Athletes of the Year

Honorees highlight fall season

As the fall season winds down, it's time to announce our annual Athletes of the Year. The soccer honorees were captains of the previously announced Super 12 boys and girls soccer teams. Westerville Central's Jared Drake was named the top football player. A story on him can be found in this edition. Here are the fall honorees:

Kenya Cason

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Cason, a 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter, guided DeSales to its second consecutive state tournament appearance and the school's first Division I district championship in any sport.

The University of Connecticut recruit had 482 kills, 148 digs, 51 service aces and 24 blocks for the Stallions, who went 26-2 overall and 8-0 in the CCL to repeat as league champions for the first time in 30 years and win their third consecutive district title. Cason's kill total unofficially ranks her 20th all-time in the state for a season, according to OHSAA records.

She was first-team all-CCL for the third consecutive year and named second-team all-state. She was a second-team all-district honoree each of the previous two years.

DeSales lost to Toledo St. Ursula 25-16, 25-10, 25-16 in a Division I state semifinal.

"She brought intensity to practices, which raised the level of competitiveness in our gym," coach Andy Feltz said. "The program is important to her. She made certain to perpetuate program tradition, and passing those traditions down to the younger players was driven by her desire to form a legacy at DeSales."

Nina Devine

FIELD HOCKEY

During the last four seasons with this center midfielder among its key players, Thomas Worthington went 69-7-6, won a state title in 2011 and was state runner-up in 2010 and this fall.

Devine had 12 goals and 16 assists this season as Thomas went 19-1-1, with its only loss coming to Columbus Academy 1-0 in overtime in the state final Nov. 2.

The Cardinals beat Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 1-0 in overtime to win the 2011 title, as Devine scored the goal.

A first-team all-state selection this season as a senior, Devine competed in the U16 AAU Junior Olympics and the National Futures Championship in summer 2012.

"She (was) a huge part of my offensive and defensive units and (continued) to amaze me with her skills," coach Terri Simonetti Frost said. "You don't see many girls who can jab a ball away from an opponent, but Nina does it with ease and is very successful with this defensive move. She is extremely quick, has great endurance, phenomenal stick work and excellent vision of the field. Nina manages to put the ball in the cage at crucial times. Her decision-making is some of the best I have ever seen from such a young player."

Sam Edwards

GIRLS SOCCER

It was a season of seconds for this Dublin Coffman senior forward, who continued to showcase skills that made her first among area players.

For the second consecutive season, Edwards was named captain of ThisWeek's Super 12 team and the Division I district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year. She had 17 goals and 14 assists as the Shamrocks went 13-2-3 overall and won their third consecutive OCC-Central title at 6-0-1. Coffman fell short of winning its fifth consecutive district title, losing to Marysville 2-0 in a district final Oct. 26.

Coach Marc D'Auteuil said Edwards, who also was the state's Player of the Year, has improved her skill set to the point that she makes her teammates better. An Ohio State recruit, she finished her prep career with 68 goals and 45 assists.

"What I've really liked about Sam is she has evolved her game where the first year or two she was all about her speed and all about getting behind defenders," D'Auteuil said. "The past couple of years she's become even more of a playmaker for other people and become a complete player, and that is what's going to help her at the next level."

Toby Hardwick

BOYS CROSS COUNTRY

Even though Hardwick placed 28th at state a year ago, missing all-state honors by only three spots, Newark coach Randy Noftz believed his senior runner still might have been under the radar entering the Division I state cross country meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.

Any doubts about whether Hardwick should have been considered one of the state's best ended when he earned a runner-up finish in 15 minutes, 21.37 seconds.

"He had a really good season," Noftz said. "He got some confidence once he started running on the same courses as some of the better runners. It was just about getting confidence and being ready to race."

Hardwick won the OCC-Ohio Division championship in 15:52.4 on Oct. 12 at Pickerington Central and captured the district 3 title in 15:37.75 on Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial.

He was fourth (15:58.9) in the regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North but sliced more than 37 seconds off that time at state.

"He's dedicated himself to training this year," Noftz said. "He's had the pattern that by the end of the season he's 45 to 50 seconds faster than he was at the beginning of the year."

Erin Harper

GIRLS GOLF

This Watterson junior rewrote her team's record book this season while becoming its first state champion.

Harper had a 71.1 scoring average while shooting par or better on 273 of the 306 holes she played (89.2 percent). On those 306 holes, Harper shot par 199 times and had 71 birdies and three eagles. She finished 3-under par for the season.

While competing on 17 courses, Harper had 15 first-place finishes. She was runner-up twice, finished third once and placed ninth once.

The district Player of the Year shot an 18-hole team-record 6-under par while winning the Panther Invitational on Aug. 16 at Turnberry.

Harper shot 68 to win the Division I sectional Oct. 1 at Mentel Memorial and 72 to place second in the district tournament Oct. 8 at The Links at Groveport. In the state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Gray Course, Harper was the individual medalist with a 145.

