The Mountain Amateur Athletics Club hosted its 61st annual awards banquet Sunday night at Omni Grove Park Inn as the club honored the top high school student-athletes in Western North Carolina.
The first-ever Pat Ryan Memorial Scholarship was announced on Sunday. Ryan was a popular radio sportscaster at WISE Radio who hosted a local daily sports talk show for more than 17 years. He died last November at the age of 57 after a lengthy battle with cancer. A scholarship in his honor was created thanks to an anonymous donation. The scholarship is to help an aspiring sports broadcaster. The first winner of the Pat Ryan Memorial Scholarship is Evan Smalley of Tuscola.
The second Keith Jarrett Memorial Scholarship was also announced Sunday evening. Jarrett, a long-time Asheville Citizen-Times sportswriter who was the backbone of this event, died unexpectedly in December of 2021. The scholarship was created to give a young aspiring journalist some help to begin their college career. Israel Jackson of Franklin was this year’s recipient of the Keith Jarrett Memorial Scholarship.
The fourth Riley Howell Courage Award went to a young lady from Cherokee who exemplified joy during a tough time. Aniyah Sampson was a nine-year-old girl from Cherokee who twice defeated cancer, first in her leg and then her jaw. It came back a third time in her brain, which would lead to her passing earlier this year. However, she never stopped playing basketball during her chemotherapy treatments, even leading her team in scoring. Her parents never focused on the dwindling days; rather, they chose to embrace each moment they had left with her. Their bravery in the face of Aniyah’s battle, and their own little girls’ never-quit attitude, made them the obvious choice for the honor. The award is named for Riley Howell, a Western North Carolina native who sacrificed his own life to stop an active shooter on the campus of UNC Charlotte in 2019.
Here is a list of the winners from each category:
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Wells Fargo Advisors/Aiken, Meyer, Whatley Division II Female Athlete Major Sport: Desta Trammell, Robbinsville.
Northwestern Mutual/Carole Martin Division II Female Athlete Olympic Sport: Eliza Perry, Hendersonville.
Homewood Suites Division II Female Team Major Sport: Asheville Christian Academy Volleyball
Mills Manufacturing Division II Female Team Olympic Sport: Swain Outdoor Track and Field.
Nicole and Kyte Ferrell Division II Male Athlete Major Sport: Reagan McCranie, Chase
Tara and Frank Burdette Division II Male Athlete Olympic Sport: Matthew Gray, Swain
Fields Auto Group Division II Male Team Major Sport: Christ School Basketball
Blue Ridge Division of EmergeOrtho Division II Male Team Olympic Sport: Christ School Cross Country
Ann Brandis Division I Female Athlete Major Sport: Evangelia Paulk, Asheville HS
First Citizens Bank Division I Female Athlete Olympic Sport: Boston Stringer, Franklin and Emma Hall, West Henderson
HomeTrust Bank Division I Female Team Major Sport: West Henderson soccer
Nat & Carolyn Arthur Division I Female Team Olympic Sport: West Henderson Outdoor Track and Field.
Goforth Builders Inc. Division I Male Athlete Major Sport: Sean Green, Reynolds
Massasoit of North Carolina, Inc. Division I Male Athlete Olympic Sport: Blake Cassada, Franklin
McKinney Insurance Services Division I Male Team Major Sport: Reynolds football
Rodeway Inn & Suites Division I Male Team Olympic Sport: Franklin indoor track and field
Paramount Kia Division II Female Academic Award: Melodi Van’t Hoff, Hendersonville
Blue Ridge Imaging Technologies Division I Female Academic Award: Kennedy Barker, Pisgah
Heath & Nikol Shuler Division II Male Academic Award: Jackson Knox, R-S Central
Beverly-Hanks Realty Division I Male Academic Award: Jacob Asbill, Roberson
Apollo Flame Division II Female Athlete of the Year: Zoie Shuler, Robbinsville
Young Transportation Division II Male Athlete of the Year: Rocky Hansen, Christ School
Lary & Jan Schulhof Division I Female Athlete of the Year: Jenna Barnes, Reynolds
Henry Logan Division I Male Athlete of the Year: Dashawn Stone, Reynolds
Special Olympics Award: Tea Joy Crawford, Rutherford County
The following student-athletes were awarded academic scholarships of $1,500: Jenna Barnes, Reynolds; Ainsley Cannon, Enka; Chad Clark, North Buncombe; Roman Coxie, Asheville Christian; Sarah Kate Dobbins, Thomas Jefferson; Nidrea Gray, Reynolds; Lexie Gunter, North Henderson; Rocky Hansen, Christ School; Israel Jackson, Franklin; Will Johnson, Murphy; Marqies McCombs, Chase; Rylie McDonald, Andrews; Bekka Mull, North Buncombe; Lucas Parker, Enka; Eva Rinker, Tuscola; Amelia Rogers, Swain; Evan Smalley, Tuscola; Tymber Thompson, Roberson; Ty Turbyfill, Mitchell; Kirsten Watt, Asheville High.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Winners from the 61st WNC Sports Awards Banquet