Ralph Young Award: Big Walnut captures first All-Sports trophy
Even as his school won its first Ralph Young All-Sports Award, Big Walnut athletics director Brian Shelton admitted he'd rather have waited to find out until this month than in mid-May.
That way, spring teams would have been able to compete rather than have their seasons canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Still, the Golden Eagles used strong fall and winter performances to emerge atop a tight pack and win the All-Sports Award for the OCC-Capital Division.
"We're always near the top (of the standings), but we've never finished in first before now," Shelton said. "Obviously, there's going to be an asterisk there this year and everybody here rather would have gone all three seasons. But that doesn't change the fact that this doesn't happen without great coaches, an incredible community and kids who work so hard to compete and win."
First-place finishes in girls volleyball and wrestling, a tie for first in girls soccer with Canal Winchester and second-place efforts in girls basketball and girls tennis led Big Walnut to 37 points and first place, ahead of Canal Winchester and New Albany (both 34), Newark (29), Groveport (26) and Franklin Heights (8).
The All-Sports Award, in its 11th year, goes to the school in each of the OCC's five divisions that performs the best in the conference's common sports over the course of the school year.
Six points were awarded for finishing first outright, five for tying for first or placing second, four for finishing third and so on.
There were eight common sports in the OCC-Capital.
For the first time, only fall and winter sports point totals were tabulated for the award.
Big Walnut had finished second to New Albany each of the past three years by a combined 11.5 points, including by .5 of a point in 2018. New Albany had won the All-Sports Award for the OCC-Capital nine of the past 10 years, with the only exception being in 2016 when Olentangy earned the trophy.
"This shows we're moving in the right direction," said wrestling coach Aaron Renner, whose team ended Groveport's three-year streak of league titles this past winter. "There's never any pressure but (Shelton) mentioned this award to me after the season last year, talking about where we stood. He puts the faith in us coaches and lets us run our programs. For us, this is an added bonus to win an award like this."
The award is named in honor of Young, a longtime OCC secretary and track official who also managed basketball tournaments at the sectional, district and regional levels for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Young, who died in 2019, also served as athletics director at Delaware Hayes and treasurer of the OHSAA's Central District.
The other All-Sports Award winners were Dublin Jerome in the OCC-Cardinal, Gahanna in the OCC-Ohio, Olentangy Liberty in the OCC-Buckeye and Upper Arlington in the OCC-Central.
While Big Walnut, Canal Winchester and Franklin Heights will remain in the OCC-Capital this coming fall as part of conference realignment, the league will lose Groveport, New Albany and Newark and gain Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.
"I'm a competitor and I think anyone who has a chance to win this award is paying close attention to the standings," Shelton said. "This is a pretty tough league and it will stay that way."