2015-16 AJC high school athletes of the year
Standout performances by these athletes led to individual and team success during the 2015-2016 school year:
Josh Lowe, Pope: The senior pitcher and third baseman hit .383 with 11 home runs and 24 extra-base hits for the Class AAAAAA runner-up. Lowe walked 50 times and had an on-base percentage of .601. As a pitcher, he had a 1.91 ERA with six saves and 33 strikeouts in 22 innings. Lowe, who has signed to play baseball at Florida State, was selected No. 13 overall by Tampa Bay in the MLB Draft on Thursday.
Kobi Simmons, St. Francis: A 6-foot-5 senior point guard and four-year starter, Simmons averaged 26.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists for a 23-8 team that made its fourth consecutive Class A private-school championship game. Simmons is the consensus No. 1 senior recruit in Georgia and No. 28 prospect in the nation. He has signed to play basketball at Arizona.
Jenna Staiti, West Forsyth: The 6-foot-5 senior averaged 26.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.2 blocks in leading her team to the school’s first semifinal appearance in any sport. She scored 51 points in her final game, an 81-70 loss to champion McEachern. Staiti’s career totals of 2,623 points, 1,598 rebounds and 421 blocks are Forsyth County records. Staiti has signed to play basketball at Maryland.
Charlotte Dayton, Mount Paran Christian: The senior was a team captain for a squad that won its fourth consecutive Class A private-school championship. She was “instrumental in developing and leading our freshmen to success,” according to coach Tawanna Rusk. Dayton also played soccer and cheered for football and basketball. Dayton will attend Auburn and plans to try out for cheerleading.
Cross country (boys)
Carlos Torres, Marietta: The senior had the fastest time of the day at the state meet, running the course in 16:06.61 to win the Class AAAAAA individual championship. Torres was one of four Marietta runners to place in the top six as the Blue Devils easily captured the team title for the second consecutive season. Torres will run cross country next season for West Georgia.
Cross country (girls)
Lindsay Billings, Northview: The senior had the fastest time of the day (18:10.73) at the state meet to win her second consecutive Class AAAAAA individual championship and third straight title overall. She also set a AAAAAA record in the 3,200 meters and finished third in the 1,600 at the state track meet this spring. Billings has signed to run next season for Duke.
Derrick Brown, Lanier: The 6-foot-4, 320-pound defensive tackle had 106 tackles, 42 of those for losses, and 13 sacks for a team that finished 11-1. Brown also blocked a punt, returned an interception for a touchdown, cleared paths as a goal-line fullback and scored as a receiver and Wildcat quarterback. Brown is the consensus No. 1 senior recruit in Georgia. He signed to play football at Auburn.
Will Chandler, Marist: The senior finished his career at Marist as medalist for Class AAAA and helped the War Eagles win their fifth consecutive team title. He was also medalist at the state meet as a freshman and in 2014 was second in the Georgia Amateur. Chandler has signed to play golf at the University of Georgia.
Lauren Lightfritz, Lambert: The senior helped Lambert win four Class AAAAAA championships during her tenure. She shot a 66 to win the Region 6-AAAAAA championship. She also helped Georgia win the USGA Women’s State Championship and won the Georgia Junior Girls title. She has signed with Mercer University.
Sterlyn Austin, Thomas County Central: The sophomore became the first state gymnastics champion in school history when she won the all-around title at the all-classification state meet with a score of 37.625. She also won the title in the floor exercises with a 9.825, placed fifth on the vault (9.5), and had scores of 9.2 on the balance beam and 9.1 on the uneven bars.
Danny Tesler, Allatoona: The senior was the leader on a Buccaneers team that won its first title in program history (AAAAA-A). He won 76 percent of his face-offs taken and had 29 goals, 13 assists and 205 ground balls. Though Tesler senior stands at just 5 feet, 5 inches, his exceptional quickness allows him to play at a high level. He will play for Cleveland State next season.
Erin McBride, Walton: The senior scored 61 goals this season and had 20 assists, 55 ground balls and 50 draw controls in leading the Raiders to their first state title, snapping Milton’s streak of six consecutive championships and 10 in 11 years. McBride used her speed, agility, finesse and scoring abilities to land a scholarship to Notre Dame, where she’ll continue her lacrosse career.
