The TIMES NEWS held its Sixth Annual Athletes of the Year Awards Ceremony this week at Penn's Peak, and the accomplishments of this year's honorees are truly remarkable.
The awards are selected by the TN Sports Staff following the fall, winter and spring scholastic sports seasons.
Among this year's 20 award recipients, there are league, District 11 and PIAA State champions; All-League, All-State and All-American players; multiple State medalists and performers who will continue their careers on the collegiate level, including NCAA Division I.
Geographically, the winners were spread throughout the TN coverage area. Northern Lehigh and Tamaqua Area had four recipients apiece, while Northwestern Lehigh and Palmerton each had three, Lehighton and Marian had two apiece and Jim Thorpe and Pleasant Valley one each.
It was my privilege to watch many of this year's award winners in action during their careers, as well as chronicling their achievements.
I'll never forget watching Northwestern's Lindsay Kerr cross the finish line to win the PIAA Class AA cross country championship last November. Only two other area runners, Bobby Chandler of Northern Lehigh and Isaac Dunkelberger of Tamaqua, have won State cross country titles; I was present for both of those races, so watching Lindsay join that select group was a special moment I won't forget.
I will also remember Northern Lehigh's Zach Fleming, who came out at midseason to lead the Bulldogs to a team berth at the State Cross Country meet.
This past spring, I enjoyed covering an outstanding track and field season. State gold medals in this sport are always memorable, and being present to see Palmerton's Lanny Buck win one in the pole vault and Allison Updike of Tamaqua another in the javelin reserved them a place in the elite pantheon.
Multiple medalists at the State Meet are also a rarity, so the accomplishments of Lehighton's Vanessa Rimbey (three medals) and Northwestern's Joe Hall (two) are worthy of praise.
During the winter, a pair of basketball All-Staters, Marian's Matt Yaich and Tamaqua's Amy Zehner, led their squads to District 11 crowns. Zehner's Lady Raiders made it two in a row for Districts and added a Schuylkill League title for good measure.
As a wrestling writer, it is always a pleasure following area grapplers as they battle on the Road to Hershey, where Tamaqua's Garth Lakitsky finished in fourth place as a junior.
The other award winners also had incredible seasons.
Cody Remaley rushed for an astounding 2,014 yards as a junior in leading Northern Lehigh to the District 11 AA title game.
Corrine McConville of Lehighton earned All-American honors as the Lady Indians went 26-0 and won the AA State field hockey crown.
Golfer of the Year Mike Englert of Palmerton finished fifth at Districts and sixth at States.
The Soccer Players of the Year, No. Lehigh's Channing Shiffert and Northwestern's Katie Hallingstad, scored 21 and 36 goals, respectively.
Palmerton's Shea Solt was Swimmer of the Year after winning District golds in the 200 and 500 freestyle races and placing third and fourth in those events at States.
Pat Kregeloh of Pleasant Valley had an ERA of 0.41 and won eight games for the Bear's District 11 championship squad, and Julie Wagaman of No. Lehigh had an ERA of 1.38 with four shutouts for the 'Dawgs' Colonial League champs.
Marian's Devin Parambo was Volleyball Player of the Year and an All-State selection; Tamaqua's Kristina Zwolenik was 11-4 as Girls Tennis Player of the Year; and Jim Thorpe's Sam Lux was 12-2 and placed third at Districts to take the Boys Tennis honor.
This year's winners have left some large footprints for those who will follow.