbreaking because of the non-regulation court the two teams unknowingly played on. Still, Jonesboro had a great season with a 28-5 record, undefeated region record, and only two losses (Norcross and Liberty County) to Georgia teams.
GIRLS TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Tyeisha Juhan, Mount Zion Basketball
Juhan put Mount Zion on her back at times this past season. She catapulted the Lady Bulldogs into serious region championship conservation with a four-game stretch in January where she scored 34, 35, 31, and 33 points consecutively. Just two games later, she outscored Spalding, a state tournament team, herself. Juhan poured in 43 points in a 61-25 Mount Zion win. She was definitely a catalyst to the Lady Bulldogs’ season.
BOYS TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Quarderman Sloan, Drew Football
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Sloan (pictured with ball) proved to be the most dominant football player in Clayton County last season. The running back rushed for 2,265 yards and 28 touchdowns, with a ridiculous average of 11 yards per carry. He and quarterback Joseph Newman helped lead an offense that was a major reason why Drew was Class 5A State Quarterfinalists last season. Sloan signed with defending Junior College national champions Northwest Mississippi, so it would not be surprising to see him playing, and contributing in big-time college football in the next couple of years or so.
GIRLS TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR:
Jenitra Shields, Jonesboro Volleyball
Shields had the unenviable task of following Dan Maehlman, who in addition to being a standout basketball coach, had built the Cardinals into Clayton County’s premier volleyball program. Shields passed Year 1 of succeeding Maehlman with flying colors, as she guided Jonesboro to an Area 4 Championship and a trip to the second round of the state tournament. Jonesboro had not won its opening state tournament match since 2012.
BOYS TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR:
Dan Maehlman, Jonesboro Basketball
Jonesboro lost its point guard (Austin Donaldson) and glue guy (Tracy Hector) from its back-to-back state champion teams, but Maehlman was able to work some more-than viable pieces around star M.J. Walker, and the Cardinals remained very formidable. Maehlman has shown that he can get teams with varying levels of talent to play to its best abilities, and that is a hallmark of a complete coach.
GIRLS RUNNER OF THE YEAR:
Briah McBride, Jonesboro
Despite winning the Clayton County Championship in both the 100 and 200 meters, McBride arguably ran her best at the Class 4A State Meet. She finished third in the 100, running a personal best 11.87 in the preliminary for the 100, before running an 11.94 in the finals. A rising junior, one can expect McBride to continue to improve.
BOYS RUNNER OF THE YEAR:
DeAngelo Harris, Riverdale
If it was not for one of the best runners in Georgia High School history being in his way, Harris would likely have a state championship in his possession. Harris finished second in Class 4A in the 400 meters behind Eagle’s Landing standout Devin Dixon. Later in the inaugural Georgia High School Meet of Champions, Harris also finished only behind Dixon in the 400 meters. However, in that race, he bested two other state champions.
GIRLS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Tyeisha Juhan, Mount Zion
Not only did Juhan dominate the basketball court this past season, she also dominated in track and field. The senior won state in the triple jump, finished second in the long jump, and tied for second in the high jump. Teammate Imani Carmouche won the high jump. Being amongst Class 4A’s best in multiple events, even without considering her basketball abilities, shows that Juhan is very athletic and much disciplined.
BOYS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Kiyani Anderson, Lovejoy
Anderson literally jumped on the scene with his state-best long jump of over 24 feet this past March. The then senior who came to track and field late is now set to jump for Kennesaw State next school year. Anderson won region and county titles in the long jump, and a county title in triple jump.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Tie – Queryachi Taylor, Lovejoy and Jhante Charles, Mundy’s Mill
Taylor has been Clayton County’s foremost wrestler over the last four seasons, and this past season, the Mundy’s Mill senior Charles officially joined him. Both wrestlers had outstanding seasons, with Taylor going 30-2 before the state traditional meet and Charles having a 37-3 record headed into state. Taylor would end up placing sixth at state.