"As you can see, Erin is the real deal," coach Rick McQuade said. "Erin plays in the moment and does not spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror. She knows what is in front of her is what matters."

Andrew Hoffman

BOYS WATER POLO

In the four years he competed for St. Charles, Hoffman made the transition from swimmer to team player and the pay off was big for the Cardinals.

With Hoffman scoring 11 goals, St. Charles defeated Cincinnati St. Xavier 17-13 on Oct. 26 to win its third state title in four seasons.

"I had more of a swimming background, but I learned to be part of a team," said Hoffman, who would like to play water polo in college while he studies engineering. "Coach (Geoff) Gear taught me to be a part of a team and use my skills in conjunction with my teammates."

The senior utility player scored 24 goals in three games during the state tournament as St. Charles finished 21-13 overall.

"Andrew was the cornerstone of our team the entire season," Gear said. "He played his best during the biggest games, which is what you need from your leader. Even though opposing teams focused their defensive efforts on stopping him, he shattered our team records in most offensive categories this season."

Hoffman had 150 goals, 62 steals and 44 assists this fall. He was first-team all-state and all-region.

Ben Kinney

BOYS SOCCER

Kinney put together a stellar junior season in which he garnered individual honors and helped Dublin Coffman succeed as a team.

After missing time last season because of injured knees, Kinney was named Division I district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year. He also was first-team all-state and captain of the ThisWeek Super 12 team.

He had 13 goals and 12 assists at forward while leading the Shamrocks to their third consecutive regional final, where they lost to Olentangy Liberty 2-1 in overtime Nov. 2 to finish 16-3-2 overall. Kinney's second-half goal tied the game.

He also helped Coffman win the OCC-Central title at 6-1.

Last season, Kinney suffered in both knees from osteochondritis dissecans, a joint condition in which a piece of cartilage and a thin layer of bone come loose from the end of the bone. He opted for rest instead of surgery in preparation for this season.

"He had some injury issues last year, but obviously this year he came back fully healthy and really had a great season," coach Steve Watts said. "He's been a three-year starter for us. He's definitely one of our go-to guys."

Julia Rizk

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY

Rizk made a successful transition from track and field to cross country for Columbus Academy.

The junior capped her first cross country season by finishing third (18 minutes, 48.51 seconds) in the Division III state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.

Rizk was second (19:39) in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 12 at London Country Club, first (18:38.84) at district Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial and third (19:24.28) at regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.

In track last spring, Rizk helped the Vikings to a second-place state finish, as she was second in the 1,600 meters (4:59.95) and anchored the second-place 3,200 relay (9:39.78).

"Julia is just a stellar athlete," cross country coach Kelly Parker said. "She made a tough decision to leave soccer after deciding to pursue distance running in college. She made a positive investment in her future. She is a very elite runner. She is the whole package -- she is kind and she is a leader. She has this positive attitude that is just infectious, and as a coach, I appreciate that even more than her 18:38 speed."

Nick Sparling

BOYS GOLF

Sparling was consistently good throughout his senior season for Dublin Coffman.

While he capped the season by winning his second consecutive individual state title, the Ohio State recruit was medalist or runner-up in 12 of the 19 events in which he competed. He shot 11 rounds under par, including seven rounds in the 60s.

The district Player of the Year, Sparling had a 71.15 season average, with his scores ranging from 64 to 79. He also was OCC-Central Division Player of the Year for the second consecutive season with a league average of 69, leading the Shamrocks to their third league title in four years.

In the Division I state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course, Sparling shot a 146 to repeat as medalist.

"I was hoping that Nick could repeat what he did last year because he had one of the best seasons I've ever seen and there's a lot of pressure on a defending state champion," coach David Woodmansee said. "This year, Nick stepped up and actually blew many of last year's accomplishments out of the water by playing his best golf against our best competition and on the toughest courses."

Betsy Trace

GIRLS WATER POLO

Trace, a senior at Upper Arlington, had 62 goals, 42 steals and 20 assists as the Golden Bears went 28-2 and finished third in the state.

For the second consecutive year, she was selected to the South Region all-tournament team and the all-state tournament team.

UA was seeking its fourth consecutive state championship. It lost to Cincinnati Sycamore 11-10 in a state semifinal Oct. 25, but rebounded to beat Napoleon 21-7 in the third-place game the next day.

Trace, who also had 44 goals, 44 assists and 49 steals as a junior, recently signed to swim at Eastern Michigan. She helped the 200-yard medley relay to a Division I district runner-up finish and fourth place at state last year, and was fourth at district and 18th at state in the 50 freestyle.

"Betsy helped us to a 28-2 record," coach Dan Peterkoski said. "We were a pretty balanced team all year. If we were running on all cylinders, we could play at our pace and everyone was able to contribute. We lost one game in Ohio (the state semifinal) all year. We consistently played the best teams in the state, and our seniors were the ones who paced us all year."

— From staff reports

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