Georgia continued to produce elite athletes on the fields, courts, pools, tracks, mats and other venues across Georgia during the 2022-23 school year.
A consensus top-10 national recruit led Mill Creek to its first football state championship in the fall before signing with Alabama and heading off for early enrollment. In the winter, the nation’s top-rated boys basketball player led Wheeler to its third state title in four seasons. And baseball capped off the year with at least six seniors who could be among the first 100 players selected in next month’s MLB draft.
Here are top athletes in 26 GHSA sports whose performances during the 2022-23 school year led to individual glory and team success.
Drew Burress, Houston County: The senior center fielder hit .430 (55-for-128) with 17 doubles, three triples and 13 homers for the Class 6A champions. He scored 52 runs, drove in 55 and stole 17 bases in 17 attempts. Also a relief pitcher, Burress wasn’t used much on the mound until the end, when he got saves in Games 2 and 3 in the quarterfinals, Game 2 in the semifinals and the clinching Game 2 in the championship series. Burress signed with Georgia Tech.
Isaiah Collier, Wheeler: The 6-foot-3 senior point guard averaged 20.2 points, 6.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals in leading Class 7A Wheeler to its third state championship in four seasons. The Wildcats were 26-6 and went undefeated against Georgia teams. Collier, the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruit, was named the Naismith and Morgan Wootten national boys player of the year. He signed to play basketball at Southern Cal.
Courtney Ogden, Westminster: The 6-foot-1 senior wing averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.7 steals for a team that finished 22-8 and ranked No. 9 in Class 4A. Ogden, who set the school record for career points with 1,936, was named the top player in Georgia by Gatorade, MaxPreps and the Atlanta Tipoff Club and was a McDonald’s All-American. She was rated by ESPN as the No. 10 player nationally and signed to play basketball at Stanford.
Ellie Kate Binkley, Mount Paran Christian: Binkley was a senior captain for an Eagles squad that won its 11th consecutive state championship, a GHSA record in a sport that held its first championships in 1993-94. The title was the first in Class 2A for Mount Paran, which moved up from A Private in reclassification. Binkley was a member of the school’s sideline and competition squads and was named a Universal Cheerleaders Association All-American. She will be cheering at West Georgia in the fall.
Cross country (boys)
Tommy Latham, Marist: The sophomore had the fastest time at the state meet, earning the Class 6A individual title with a time of 15:58.17 and leading the War Eagles to a fourth-place team finish. He won the race by 24 seconds, and his time set the sophomore record at the 5,000-meter Carrollton course. Latham, named the state’s Gatorade boys runner of the year, improved his time by 52 seconds from his freshman season, when he finished third in Class 4A.
Cross country (girls)
Samantha McGarity, Harrison: The junior had the fastest time in any classification at the state meet for the second consecutive season, running the course in 18:34.91 to win the Class 7A individual title by 40 seconds and lead the Hoyas to a runner-up finish. McGarity also won the individual title at the Region 7-3A meet and finished fourth at the Coach Wood Invitational, fifth at the Jesse Owens Classic and sixth at the Wingfoot Classic.
Jaclyn Johns, Blessed Trinity: The senior had two touchdown receptions, including the game-winning 5-yarder in the second overtime, to lead the Titans to a 19-13 victory over Milton in the Class 7A final. She also recovered a fumble in the end zone and knocked down a conversion pass that would’ve given Milton the victory. Johns finished the season with 594 yards receiving, 321 yards rushing, four interceptions and 16 touchdowns. She will play lacrosse next season at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Caleb Downs, Mill Creek: The senior wide receiver/defensive back had 850 yards of total offense, 83 total tackles and five interceptions on defense, and 253 yards on kick and interception returns for a Mill Creek team that finished 14-1 and won its first state championship, defeating Carrollton 70-35 in the final. Downs was the consensus No. 1 player in Georgia and No. 8 player nationally, according to 247Sports. He signed with Alabama and entered school as an early enrollee.
Will Baker, Prince Avenue Christian: The senior won the Class A Division I championship by shooting a 3-under 141 at Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club and helped the Wolverines win their third consecutive state title. But Baker was best known for shooting a 61 – which included a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole – during the area championship at Lane Creek. He was one of only six high school students to compete in the 2022 U.S. Amateur Championship. Baker signed to play at Clemson.
Sara Im, Lambert: The “Divine Miss Im” has been the dominant girl in Georgia golf throughout her high school career. Im played in seven tournaments as a senior and won six. She tied for fifth in the state championship, which was shortened to 18 holes because of rain. Im won the 2020 Georgia Women’s Amateur and the 2022 GHSA championship and partnered with Thienna Huynh of Lilburn to win the 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball title. She will play for Vanderbilt University.
