Elk Valley Times publisher, Jamie Bone has announced the recipients of the 2021 Elk Valley Times High School Athletes of the year. In making the announcement, Bone said, “These student athletes have not only excelled on the field and on the court but have shown character and leadership in their respective schools. Whether a Tiger, a Falcon, or a Knight, they are certain to make their community proud, wherever life takes them.”

Fayetteville High School

Za’naria Robinson, a record-setting player for the Lady Tigers’ basketball team, is this year’s Elk Valley Times Female Athlete of the Year for Fayetteville High School.

A 2021 graduate, she is the first female basketball player at FHS to sign a scholarship with an NCAA Division 1 program, signing with the University of Arkansas Little Rock.

“She is a special kind of athlete with size, athleticism and ability to run the floor and block shots,” said FHS Coach Holly Hoagland.

Robinson is in the TSSAA record books as #9 all-time in single season blocks with 133 and #3 all-time in blocks in a single game with 12. She is 1st all time (boys and girls) at FHS in rebounds and blocked shots

“She was a huge contributor on the 2020-2021 FHS girls’ basketball team that broke numerous school records, including going to the Region 4A championship and substate game for the first time in FHS girls’ basketball school history,” Hoagland noted.

Robinson was named all-district and all-region her junior season and all-region her senior season. She led the Lady Tigers in points, rebounds and blocks in her junior and senior years and was a large contributor on the 2019-2020 team that holds the TSSAA #1 all-time girls records for most blocks by a team in a single game and most rebounds by a team in a single season.

Robinson played in the BCAT Senior All-Star game.

“There are really a lot of memorable things that happened while I was on the team,” Robinson said, reflecting on her career as a Lady Tiger, “but I guess the biggest one was when we beat Eagleville.”

Being a part of a team that made history this past season with wins and tournament appearances has been special, she said.

“It was really amazing, and just to do it with my team was even better because we’ve really worked so hard,” she said.

Robinson said she is blessed to have had support from her Tiger family throughout her high school career – “My biggest supporters have been my family, friends and my teachers and the front office – they are all family to me.”

Za’naria plans to major in psychology and to pursue a career as a counselor.

Gerry Wayne Davis, a 2021 graduate of Fayetteville High School, is this year’s Elk Valley Times’ Male Athlete of the Year from FHS.

The student-athlete was a 4-year starter on the Tiger golf team and was a member of the teams that won the district his freshman year and were runners-up the following year. During this senior year, he made it to region play as an individual golfer.

Davis was a starter at shortstop his freshman year on the Tiger baseball team and was a pitcher, as well. During his sophomore year, he hit .305 with 5 doubles, 1 triple and a homerun. The Tigers did not play during his junior year due to COVID-19; however, Davis came back strong for his final year at FHS, hitting .329 with 9 doubles, a triple and 1 homerun.

“He’s a real hard worker,” said Coach Jay McElyea. “He’s one of those kids who played a lot of ball growing up so he was a coach’s dream – he was an extension of me on the field; he just had that much knowledge of the game.

“He’s also a good student, a good kid who works hard,” he added. “I’m going to miss him. There will be a definite void.”

 “I can say with confidence moving to Fayetteville City Schools in eighth grade was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Davis said. “Coaches Jay McElyea and Billy Jack Netherland were the two coaches throughout my time as a City tiger, and both played a pivotal role in my development as a baseball player and a man.

“As for the people that influenced me the most, Jay McElyea went above and beyond to make my experience in golf and baseball feel like home and like I had always been a part of the Tiger family,” he added. “My teammates on every team were outstanding. One of my favorite parts of high school was getting to spend time with some of my closest friends doing what I love. I was fortunate enough to have great teammates every year, but my senior class stands out.”

Davis said he has many fond memories of his career as a City Tiger.

“I have too many memories to share in this story, and my fondest one is not exactly one in particular,” he said. “After COVID-19 took away my junior season, I looked forward all year to playing my senior year with some of my best friends, and I am so thankful I was able to play my final year at FHS and have a great season.”

Davis will attend Columbia State Community College on a baseball scholarship where he will major in business management.

“My hope and dream are to grow as a student and a player and finish my baseball career at a 4-year university,” Davis said. “Ultimately, I would like to secure a position in business operations, preferably healthcare.”

Lincoln County High School

Lucy Higgins has been selected as the Elk Valley Times Female Athlete of the Year at Lincoln County High School. In her senior year on the tennis courts, she finished with a 24-1 record. Her only loss coming in the Singles TSSAA State Championship match at this year’s Spring Fling.

She is the daughter of Clay and Amy Higgins of Fayetteville and plans to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville this fall.

Lucy started playing the game at an early age with the help of her grandmother, Judy Bowman who gave her a foundation and love for the sport. Judy spent many hours teaching a group of interested young players the basics of tennis and the etiquette that goes along with the game. In 2013 Lucy joined the middle school tennis team at Highland Rim coached by Jonathan Brown, Jon Mills, and Dietmar Berngruber. All three coaches have supported her throughout her career.

