SILER CITY — While it’s typically a rewarding experience, participating in high school sports can often be a grueling task for student-athletes.
With all of the off-season workouts, mid-week practices and lengthy games that can extend late into weeknights, it’s hard to find time to take a break — or even get homework assignments completed on time.
In all, it’s a much less glamorous life than student-athletes at large universities or those playing sports professionally.
That’s why Josh Harris, the athletic director at Jordan-Matthews High School, decided to roll out a literal red carpet for his student-athletes at the school’s first end-of-year awards banquet since 2019.
On May 31, J-M hosted its first-ever athletic awards show, titled “The Jetties,” which turned a typical awards banquet into an Oscars-style spectacle, equipped with Grammy-esque trophies, an actual red carpet an emcee that livened up the ceremony.
“Going to school here, playing here and coaching here, as well, it gets a little monotonous doing the same thing every year,” Harris said. “I was like, ‘Hey, what can we do to mix it up, make it different and make it more fun and it not last four hours?’ So that was what spurred the idea of an awards show.”
The Jetties also featured a voting system, which saw coaches and students selecting winners of each category from a pool of nominees, nominated by coaches, via a Google Form. The votes were then tallied — with the coaches’ votes carrying “the most weight,” Harris said — and put into envelopes that were read out on awards night.
In total, there were 16 awards handed out, including Male and Female Athlete of the Year for each of the three sports seasons, along with an Overall Male/Female Athlete of the Year.
Winners of the Overall Athletes of the Year awards were senior Calvin Schwartz (Male Athlete of the Year; football and track & field) and senior Ellia Wright (Female Athlete of the Year; women’s basketball).
In addition to the typical awards you’d see at an annual banquet, the Jets also handed out awards such as “Jet of Valor,” for the senior student-athlete that was “the best representation of Jordan-Matthews both on and off the field” — won by Colby Daniel — and the Randy Gaines Award, named after a longtime Jets football volunteer, for the athlete that “promoted the most service-based attitude throughout the year,” Harris said, taken home by senior Ben Dekaney.
Just as you might see at the ESPYs, The Jetties featured another unique award called “Performance of the Season,” for the fall, winter and spring sports seasons, which highlighted the best moment of a particular season.
Those awards were handed out to senior Alexis Ibarra (men’s soccer, fall), senior Ellia Wright (women’s basketball, winter) and freshman Jessica Parroquin Vallejo (women’s soccer, spring), some for individual moments — like Ibarra’s overtime goal against N.C. School of Science and Math in the third round of the playoffs — or career-defining ones, like Wright crossing the 1,000-point mark in women’s basketball.
By all accounts, the first installment of The Jetties was a success, with students already jazzed up about suggesting award ideas for next year, when Harris said he’ll be more likely to throw a few more lighthearted awards into the pool.
“It was a really cool atmosphere, I think the energy was pretty great,” Harris said. “I don’t think the kids really knew what to expect, nor did anyone else. But from what I’ve heard, most everybody enjoyed it. … It’s the first year, so we kind of try not to get in the paralysis-by-analysis mode, where we overthink things and don’t do it. So I was kind of like, ‘Well, let’s jump in and see how we screw it up, then fix it from there.
“We’ve definitely got some pieces we’re going to tweak next year,” Harris continued with a laugh. “I’m already so excited for next year.”
The full list of Jetties winners is as follows:
Fall Male Athlete of the Year: Zander Ocampo, men’s soccer
• Other nominees: Calvin Schwartz, Jacorey Coats
Fall Female Athlete of the Year: Lia Carter, volleyball
• Other nominees: Logan Gunter, Hannia Martinez
Winter Male Athlete of the Year: Rayshawn Alston, men’s basketball
• Other nominees: Calvin Conroy, Jacob Carter
Winter Female Athlete of the Year: Ellia Wright, women’s basketball
• Other nominee: Emma Wieber
Spring Male Athlete of the Year: Buck Thornton, men’s tennis
• Other nominees: Kelton Fuquay, Calvin Schwartz
Spring Female Athlete of the Year: Jessica Parroquin Vallejo, women’s soccer
• Other nominees: Sophia Murchison, Rachel Woods
Male Overall Athlete of the Year: Calvin Schwartz, football and track & field
• Other nominees: Ian McMillan, Zander Ocampo
Female Overall Athlete of the Year: Ellia Wright, women’s basketball
• Other nominees: Lia Carter, Sophia Murchison
Randy Gaines Award: Ben Dekaney
• Other nominees: Auburn Campbell, Hector Chanchavac, Sophia Murchison, Kameron Gooch
Coach of the Year: Lamont Piggie, women’s basketball and track & field
• Other nominees: Ryan Johnson, Paul Cuadros
Jet of Valor: Colby Daniel
• Other nominees: Emma Wieber, Alexis Ibarra
Spirit Award: Caroline Matthews
• Other nominees: Brenden Rivers, Brooklin Quee, Geneva Woolford, Almetwakel Abdo Ali
Performance of the Fall: Alexis Ibarra (overtime goal vs. N.C. School of Science and Math)
• Other nominee: Calvin Schwartz
Performance of the Winter: Ellia Wright (1,000th point in women’s basketball)
• Other nominee: Rayshawn Alston (31 points in men’s basketball game at Seaforth)
Performance of the Spring: Jessica Parroquin Vallejo (multiple 4-goal games in women’s soccer)
• Other nominee: Paul Lujan (men’s tennis conference tournament)
Team of the Year: Men’s Soccer
• Other nominees: Men’s Tennis, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Track & Field
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.
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