The Times is pleased to honor its 2020 Athletes of the year. For fourteen years the EVT has recognized local high school female and male athletes for their accolades and character both on and off the playing field.
“I know this school year hasn’t finish the way anyone expected,” said Paul Henry of the EVT. “The COVID-19 virus shut down not just the schools but our community and the entire country. Something like this has never been experienced before.”
“Sadly spring sports were canceled in their entirety. I know the seniors, families and friends were disappointed they did not get to compete.”
“But through it all I saw the community stand behind all their seniors and athletes. Tributes were made and stadium lights were turned on for twenty minutes honoring each senior who didn’t get to finish their final year of sports. I’m proud to live in a community that rallies for its youth in that way.”
“These lessons learned in athletics makes better individuals as life moves forward, even if it’s the disappointment of a cancel season,” he continued. “Learning there are no short cuts from the hard work of individuals to form a team.”
“It’s never been easy selecting athletes, there are many in each school system who meet the criteria. This year Millie Slayton and Jackson Cothren, Lincoln County High School; Carly Andrews and Jacious Clark, Fayetteville High School and Rachel Hill and Riley Hall from Riverside Christian Academy have been selected.
Millie Slayton is the daughter of Matt and Jamie Slayton. She is a double sport athlete excelling in basketball and volleyball all four years at LCHS. She plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University in the fall majoring in business. She received All Region Tournament Volleyball honors and Basketball Award.
“Millie is an excellent choice as LCHS Female Athlete of the year,” said Lady Falcon basketball Coach Chad Tipps. “She is a great example of the best qualities a high school athlete should have. I became the head girls basketball coach going into Millie’s sophomore year. Since the first day I coached her, she has always been one of the most coach-able, focused, and competitive players I have coached.”
“In her 4 year career, Millie has started nearly every game except when she was sick or injured,” he continued. “She has been voted the team’s best defensive player, and she has been one of our highest academic achievers over her entire career. On a bigger scale, Millie was one of the elite defensive players around. Every night for the last 3 years, she has guarded the other team’s best offensive players. I think most of those players would tell you that Millie Slayton was the toughest defender they faced. She is the type player that improves a program just by being on the team.”
“Millie is a player that consistently plays competitively,” said Lady Falcon Volleyball Coach Sarah Byrd. “No matter what competition is on the court with her you know that she’s going to play smart and give her upmost effort to her team. She’s a thinker and has the knowledge to fix mistakes or make improvements in the midst of competition but she also reacts and just plays ball. She’s always been a hard worker and a total joy to coach.”
“Playing for and representing Lincoln County High School Athletics has been one of the biggest blessings I have received,” Millie said. “The bonds I have made with my teammates and coaches will stick with me for a lifetime. I am so very thankful for my coaches, Coach Tipps, Coach Cavender, Coach Hardin, Coach Prince, and Coach Byrd, who not only taught me the game, but taught me the best life lessons. I also want to say a big thank you to my parents for being my number one supporters and traveling with me to every game.”
“COVID-19 was unexpected to say the least,” Millie added. “Of course, I am saddened by the affects it has put on our senior year, especially prom and graduation. However, the bond we seniors have is even stronger because our journey together has been one to remember. Sadly, we did not get to say our proper goodbyes, but I know we will always be there for each other no matter what. I look forward to seeing where our futures lead us.”
Jackson Cothren is the son of Lori and Anthony Cothren. He’s never missed a summer playing baseball since he was four-years-old.
While at LCHS he received All District and All Region honors in 2019, Team Tennessee and Team Captain in 2020. He is a two-time Perfect Game Pre-Season All American.
Through Jackson’s high school career he has battled what could be career ending injuries but he has worked hard to return to the playing field. As a sophomore he suffered three ligament tears in his knee playing football. In 2019 he tore his UCL in his elbow while pitching in a MLB showcase event. Despite these obstacles, with hard work he have recovered and signed to play baseball with the University of Memphis Tigers with a degree in criminal justice. He graduates Lincoln County with a 3.9 GPA.
