VINE GROVE, KY- In the midst of a global pandemic and unprecedented measures being taken for our societal safety, a few weeks ago a committee of teachers still met, albeit remotely, to select the second-ever class of JTA Student-Athlete of the Year Awards. Co-Chaired by Athletic Director Richard Rowland, and Assistant AD Lawson Barger, the department felt it necessary to continue with this award to provide some sense of normal to these students, and Trojan Nation as a whole.
“In a world of chaos, we (teachers) are in a great sense, the last semblance of normalcy. That is the larger goal here, yes we need to recognize the achievements of these six Trojans, but that is the overall goal here,” said Barger.
The process for this award is a lengthy one. An athlete must first be nominated by one of their J. T. Alton Coaches or Administrators. The nominees are then vetted to ensure they meet the criteria for the award by the AD, and then the final candidates are presented to a seven-person committee consisting of a member of the Administration, a 6th, 7th, 8th Grade, and Related Arts teacher, and the AD’s who then vote on each award recipient for each grade level.
To be considered for the award an athlete must maintain their status on the school’s All-A/B Honor Roll, must have received no behavior referrals, must have no more than six unexcused absences, and of course must have played sports for either JTA or North Hardin High School.
“When me and Mark (Roberts) laid out the foundation for this award two years ago, we didn’t want it to be easy to get,” said Rowland, “we wanted it to reflect both the athletic arena in the nominations from their coaches and the classroom in the award winners being selected by classroom teachers.”
With a record thirty-five qualifying nominations, the award committee’s task was in no way an easy one, but in the end, they had to narrow down a pool of over thirty to one boy and one girl from each grade level.
8th GRADE AWARD RECIPIENTS
MASON HOWARD, 2nd Award with Honors*
This is Howard’s second year receiving this award, and according to Rowland, had he been a 6th Grader when it was created, he would have been a shoo-in for getting it all three years, saying that “Mason is one of those kids that’s just an all-around student-athlete, he has straight A’s consistently, he plays three sports, and is a consistent starter for all three, yes he had to beat out a lot of good candidates to get it this year and last, but in the end, what the committee determined was that he was the best well-rounded candidate.”
His football and 7th Grade Basketball Coach Quanterrial Parmes said that “Mason goes above and beyond off the field making the students in our low incidence class feel welcomed and apart of his gym class. He cheers them on, motivates them, and helps them with any problems that they may have.”
Alton Assistant Principal, Allison Scherer, says that Mason is the epitome of a Student-Athlete, “Mason has all-around great character, he is a positive role model for his peers, and even being involved in sports year-round, he maintains straight A’s.”
JERICA JOHNSON, 2nd Award with Honors*
A name that Trojan Nation has and will become even more familiar with over the next four years, Jerica Johnson was nominated for this award a record three times, by two administrators and her Basketball Coach, Darryl Murray. Johnson played Basketball for JTA and has played for North Hardin for the last two years on all three levels of competition. In addition to basketball, Johnson plays soccer for North Hardin.
Murray says that Jerica is a force on the basketball court, “She was our leading scorer this year, she started every game for us, she starts JV for North, and some Varsity games, she really grew up in their postseason. I’m going to miss her.”
Rowland, who coached Johnson on the basketball bench for three years, one at NHHS said that “I am proud of her, getting this award for both of the years that she can, that’s impressive given the qualifications” Rowland went on to say, “all that she’s done to better herself, it’s overwhelming how much she’s grown up in just three years, she might be a handful at times, but her heart is always in the right place.”
7th GRADE AWARD RECIPIENTS
THOMAS LIROT, 2nd Award
Lirot, a JTA Archer, and North Hardin Baseball player, is truly the definition of overcoming adversity this year. While battling through the loss of his mother, a community fixture in Trojan Nation, Lirot was still able to maintain his status on the All-A Honor Roll, and participate completely with two different programs.
His Archery Coach, Ryan Neuman, says that “Thomas is a great kid, he excels at everything he does both in the classroom and in sports.” Neuman also pointed out that this is Lirot’s second year being honored as a NASP Academic Archer on the State level.
Scherer echoed Neuman is saying that “Thomas has had to battle through some very tragic family matters throughout the year, and he still maintains good grades and plays two sports. He’s another positive role model and a leader.”
KARLEE ADKISSON, 2nd Award
This is Adkisson’s second year receiving this award, and the first year she has received it when also being a Student-Athlete of the Month. In addition to basketball Adkisson plays Softball for both North Hardin, and a local travel-ball team, Impact. According to Darryl Murray, her JTA Basketball Coach, she could not be more deserving.
Murray says “Karlee is a leader on and off the court. Karlee has played through injury and you can see the passion and dedication she has for the game. She is always inspiring and teaching her younger teammates.” Murray went on to say that, “Even while sitting out with an injury, Karlee was on the sidelines helping her teammates. Karlee is like a coach on the floor.”
6th GRADE AWARD RECIPIENTS
With only two qualifying candidates, this category came down to the wire in committee according to Barger. “We had a long talk about this one, and when the vote came in it still wasn’t even clear, but in the end, we went with what the majority said. Not taking away from either candidate, they’re both just that good.”
Parmes said that “D.J. has such a big heart, for his teammates, for the game, and he is such a hard worker. He always has a positive attitude and is a leader on the team, I’m looking forward to the next two years with him.”
Rowland was also complementary of Loggins saying that “D.J. is an excellent teammate and a talented athlete. He’s a leader amongst his peers, his teachers all like him as a student, he’s an all-around good kid. I am looking forward to seeing what this young man is able to accomplish over the next two years and definitely beyond.”
Johnson, a starter on the 7th Grade Girls Basketball team, received two nominations to secure this award, one from her coach, and another from an administrator. “There were a lot of great nominees on this list, it was a tough decision for the committee because you could throw a dart at this list and come up with a deserving candidate, but ultimately it was a majority decision,” said Rowland.
Murray said that “As a first-year basketball player, Ella was very impressive, she started on our 7th Grade team, and filled in on our 8th Grade line-up quite a bit.”
Rowland said that “Ella has a bright future on the basketball court, but what truly impressive, and what set her apart was that she worked to get better on the court, and that improvement was night and day, but she did that with a full load of GT (higher level) classes on the All-A Honor Roll.”
For the first time in this award’s history, the department has also released the qualifying nominees. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the department felt it necessary to recognize as many student-athletes as possible.
“These nominees are all worthy of recognition, they are all great athletes, and great people. Just because they didn’t get a plaque doesn’t negate that,” said Rowland, “The committee’s job this year definitely was not an easy one for any category.”
8th Grade Boys- Luke Lynch, Lance Powell, Johnathan Stewart, Alex Evans, Hayden Scott
8th Grade Girls- Kayla Harper, Elsie Rector (2), Maddison Musson, Ashley Hart, Lillie Smiley, Madyson Hunley
7th Grade Boys- Kaleb Eisenmann, T. J. Walters, Caleb Nolen, Aaron Whelan
7th Grade Girls- Emily Hoter, Merchedelle Rodriquez, Mallory Mathews, Tatiana Marchiony, Kirin McGee, AnnaMae Atcher
6th Grade Boys- Andrew Scott (2)
6th Grade Girls- Meridith Vessels, Madelyn Ennis, Sydney Shropshire, Makenna Brown, Landree Howard
*-With Honors indicates these two eighth-graders received the award for the only two years that they could. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, student-athletes will only receive the Award with Honors if they were to be awarded it all three of their years at Alton.