No clear-cut choices for STAR awards

from staff reports


   The people have spoken. Well, the Elizabethton STAR sportswriters at least.
   This past week, the STAR sports staff has been voting on four postseason high school sports awards. We have selected the male athlete of the year, female athlete of the year, team of the year and coach of the year for all sports from our coverage area.
   Not every writer agreed on each category. For example, all four of our male athlete-of-the-year candidates received at least one vote.
   The votes were tallied up, and the ones who received the most votes were declared the winner. So without further ado, let us announce the winners.
   MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Aaron Dugger, Unaka
   Dugger stood out on the basketball court, and on the baseball diamond to earn the award.
   Dugger became a household name among Upper East Tennessee sports fans this year. Dugger averaged 27 points-per-game on the basketball court, and hit over .400 in baseball.
   Dugger led Unaka to the state basketball tournament, and earned Northeast Tennessee Player-of-the-Year honors in the process.
   Dugger caught the eye of college scouts, and eventually signed with Lees-McRae College.
   In baseball, Dugger was a star outfielder. Dugger had only one error in four years at Unaka.
   HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Cornett, Johnson County; Vince Redd, Elizabethton; Mark Byrd, Cloudland.
   FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Valnessha Redd, Elizabethton.
   In four years, they may have to name this award after her. Redd's only a freshman, and she's only just beginning.
   Redd earned this award for track and field. After dominating field events and setting Watauga Conference records, Redd qualified for the state meet in three events.
   She made the most of it.
   Redd won the long jump, and finished fourth in the high jump and triple jump in Chattanooga. Keep in mind she's only 14, so what she accomplished is simply incredible.
   Redd also showed promise on the basketball court this season, and will only get better. The sky seems to be the limit for Redd.
   HONORABLE MENTION: Beth Holtsclaw, Elizabethton; Kari Stout, Hampton; Taukia Hughes, Cloudland.
   TEAM OF THE YEAR: Cloudland football
   The 'Landers went where nobody in Upper East Tennessee had gone before. Cloudland made it to the state title game, the first time it had happened in the modern era.
   Cloudland rolled through the regular season, winning games by 50 and 60 points. The "Landers only loss came to Class 4-A powerhouse Cherokee.
   That continued through the playoffs, as the 'Landers defied all odds. They swept through Coalfield, Greenback, Midway and former state champion South Pittsburg.
   The team lost to Ezell-Harding in the state championship game, and primed itself for future seasons.
   The team reached new heights, placing four players on the All-State team. Mark Byrd, Dakota Benfield, Brandon Odom and Keith Buchanan all earned the honors.
   They united a community and a county, and will be remembered for years to come.
   Honorable mention: Cloudland girls basketball; Unaka Boys Basketball, Elizabethton girls tennis.
   COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Wilson, Elizabethton
   The Lady Cyclones went through a resurgence this season. Once a floundering program, Wilson led the Lady Cyclones out of the doldrums this year and into the District 1-AA championship game.
   The Lady Cyclones had won four games into two years heading into this season, but they went 19-10 during the 2001-2002 campaign.
   Elizabethton nearly made the sub-state, as it hung tough against South Greene before losing in the regional semifinals.
   It seemed like the Lady Cyclone program couldn't be resurrected, but Wilson managed to do it. Many coaches would have probably given up on this team, but Wilson stuck with it and he is now reaping the rewards.
   Wilson definitely deserves a hand for the job he has done.
   HONORABLE MENTION: Donald Ensor, Unaka boys basketball; Mike Lunsford, Cloudland football; Matt Birchfield, Cloudland girls basketball; Danny O'Quinn, Elizabethton girls tennis; Karri Killen, Happy Valley softball.