In my first season as the Daily News beat writer covering Delaware County high school athletics, I saw multiple athletes fight their way to help their school.
But when the 2022-2023 sports season officially ended, I thought to myself, which players stood out? With that in mind, here are my awards for the season.
The first two awards are a bit different than the rest as I sent an email to the area’s athletic directors asking for nominees. From there, I looked at the candidates and chose the winners.
Team Leader Award
- Winner - Senior Reese Baker - Wapahani High School: volleyball and girl’s basketball
- Honorable Mention - Senior Logan Walker - Cowan High School: cross country, basketball, track and field
- Honorable mention - Senior Gannon Crosser - Yorktown High School: cross country, swimming, track and field
Baker was a huge key to the Raiders 2A State Championship win. During the season she led the Raiders with 394 total digs and 69 total serving aces. On the basketball team, she was second in points per game with 14.4 and led the Raiders with a 79 percent free throw percentage.
According to Wapahani Athletic Director Matt Luce, she was more than just a star athlete.
“Miss Baker was a Leader in our School by her positive attitude, excellent attendance, and just by displaying her beautiful smile,” Luce said via email. “Reese was a vocal leader for our volleyball team, never let the ball drop on defense, and just a hard worker.”
Best Attitude Award
- Winner - Senior Palmer Samuels - Delta High School: football and boys basketball
- Honorable Mention - Senior Brynn Wright - Cowan High School: cross country, cheerleading, and track and field Senior
- Honorable Mention - Payton Baker - Wapahani High School: cross country and baseball
Samuels was one of the biggest factors on Delta’s football team this season. He led the team with 81.5 rushing yards per game and 11 total touchdowns.
But before his strong senior campaign, he dealt with multiple ACL injuries and had to battle his way back. Even with those experiences, Samuels’ attitude never changed.
“During his injuries, he was the ultimate teammate, always attended games and continued to root his teammates on,” Delta Athletic Director Tilmon Clark said via email.
The next two awards have nothing to do with the game itself, but what took place after. Throughout the season, I took notes on which players and coaches gave me the best interviews.
Best Athlete Interview
- Winner - Senior McKenna Minton - Cowan High School: softball
- Honorable Mention - Senior Blake Jones - Delta High School: boys basketball and football
- Honorable Mention - Senior Kolton Nanko - Yorktown High School: football and track and field
Throughout the regular season and their state tournament run, I enjoyed covering the Blackhawks softball team. Part of the reason was because of the postgame interviews.
Every player I talked to gave me something interesting and loved talking about their team.
One of those players was senior McKenna Minton. Every time I interviewed her, I would ask a question about her performance on the day, and almost every time, she would give me an aspect that I didn’t think about.
Best Coach Interview
- Winner - John McGlothin - Wes-Del High School: boys basketball head coach
- Honorable Mention - Mark Detweiler - Delta High School: boys basketball head coach
- Honorable Mention - Curtis Bynum - Cowan High School - softball head coach
The first time that I talked to coach McGlothin was after the Warriors defeated Eastbrook 52-46 on Feb. 10. What was even more special about the game was that his team and school honored him due to the fact that he was retiring at the end of the year.
That postgame interview led to one of the best interviews that I have had in my young journalism career and helped me write one of my favorite feature articles.
McGlothin was welcoming every time I contacted him and was one of the first coaches to let me crash one of their practices.
Now, it’s time for the big prizes.
Performance of the Year
- Winner - Senior Daniel Harris - Muncie Central High School: 25 points and game-winner against Yorktown basketball
- Honorable Mention - Junior D’Amare Hood - Delta High School: 39 points and nine three-pointers (tied Delta’s record for three-pointers in a game) in win over Rushville basketball
- Honorable Mention - Junior Jacob Bilby - Delta High School: shoots four under (68) at the Muncie Elks Golf Club to become medalist at Delaware County Tournament
When I walked into the Fieldhouse in downtown Muncie on Feb. 14, I didn’t know what to expect. The Tigers were on a roll at that point, but the Bearcats were one of the biggest surprises in the county.
And boy oh boy, what a game it was. In the entire 32 minutes, the crowd never left their feet as it was a back-and-forth contest.
With 1.2 seconds remaining in the game, the score was tied 38-38 and the Bearcats took a timeout. Coming out of the huddle, I figured that everyone in the arena knew where the ball was going. At that point, Harris had scored 22 of Muncie Centrals’ 38 points.