“Jackson emerged as one of the leaders of our team this year,” Falcon Baseball Coach Travis Tate said. “He was instrumental in establishing the standard we wanted to uphold daily. The sky is the limit for Jackson and his future is very bright.”
“Lincoln County has been a huge blessing to me, and not just the high school,” Jackson said. “I’m talking about the whole community. It has given me unbelievable support my whole career and many friendships made. First I want to thank my parents, they have done so many things out of their normal duties to help me succeed. I’ve been bless with some great coaches, Don Thomas, Matt Allen and Travis Tate. Coach Don was the first to show and interest in me as a freshman. Coach Allen and Coach Tate saw potential and gave me that ‘tough love’ I needed in baseball.”
“Our team this year had a great bond,” he added. “This was the closest I’ve ever been with a group of guys. That only made the COVID pandemic harder on all of us. When the season was canceled I went to work towards the next step of my game. The journey is just beginning and I will work hard to make this community proud.
Carly Andrews in the daughter of Ron and Cindy Andrew. She was homes-schooled until coming to Fayetteville High School as a sophomore in 2017.
She received All District honors in both volleyball and basketball. Carly wraps up her career on the hard wood with over 500 rebounds.
She graduates FHS with a 4.0 GPA and plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University majoring in Biology with a pre-med track. She plans to attend medical school and become a dermatologist.
Carly is the type of player that coaches love,” said Lady Tiger Basketball Coach Holly Hoagland. “She was the only senior on our basketball team and was a great leader for our younger girls. Carly is a hard worker and a great teammate. She gives everything she’s got every second she is in the game and when she’s not in the game, she is cheering for her teammates from the bench. I asked Carly to sacrifice for the betterment of the team this year and she did so without complaining or worrying about her own stats. The most important thing to her was the team - that’s rare in today’s sports culture.”
“In addition to being a great player, she was one of the top students in her class and was involved in a lot of extra curricular work in the community,” she added. “With her work ethic, character, and intellect, she will be successful in whatever she chooses to do in the future. I just wish I had her for more than one year.”
“My parents are the ones who introduced me to sports at a young age and they have been my support system all the way through,” Carly said. “They made sure they got me to every practice and game and encouraged me through all of these years. My coaches have made a huge impact on me my entire life, I am blessed to have had such great coaches that helped shape me into who I am today. FHS has felt like home to me the second I set foot in the school and I am so grateful that I made the decision to attend. I appreciate everyone who has helped and encouraged me all of these years.”
“Although it is has been heartbreaking that our senior year ended so abruptly, the amount of support from our school and community has been completely overwhelming and I couldn’t be more blessed to be apart of it,” Carly added. “I also think it has brought our class together and made us realize the importance of cherishing our moments together.”
Jacious Clark is the son of Michelle Clark. He is a product of the City School system excelling in both football and basketball since he was 10 years old.
Jacious received All District Tournament honors on the hard wood and was selected the All Region MVP in football. He has signed to continue his education as a student athlete playing football at Bethel University with a major in criminal justice.
“To know Jacious is to love him,” Tiger Basketball Coach Chris Murdock said. “He has a heart of gold and a smile that will brighten any room. He’s very deserving of this award not just because he is a great athlete but because he has had to overcome so much in his life and beat the odds that were stacked against him.”
“As a basketball player he as grown and matured over the last four years and helped lead our team to the state tournament and sub-state game,” he added. “He will god own in the record books at FHS as the all-time leading rebounder. I’m excited to watch his growth and development at Bethel University.”
“Tiger Football Coach Kenny Morson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Jacious. He has earned the opportunity to play at the next level with him teammates Kevonte Thomison and Jayden Hadley. He’s a kid you can say has beat the odds – he just needed some direction.”
“Jacious was a big part of our 10-0 season both on and off the field,” he added. “I know his senior year has been tough. These kids had to deal with issues that just don’t seem fair. But it’s formed a strong bond among these classmates that will give them strength to endure life’s hurdles down the road.”
