As the fall season winds down, it's time to announce our inaugural Athletes of the Year.
As the fall season winds down, it's time to announce our inaugural Athletes of the Year. The soccer honorees were captains of the previously announced Super 12 boys and girls soccer teams. Hartley's Ja'Wuan Woodley was named the top football player. A story on him can be found in this edition. Here are the fall honorees:Courtney Deena
A senior midfielder, Deena helped lead Columbus Academy to its first state title since 2006 and ninth overall.
The Maryland recruit had 13 goals and 27 assists, as the Vikings won the Central Ohio Field Hockey League and beat Watterson 2-1 in overtime in the state final Nov. 3 to finish 19-0-1.
Deena was first-team all-state and all-league.
"Her passion, commitment to excellence and athletic courage are driving forces in her mastery of the sport of field hockey," Academy coach Anne Horton said. "... She had over 140 defensive takeaways this season. While taking the ball away, she equally was setting up her team's attack. Her leadership and climb to success has been a pivotal role in our team's recent journey. She has definitely developed into one of the state's best players."Sam DeRoy
The senior midfielder had 14 goals and 11 assists to help lead Olentangy Liberty to its first state championship.
DeRoy shared state Player of the Year honors in Division I with Cleveland St. Ignatius' Tyler Sanda and was named district and OCC-Central Player of the Year as well as ThisWeek's Super 12 captain.
The Patriots won the OCC-Central championship and defeated Sylvania Southview 2-0 in the state final Nov. 10 at Crew Stadium to finish 22-1. Liberty was the state runner-up last year.
DeRoy had two three-goal games and a pair of two-goal games this season.
"Sam would be the first person to say our team isn't a one-man show," Liberty coach Rick Collins said. "He's relentless. He never quits. Offensively and defensively, he's always working. He's a strong, tenacious two-way player."Jacob Dumford
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
A senior at Westerville North, Dumford was second (15 minutes, 17.61 seconds) in the Division I state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
Dumford, who verbally committed to Notre Dame on Nov. 11, finished first or second in every postseason race. He won the OCC-Cardinal meet Oct. 13 at Hilliard Darby in an area-best 15:15.27 and the regional meet (15:51.81) on Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, and finished second to teammate Kent Ford in the district 1 meet (16:55.98) on Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial and at state to Tipp City Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton (15:09.95).
"We asked Jacob and Kent to hold back earlier in the year to help the rest of the team," said North coach Dave Weaner, whose team was fourth at state (151 points) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (71). "They've been polite and strong policing each other. They held accountability to a high degree."Sam Edwards
The junior forward had 19 goals and 18 assists to help lead Dublin Coffman to the OCC-Central title and its fourth consecutive Division I district championship.
The Shamrocks lost to Pickerington North 1-0 in a regional semifinal Nov. 3 to finish 15-1-4.
Edwards was district and OCC-Central Player of the Year and first-team all-state. She was ThisWeek's Super 12 captain.
"Sam's athletic ability is kind of what sets her apart," Coffman coach Marc D'Auteuil said. "Also, (so does) her competitiveness, which is not seen too often at this level. She has an unwillingness to lose."
Edwards showed her "unwillingness to lose" in a 1-all tie against Medina on Sept. 29, as she dribbled the ball down field and scored just 11 seconds after Medina had taken a 1-0 lead with 3:22 left.Megan Giardina
Pickerington North had the program's best seasons the past two years, finishing 26-2 overall both seasons with a pair of regional runner-up finishes.
That was due in large part to Giardina, a senior setter who signed Nov. 14 to play for Clemson.
"She really developed into an incredibly well-rounded player," coach Kris Kern said. "She was a powerful right-side hitter and often blocked the opponent's best hitter. In the back, she was a primary passer and serve receiver."
The Panthers lost to Massillon Jackson 21-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-20, 15-8 in a Division I regional final Nov. 3 at Hilliard Davidson. North won the OCC-Ohio title at 14-0, extending its league winning streak to 86 matches.
"She is a major reason why this senior class went 100-10 and never lost a district or league match," Kern said. "She was a captain and wonderful leader."Rachael Morales
A four-time state qualifier, Morales reached the pinnacle of her prep career Oct. 20 when she beat DeSales' My Linh Li 6-0, 6-2 to capture the Division II state singles championship.