Tanner Whitehead, East Coweta: The sophomore won the individual all-classification championship at the state meet with an overall score of 395.4, which was 0.7 points ahead of teammate John Satterfield. They helped lead East Coweta to the team title with a championship-record score of 1,168. The team title was East Coweta’s second overall and first since 2000.
Josh Bronstorph, Dunwoody: The senior scored in every game, finishing with a school-record 45 goals and leading Dunwoody to its first region championship in 19 years. He had 18 more goals than any other player in DeKalb County. Bronstorph, a stocky, 5-foot-9 midfielder, spent the past two seasons with the U.S. Developmental Academy. He has accepted a scholarship to Georgia Southern.
ESPN analyst and former MLS MVP Taylor Twellman presents Grayson’s Ella Stevens with her trophy. (Gatorade)
Ella Stevens, Grayson: The senior midfielder scored 25 goals and had 11 assists for a Rams team (13-4) that reached the second round of the AAAAAA playoffs. She was a member of the U.S. Soccer Under-20 Women’s National Team during its World Cup qualifying campaign in December and was named Gatorade’s national player of the year this spring. Stevens has signed to play soccer at Duke.
Amanda Ablan, Brookwood: Ablan was 23-9 with two saves and a 0.65 ERA in leading the Broncos to the Class AAAAAA finals. She had 365 strikeouts in 216 innings on the season and 1,088 strikeouts in her career. She batted .389 as a senior. Rated the No. 44 senior prospect nationally by FloSoftball, Ablan has signed to play softball at Georgia.
Dean Farris, Paideia: The senior won the 200-yard freestyle (1:37.06) and the 100-yard butterfly (47.90) at the Class AAAAA-A meet. Farris is a U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. He is rated the No. 1 swimming recruit in Georgia by CollegeSwimming.com. Farris will swim next season at Harvard.
Lauren Case, Woodstock: The senior won the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.85) and the 100-yard butterfly (52.78) at the Class AAAAAA meet. Those were the fourth and fifth individual state titles in her career. Case is qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in four events. She is rated the No. 1 swimming recruit in Georgia by CollegeSwimming.com. She will swim next season at Texas.
Jeremy Yuan, Northview: The junior played No. 1 singles and helped the Titans win the Class AAAAAA championship. Yuan, a competitor known for his determination, was 15-1 this season. He is ranked No. 3 in Georgia and No. 76 in the country by TennisRecruiting.net. He is also a scholar-athlete and a member of the school’s concert band.
Elizabeth Norman, Walton: The junior helped the Raiders win their fourth consecutive championship and continue their streak of dominance (14 state titles in 16 years). Playing No. 1 singles, Norman was 15-1 and prevailed in the state championship match. She is ranked as the No. 2 player in Georgia and the No. 67 player in the country by TennisRecruiting.net.
Track and field (boys)
Jake Shewbert, Flowery Branch: The senior won Class AAAAA titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, with times of 4:11.64 and 9:04.94, and earned the Bryan Morris award, given to the most valuable performer at the state meet. One week later, Shewbert posted the state’s top overall time in the 3,200 (8:58.78) while competing in the Georgia Meet of Champions. Shewbert will run cross country and track at the United States Naval Academy.
Track and field (girls)
Cassondra Hall, Northside-Warner Robins: The senior swept the short sprints in Class AAAAA at the state meet, winning the 100 and 200 meters in times of 11.49 and 23.88. Hall also owns the fastest times this season in both events – 11.37 and 23.40, run at the sectional meet. Hall finished her career as a four-time state champ in the 100 and a three-time winner in the 200. She will run at LSU.
Celeste Fitzgerald, Walton: Fitzgerald, a 5-foot-7 senior setter and libero, led Walton to an undefeated season and its third state championship in her four seasons. Fitzgerald had career totals of 2,372 assists, 1,861 digs and 409 aces. She is a MaxPreps second-team All-American. Fitzgerald has signed to play volleyball at Georgia State.
Thomas Bullard and Daniel Bullard, Archer: The senior twins each won a fourth consecutive individual state championship in leading Archer to its fourth team state title. Thomas Bullard won the Class AAAAAA title at 170 pounds and was 51-0 this season. His career mark is 161-8. Daniel Bullard won the title at 182 pounds and was 50-0. His career record is 164-9. Both have signed to wrestle at N.C. State.