“It’s been a year to remember,” Jacious said. “Nobody expected the COVID-19 virus to hit or the tragic loss of my teammate and brother, Tate Tuten. “Finishing 10-0 in football and making a trips to the state and sub-state in basketball were big. The community turned out supporting us through it all.”
“I’ve been fortunate to have coaches that worked with me and gave me support on and off the playing field and I appreciate it,” he added. “What we’ve experienced this past year has brought us all closer together. City will always be a part of me.”
Rachel Hill is the daughter of Katie and Tim Lackey and Mike Hill. She is a product of RCA attending for 15 years excelling in volleyball, basketball and softball.
The Lady Knights volleyball team were MTAC champs for three consecutive years where she received MTAC All Tournament honors, selected best offensive player and co-captain awards. In softball she received MTAC All Tournament honors and the “toughness award”.
She graduated Riverside with a 4.0 GPA and plans to attend Tennessee Tech with a degree in education.
“Rachel was a four year starter on the volleyball team at RCA,” Lady Knights Volleyball Coach Patty Wright said. Her senior season she was selected for the MTAC All Conference Team. She was a major contributor all four year’s despite battling injuries. She’s a varsity player with a great attitude – a player you want as part of your team.”
“She played power hitter her senior year and was given the Best Hitter Award,” she added. “She was a key defensive player as well and one of the team leaders in digs per set.”
“I want to say thank you to my mom for sacrificing her time to take me to practices, games, and anything else she has done for me while I have played sports,” Rachel said. “She made sure I had the opportunity and I appreciate it. I want to thank my entire family – they have come out and supported me through a lot of games. I also want to thank my RCA family and coaches. You have been a big part of my life for a long time and I’m thankful.”
“At first I was super bummed about not getting to finish my senior year with my friends due to COVID-19,” she added. “But I think I have become better friends with not only people at RCA but people from other schools as well. I feel like it has made us more appreciative of each other. We’re all part of the class of 2020.”
Riley Hall is the son of Michael and Kara Hall and a product of RCA going back to Pre-K.
In his senior year on the gridiron he was selected as Team Captain, Defensive Player of the Year, USFA All-American, Josh Mills Knight award, Knight Award for Leadership and MTAC All Conference. He leaves RCA as the all time leading tackler.
Riley brings to the game the very definition of being a team player. During his career he’s played every position on the field in eight-man football.
He graduates RCA with a 3.08 GPA and will continue his education as a student athlete playing football at Faulkner University with a major in Sports Management.
“Tenacity is the word that comes to mind when I think of Riley’s time playing sports at Riverside,” said Knight Football Coach Travis Creasy. “He’s one of the first players I thought of when I received my Cancer diagnosis. I wanted to get back in coaching shape because Riley would not quit and I certainly wasn’t about to start. It was difficult to end the 2018 season in a hospital room but Riley was one of many reasons I had to get back on the sideline in 2019.”
“I’ve been blessed to coach Riley since at least the 5th grade,” Coach Creasy continued. His tenacity has shown through every day I’ve known him. In a world full of quitters, we need more Riley’s who are willing to stand up for what they believe in. When others waffled on playing the difficult sport of football, Riley was sturdy. He had all the reasons in the world to shut it down after breaking his thumb this fall but there was Riley with a pink cast snapping with his left hand. While I’ll be sad to see Riley go, there are a lot of coaches in the MTAC rejoicing that his time is done. I’m sure his teammates didn’t always like his approach but they knew why - he wanted to win. Riley made me a better coach and gave me a lot of smiles along the way. I’ll always enjoy telling everyone I coached a kid that played every position on the field. Thank you Riley for all you’ve done for Knights football.”
Riley said, “I would like to thank my parents and my Papa for always supporting me and for being by my side every step of the way. I’d like to thank my classmates at RCA for their encouragement and support on the field and in the class room. I’d also like to thank all my coaches at RCA for pushing me to be my best and for never allowing me be anything less than my best. I’d specifically like to thank coach Creasy for coming back to coach me my senior year despite his own personal battle with leukemia. Coach Creasy has always been someone I’ve looked up to and the past two years he has really showed me what it means to put your faith in the Lord.”