And right on queue, he took the inbound pass on the left wing and drained the buzzer-beating three-point shot, giving his team their 13th win of the season. A Sportscenter Top Ten-style moment? I think so.
For the next award, I had plenty to choose from. When it came to decision time, I decided to give this award a few more honorable mentions.
Moment of the Year
- Winner - Yorktown football stops Delta at the goalline for sectional victory
- Honorable Mention - Wapahani wins first boys basketball regional championship in program history
- Honorable Mention - Wes-Del baseball wins first regional championship since 1990
- Honorable Mention - Cowan softball’s walk-off win in the sectional championship
- Honorable Mention - Delta girl’s golf first state appearance in program history
- Honorable Mention - Yorktown football completes 21-point comeback against Norwell to win sectional championship
- Honorable Mention - Both Wapahani boys and girls basketball teams win Delaware County Tournament
- Honorable Mention - Delta’s 4x100 meter relay team placed eighth at state
The game had been a defensive battle at Delta High School. With time running out, the Eagles were marching down the field and needed a touchdown to win.
But the Tigers had other plans.
The Yorktown defense was able to get to Delta senior Palmer Samuels and make the hit. That tackle crushed the dreams of the Eagles and ended their season.
Team of the Year
- Winner - Wapahani volleyball
- Honorable Mention - Yorktown volleyball
- Honorable Mention - Delta wrestling
The Raiders were unstoppable this season as they hoisted a 32-5 record and ended the season with the 2A State Championship victory.
Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
- Winner - Sophomore Josiah Love - Wes-Del High School: boys basketball
- Honorable Mention - Sophomore Trishell Johnson - Daleville High School: volleyball and girls basketball
- Honorable Mention - Sophomore Zane Cline - Delta High School: baseball and football
There are two types of athletes in my opinion. Some when given the chance, like more playing time, gradually get better. But there are some that take that opportunity and run with it.
This season, Love was one of those athletes. Last year, he only appeared in nine games. But he got the opportunity to be one of the Warriors main pieces. And he did not disappoint.
This season, he appeared in all 22-games and led the team with 17.7 points per game.
Coach of the Year
- Winner - Justin Ullom - Muncie Central: boys basketball head coach
- Honorable Mention - Kati Weir - Wapahani High School: volleyball head coach
- Honorable Mention - Cody LeCount - Delta High School: wrestling head coach
After leading Monroe Central to a 25-1 record and a sectional championship, Ullom was hired to lead the Bearcats for the 2022-2023 season. And that success followed him from Randolph County.
One season after going 4-19 and 2-7 in the North Central Conference, Muncie Central cruised to 15-8 (5-3 North Central) and became one of the best turnaround stories in the county.
Girls Athlete of the Year
- Winner - Junior Nicki Southerland - Delta High School: cross country, swimming, track and field
- Honorable Mention - Senior Reese Baker - Wapahani High School: volleyball and girl’s basketball
- Honorable Mention - Senior McKenna Minton - Cowan High School: softball
Nicki Southerland had heads turned before coming into this season. Those same heads remained turned and probably had their mouths agape as she continued her dominance.
On Delta’s cross country team, she finished runner-up at the state championship meet, with her time (17:17.5) being the fourth fastest in Indiana history. In the pool, she helped the Eagles swimming/diving team win the sectional championship.
If being good at two sports wasn’t enough, she continued her successful junior year on the track and field team. She won the state championship in the 1600-meter dash with a time of 4:43.73. Southerland also placed runner-up in the 800-meter dash with a time of 2:05.06.
Boys Athlete of the Year
- Winner - Senior Kolton Nanko - Yorktown High School: football and track and field
- Honorable Mention - Senior Josiah Ullom - Muncie Central High School: football and boys basketball
- Honorable Mention - Junior Isaac Andrews, Wapahani High School: boys basketball and baseball
High school football was the first sport that I covered for the Daily News. The Tigers were one of the first games that I went to and one name stuck out. That was Nanko.
On offense, he could not be stopped. He ended the season leading Yorktown with 1,052 total receiving yards and was second with 16 total touchdowns. On defense, he led the Tigers with four interceptions. He was also the kicker for Yorktown and went 40-for-45 on extra points.
He was selected for the Indiana Football Coaches Association All-Star Game and will play wide receiver for the North team.
When the track and field season came along, Nanko carried that success onto the blacktop. He ended his senior season with a fifth-place finish at the state championship for pole vaulting. His final jump was a new school record as he cleared 15 feet.