Athletes of the Year

Area's best highlight spring sports season

Now that the school year is over and summer is upon us, it's time to announce the Athletes of the Year for the spring season. Here are the honorees:

Miriam Bassani

GIRLS LACROSSE

The junior attacker rewrote the Worthington Kilbourne record book, scoring a program-record 86 goals to go with 37 assists and becoming the Wolves' all-time leader in goals (205) and points (279), while leading her team to its first state title.

Bassani earned first-team all-American honors and was named first-team all-state, all-region and all-league, as the Wolves went 17-3 and won OCC-Cardinal Division and regional titles before winning the Division II state title.

Bassani had three goals and two assists in a 17-7 win over Cincinnati Indian Hill in the state final May 31 and had four goals and three assists in a 16-11 win over Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown in a state semifinal May 30.

"Miriam has a very high lacrosse IQ ...," Wolves coach Doug Troutner said. "Although she is a natural lefty, she is equally proficient with both hands. Her goal-scoring abilities are well-documented, but her biggest asset to our team has been gaining control of the draw and playing defense against the other team's clears."

Mikayla Cooper

SOFTBALL

The senior shortstop led Delaware to a 23-2 record and the OCC-Capital championship.

Cooper had a .571 batting average with five home runs, 32 runs and 30 RBI and made first-team all-state for the second year in a row. She also was named OCC-Capital Player of the Year for the third consecutive season and district Player of the Year.

During her four seasons as a starter, Delaware compiled an 85-18 record, won three league titles and was a district runner-up three times, including this year. The Pacers lost to Olentangy Liberty 2-1 in a district final May 23, with their run coming on a home run by Cooper.

Cooper has signed to play for Ohio University after mulling offers from Ohio State, Arkansas, Middle Tennessee State and Miami University, among others.

"She has meant so much to this program, and she was part of a great senior class for us," Pacers coach Mark Thomas said. "She is the hardest-working player I've ever coached, and I know she'll be successful at OU because she can play any position."

Evan Feltz

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

The 6-foot-3 junior outside hitter for DeSales racked up 304 kills, 52 service aces and 172 digs and was named Division II state Player of the Year.

Feltz also was named East Region Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, as the Stallions finished 18-5 overall and went 3-1 in the CCL to share the league championship with Watterson.

DeSales lost to Watterson 25-14, 20-25, 15-25, 25-22, 15-12 in the first round of the East Region tournament May 9.

"Evan trained extremely hard in the fall and winter. It showed throughout the season," said Stallions coach Andy Feltz, who is Evan's father. "Evan never seemed to lose explosiveness at the end of matches when the game was on the line.

"Coming into the season, Evan knew he had to improve his defense, both blocking and (in the) back row. He worked very hard in practice to improve these skills. ... He knows that going into his senior season he will be looked at to set the example for work ethic and commitment for the rest of the squad."

Nick Gray

BOYS TRACK & FIELD

The junior for Pickerington North competed and scored in four events in the Division I state meet held June 6 and 7 at Ohio State, leading the Panthers to their third consecutive state runner-up finish.

Gray won the state title in the 400 meters in 47.69 seconds. In addition, he placed fourth in the 200 (21.49) and fifth in the 100 (10.69) and ran the anchor leg on the second-place 1,600 relay (3:15.65).

North scored 34 points at state to finish behind champion Cleveland Glenville (40).

"Nick Gray is a special athlete," Panthers coach Dave Spring said. "I can't say enough about him. He's a hard worker. He's staying modest. He is workmanlike, certainly no prima-donna sprinter."

According to Spring, Gray went unbeaten in the 400 this season, winning OCC-Ohio, district and regional championships in the event. He also won OCC-Ohio titles in the 100 and 200 and as a member of the 800 relay and won district and regional titles in the 100 and 200 and on the 1,600 relay.

Brandon Jones

BOYS LACROSSE

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior defender led Upper Arlington to its third consecutive Division I state title.

Jones, a three-year starter who has accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy, was named state Player of the Year, state Defender of the Year, Central Region Player of the Year, OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year and first-team all-Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association.

He also was the only area player to earn All-American honors.

Led by Jones, UA allowed 140 goals in 23 games, an average of 6.1 per contest, while going 21-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Golden Bears defeated Dublin Jerome 11-5 in the state final June 7.

"It's a tremendous compliment that other coaches in central Ohio, the OCC and the entire region all recognize Brandon's body of work, the way he plays and how important he is to us as a team," Bears coach Ted Wolford said. "He's not a kid who's going to beat his chest after he takes a ball away or makes a big play. He directs the defense well."

Jacob Niggemeyer

BASEBALL

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior pitcher and outfielder led Olentangy Liberty to a 26-6 record, the OCC-Central title, a Division I district championship and a berth in the regional final, where the Patriots lost to Gahanna 8-4 on May 30.

A right-hander, Niggemeyer went 9-2 on the mound with a 0.53 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings while surrendering 40 hits and 16 walks. At the plate, he had a .350 batting average with one home run, 10 doubles and 30 RBI.

The Ohio State signee, who was named first-team all-state, district co-Player of the Year and OCC-Central Player of the Year, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 28th round of the Major League Baseball draft June 7.

"Jake has both a dominant fastball and a dominant off-speed pitch," Patriots coach Ty Brenning said. "He has made a lot of good high school hitters look bad. He has the speed, he can locate the ball and he keeps the ball low in the strike zone. He is so repeatable in his mechanics that it's at a professional level."

Sade Olatoye

GIRLS TRACK & FIELD

The junior for Dublin Coffman won titles in both the discus and shot put in the Division I state meet held June 6 and 7 at Ohio State, throwing a personal-best 154 feet, 5 inches in the discus and 43-9 1/4 in the shot put.

It was the third appearance at state for Olatoye, who was runner-up in the shot put (44-10) and finished eighth in the discus (133-9) as a sophomore and placed third in the shot put (43-5) as a freshman.

"I think Sade got much more consistent this year and she will work to get stronger in the offseason to get even better," Shamrocks coach Greg King said. "Last year, she would pop good throws, but she also would have some throws that were more ordinary. This year, she was putting a lot of throws out there that were really good."

According to King, Olatoye went undefeated in both events this season.

"Sade stays calm and never gets flustered," King said. "She doesn't like to lose. She smiles so much people don't realize how fiercely competitive she is."

Chuck Shewalter

BOYS TENNIS

The Upper Arlington junior went 23-4 and won Division I sectional and district titles in singles in his first season with the Golden Bears.

Shewalter, who has committed to Ohio State, moved to Upper Arlington from Boston last winter and quickly established himself as the Bears' first-singles player. He went a combined 9-0 at the sectional and district levels, defeating New Albany's Stephen Miller 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the district final May 24.

Shewalter, who according to TennisRecruiting.net is a five-star recruit, beat Willoughby South's Vince Anzalone 6-2, 6-1 in the first round at state before losing to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit's Aaron Sandberg 6-3, 6-2 in the second round May 30.

"(Shewalter is) extremely hard working," UA coach Amos Allison said. "He wants to hit; he wants to practice things and grind it out there. He does his conditioning on his own. He is really focused on being successful. He is self-motivated, self-driven, and that's what it takes to be a championship-caliber tennis player."

—From staff reports

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