In her early years, she was a multi-sport athlete excelling in volleyball and basketball along with tennis. In 2018 she chose to focus more time on the asphalt court.

She received District 8-AAA MVP honors her freshman and sophomore years. Her junior season was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions. In her senior season, she again earned District MVP honors while advancing further than anyone has in the history of the game at LCHS. She’s the first to win a match at the state level working her way to the championship.

But this year was not her first Spring Fling appearance. As a sophomore she and doubles partner Julia Marsh won the District title and advanced to the state tournament. This year Lucy and doubles partner Emma Fraley won the District 8-AAA championship finishing 13-0 in district play.

“I’m beyond grateful to Coach Jonathan Brown,” Lucy said. “He taught me many valuable lessons. Not only was he my coach focusing on winning matches, but he always kept me laughing, even in the tough times.”

“I’m grateful for my family,” Lucy added. My parents and grandparents (Charles and Suzanne Higgins) have always been there for me never missing a match. Teammates, Carlie, and Claire Mullins have been there every step of the way since the fifth grade winning the District Team Title our senior year. I’m blessed to have the opportunities I’ve been giving here at LCHS and cherish the memories I’ve made.”

“I first met Lucy over 10 years ago when her mother contacted me about doing a summer tennis clinic at the old country club courts,” Coach Jonathan Brown said. “ I was coaching Skylar McDonald at the time and I told them there is a girl that could be great. Lucy decided she wanted to put in the work to get the most out of her talent. The first time you see Lucy you know she is super athletic and could have excelled at any sport she picked as was obvious from her playing three different sports at different times in high school.”

“Her being named athlete of the year is another first for tennis,” Coach Brown continued. “I and my assistant coaches are super proud of all her achievements this season. Not only is she an excellent tennis player but she is a great person and is great with my children who both adore her. Just finishing the greatest season in Lincoln Co tennis history, I am sure she will do great things in the future no matter what she decides to do in college.”

Nate McAdams was selected as the Male Athlete of the Year at Lincoln County High School.

He is the son of Todd and Penney McAdams and plans to attend the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga this fall.

Nate was instrumental in leading the Falcons Baseball program to a District 8-AAA Tournament Championship and a 22 win season. For his efforts, he was also named the District MVP.

He brought a healthy mix of passion and composure into the dugout always leading by example.

At the plate hitting in the five-hole Nate finished with a .337 average, an on-base percentage of .533 and a slugging percentage of .639. He accounted for 28 hits with 13 singles, 9 doubles, 2 triples and led the team with 4 home runs and 29 RBI’s.

Defensively he was solid at first base with a fielding percentage of .980 with just 4 errors in 34 games played.

“I’ve been playing with the group of seniors since we were old enough to tie our cleats and hold a bat,” Nate said. “There’s a bond between us that will last forever.”

“Losing the 2020 season due to COVID-19 restrictions was devastating for us because we had worked extremely hard in the off-season,” Nate added. “We felt like and felt we had the district title in our hands. However, losing my junior year helped me appreciate every second I got on the field my senior year after seeing the 2020 seniors not have that opportunity.”

“I would like to thank the coaching staff and especially coach Tate for pushing me,” he continued. “We wanted me to become the best player and person I could be on and off the field.”

“Nate has been one the hardest working kids I have coached,” Coach Travis Tate said. “What made him special on the field was his ability to keep himself in a state of mind that displayed his passion but never allowed himself to get too low mentally during rough spells. His perspective for the game is something I wish I could bottle and give to them all! He will be greatly missed and is well-deserving of this honor.

Riverside Christian Academy

Katie Hammell has been chosen as the Elk Valley Times Female Athlete of the Year for Riverside Christian Academy. Hammell was a dedicated softball player and cheerleader.

RCA’s head softball coach Jason McGee described Hammell as determined and a hard worker, and that she not only wanted to make herself better, but wanted to help her teammates be better as well.

“Katie cheered all four years in high school at RCA. She had such great enthusiasm, lots of school spirit, and she always wanted to try new things. Katie always kept her cheer sisters laughing, and knew the importance of team bonding. She was a very important part of the squad, and she will be missed greatly,” said Misty Simmons, RCA’s Varsity Cheerleading Sponsor.

Crutcher Ezell is the Elk Valley Times Male Athlete of the Year for RCA. During his sports career at RCA, he was a decorated football, basketball, and baseball player.

“Crutcher Ezell was one of the most dedicated athletes I’ve ever coached. He was committed to do all the right things throughout the year, from lifting weights to diet and practice, he always wanted to make sure he was prepared and it showed. He owns most of the RCA football records and was voted Captain by his peers multiple times. Crtucher required very little extra motivation from the coaching staff which is the hallmark of true dedication,” said RCA’s Football Coach, Travis Creasy.

Crutcher was also inducted into the elite 1,000 point club for varsity basketball at RCA. Coach Slone, RCA Basketball Coach said that Crutcher was one of the hardest working players he has ever coached, and he put in the work to practice on his own. Coach Slone also called Crutcher a great team player and said that he put the team above personal achievment.