Lady 'Horns trio showing academic, athletic prowess

By Matt Hill

   MOUNTAIN CITY- In a time where it seems that the term "student-athlete" has lost its meaning, several Johnson County volleyball seniors are bringing the term back to life by succeeding on the court and in the classroom.
   Ashlee Billings, Nikki Davidson and Rebecca Boney are among the Longhorn seniors who are doing well in both academics and athletics.
   The JCHS volleyball team just finished one of the most successful seasons in school history, but head coach Michele Cooke says this group has been top-notch in the classroom as well.
   "My whole team has a pretty decent G.P.A.," Cooke said. "They all work hard, in school and out."
   These three athletes are among the cream of the crop at Johnson County High School. Billings and Davidson have 4.0 G.P.A's, while Boney comes in with a 3.965.
   Boney says that schoolwork comes first for the squad.
   "I think our team average is a 3.85," Boney said.
   With Johnson County being a long ways off from many of the schools in the Watauga Conference, road trips include a large dose of homework while waiting for the freshman and JV games to get finished.
   Boney says the extra effort has to be made.
   "It's an important thing to all of us," Boney said. "A lot of the times when we're not playing, we're up in the stands doing our homework. We try to watch the JV play, but we do a lot of hard work."
   Everything for the Longhorn netters happens to be team oriented. They take pride in their work both in the classroom and on the court.
   That's why when Boney was recently named Defensive Player-of-the-Year in the Watauga Conference, she gave all the credit to the team.
   "I think behind every great player there is a great team," Boney said. "I would not be where I am now without the support of my teammates. They push me a lot to get better."
   Billings, who made the All-Watauga team, is also proud of the academic standing the Lady Longhorns happen to be in.
   "We have seven valedictorians this year," Billings said. "I'm one of them and Nikki is one of them. We're all really concerned with our academics. It's hard to work on your classwork and your sports at the same time, and that's what makes it such a great thing."
   Like Boney, Billings also spent her time on the road doing homework.
   "We planned to get there early so we could sit down and do our homework," Billings said. "We were really involved in our homework."
   The success in the classroom trickled down on to the playing court.
   Johnson County nearly made the regionals, so Billings thought the Longhorns were just as successful in volleyball as they were in the classroom.
   "We knew we were coming up here, and we hadn't won a lot of conference games in the years before," Billings said. "This was our last year, and we had six seniors. We wanted win, and we were ready to go."
   Davidson also made the all-conference team, and was one of the leaders on this Johnson County squad.
   And like all the others, schoolwork came first for Davidson.
   "I feel that academics are extremely important," Davidson said. "I've worked hard for four years to maintain a 4.0. I'm really proud of our team for being as well-rounded as they are."
   Davidson had to work for that perfect G.P.A., but she thought things came pretty easily for her.
   "For me, academics pretty much comes easily," Davidson said. "The long bus rides kind of hindered us some, but we always got our work turned in and made the grade."
   Davidson feels like that no matter what the task, the team is going to try hard in everything.
   "I think the girls work hard in everything they do," Davidson said. "We all work hard on the court, and we work just as hard off."
   Pretty soon these three young ladies will move on into the real world.
   But as they enter adulthood, they are bound to accomplish a lot in life.
   "I'm so proud of my team," Billings said. "I know they're going to accomplish so much in their lives, especially the seniors. They're so great."
   * Cooke was recently named the Watauga Conference Coach-of-the-Year.
   Cooke led her team to a third place finish in the conference and district just one year after Johnson County failed to win a league game.
   "The kids have worked real hard, and I've worked real hard," Cooke said. "It was a big honor for me to get that considering that I work with some of the best coaches around. I have a tremendous respect for all of those ladies."