Morales, a Hartley senior and Reynoldsburg resident, finished third in the 2009 state tournament, lost in the second round as a sophomore and fell in the first round as a junior.
She is a Marshall University recruit who finished 25-1 this season, with her only loss to Li in a district final Oct. 13. She went 118-10 for her career, with four of her losses to Li.
"She's worked so extremely hard to get to where she is," coach Lynn Winters said. "She did a great job getting focused and playing her game. She (committed) to Marshall early on in the season and I think that was a big relief. Rachael just seemed like she was so well focused in every match this season."Nick Sparling
The Dublin Coffman junior became the first player in program history to win the Division I state title, as he shot a 145 (74-71) Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course to finish two strokes ahead of the runner-up.
Sparling was OCC-Central Player of the Year, shot a 72 to win a sectional title Oct. 2 at Darby Creek and was district runner-up Oct. 9 at Apple Valley with a 72.
He was medalist eight times and had a 73.6-stroke average on the season.
"Nick had the best average of any player I've ever coached and the amount of awards he won was impressive," Coffman coach David Woodmansee said. "But what I'm most proud of is the growth he made on the golf course and as a team leader. Adversity never phased him at all. He played his best golf in the highest-pressure rounds."Lexie Toth
An example of what made this junior the area's best player this season took place on the night of Dublin Jerome's team banquet Nov. 7 at Muirfield Village.
"It was freezing, and while I'm pulling out all of the stuff for the banquet, she pulls up in her golf cart because she'd been practicing," coach C.D. Butcher said. "Lexie has the best competitive drive of any (player) I've ever had, which is saying something."
Named the district's Player of the Year, Toth was the OCC-Cardinal medalist and averaged what Butcher believes is a program-best 74.6.
Toth turned in an area-best tie for fourth (149) in the two-round Division I state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Gray Course. She tied for 14th a year ago at state as Jerome won its first of back-to-back team championships.Betsy Trace
GIRLS WATER POLO
A field player, Trace helped lead Upper Arlington to its third consecutive state championship and 13th overall.
The junior scored five goals of 44 goals in a 15-5 win over Napoleon in a state semifinal Oct. 26. The Golden Bears defeated Cincinnati Sycamore 6-2 in the state final Oct. 27 to finish 26-3 overall.
Trace also had 44 assists and 49 steals for UA, which went 9-1 in the South Region.
Bears coach Dan Peterkoski classifies most of his players as "field" players because they play multiple positions.
"Betsy has a great shot, probably the best shot on the team," Peterkoski said. "She can score at any time from any place in the pool. She has an ability to be aggressive and help from anywhere. No matter what girls were in the pool, we knew we weren't going to miss a beat."Thomas Trace
BOYS WATER POLO
A utility player, the Upper Arlington junior had 116 goals, 25 assists and 43 steals for the Golden Bears, who went 25-4 overall and won their first state championship since 2009 and seventh overall.
Trace was named state Player of the Year after scoring eight goals in an 18-8 win over Thomas Worthington in a state semifinal Oct. 26 and scoring six more in a 17-2 win over Cincinnati Sycamore in the state final Oct. 27.
The Bears, who had finished third at state each of the previous two years, went 12-0 in the South Region.
"He has an outstanding shot," UA coach Jim Roberts said. "He's fast and quick and anticipates things very well. He was our rookie of the year as a freshman and started as a sophomore, and this year I told him my goal for him was to be the top player in the state."Leah Wallace
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
After placing 13th in the Division I state meet a year ago, this Reynoldsburg sophomore proved that her freshman performance was no fluke.
Wallace captured her second consecutive OCC-Ohio championship Oct. 13 when she ran 18 minutes, 43.7 seconds in the league meet at Lancaster. She followed with a title in the district 2 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial when she ran 18:45.71.
At regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, she battled muddy and cold conditions to win in 18:44.9.
On Nov. 3 in the state meet at National Trail Raceway, Wallace placed 16th in 18:24.28.
"I'm really excited about my season," she said. "At the regional I didn't even think about winning it until I got to the postseason. I didn't do as well as I wanted at state but it was still a good season."