Marissa Ashton, Buford: The senior had the highest all-around score at the state meet, posting a 39.575 to win the individual overall title in the Class 6A-7A division for the second consecutive season. Buford scored a meet-best 114.825 to win its second consecutive team title. Ashton took first place in the bars (9.825) and beam (9.850) and tied for first place in the vault with a perfect 10. She signed to compete in gymnastics at San Jose State.
Hill Plunkett, Roswell: The senior attack and team captain had 88 goals and 62 assists for the Hornets, who finished 20-3 and won the Class 5A-6A championship, the program’s first since 2015. He is the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer with 356 points. Plunkett is the highest-rated Georgia high school player in the national rankings for Inside Lacrosse and the National Lacrosse Federation, which both have him as a 4-star and ranked No. 36. Plunkett signed with Army.
Maeve Simonds, Milton: On a dominant Class 7A team that had seven players with more than 30 goals, including four with more than 40, Simonds stood tallest with 61. The senior also was the team’s best defensive player with 21 caused turnovers and dominated draw controls with 112 – tops in the state, according to Eagles coach Tim Godby. Milton finished 20-2, undefeated against Georgia teams, and won its sixth consecutive state championship and 16th overall. Simonds signed with Ohio State.
Madison Kennedy, GMC Prep: The senior posted an overall score of 395.7 to win the individual championship at the all-classification state meet. She trailed by two points after the preliminaries but moved to the top with a 100.7 in the final. Kennedy, who helped lead the school to its only state title in the sport in 2021, is the second individual champion in program history (Colin Haskins, 2021). She will be on the rifle team at the University of North Georgia next season.
Mason Keith, Lambert: The junior center midfielder scored 14 goals and recorded 23 assists for a team that finished 21-1-1 and won its third state championship in five seasons and fourth overall. He had a goal in the team’s victory over Walton in the Class 7A final, which the Longhorns won on penalty kicks. Keith was named the Class 7A boys player of the year by DiVarsity. He is being heavily recruited and plans to play soccer in college.
Allie Ross, Westminster: The senior forward had 63 goals and 26 assists as Westminster won its eighth consecutive state title, a GHSA record in the sport. She scored 18 of her team’s 27 goals in the Wildcats’ five-game Class 4A playoff run. Ross, ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as a four-star recruit and the No. 36 forward nationally, finished her career with 141 goals and 70 assists. She signed to play soccer at Virginia.
Jadyn Laneaux, Pope: The senior outfielder hit .624 with 68 hits, 34 extra-base hits, 13 home runs, 45 RBIs and 34 stolen bases in leading the Greyhounds to their second state championship in four seasons. She was named the Class 6A player of the year by the Georgia Dugout Club and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. Laneaux, ranked by Extra Inning Softball as the No. 39 recruit nationally, signed to play softball at LSU.
McKenzie Maddox, West Laurens: The senior pitcher and leadoff batter hit .521 and scored 28 runs for a team that won the all-classification state championship. She went 5-for-10 and scored four runs in her final two games, against defending state champion Haralson County. Maddox played shortstop for the school’s championship fast-pitch team and was named the Georgia Dugout Club Class 4A player of the year. She also was a four-year starter in basketball. Maddox will continue her softball career at Georgia Military College.
Tristan DenBrok, North Gwinnett: The senior won gold medals in the 200-yard freestyle (1:37.48) and 500 free (4:20.75) for the second consecutive season at the Class 7A meet and was part of two winning relay teams (200 medley, 400 free) for the state runner-up team. He was named the 7A boys swimmer of the year by the Georgia High School Swimming Coaches Association. DenBrock, ranked by Swimcloud as the No. 26 senior nationally, signed to swim at Georgia.
Elizabeth Tilt, Lassiter: The senior won two individual events (200 IM, 100 butterfly) and was part of two winning relay teams (200 and 400 freestyle) at the Class 6A meet to lead the Trojans to their fourth consecutive state championship. She was a four-time champion in the 100 butterfly and a three-time winner in the 200 IM. Tilt, ranked by Swimcloud as the top senior in Georgia and the No. 39 prospect nationally, signed to swim at Georgia.
Jason Kim, Greater Atlanta Christian: The senior lost only one match to another Georgia player and came back to defeat that opponent in the region final and state championship. Kim’s game includes both power and surgical-like strategy that keeps the opposition off-balance. He was the linchpin of the team that brought GAC its first state championship since 2015. Kim accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and will play tennis for the Midshipmen.
Hayden Mulberry, Walton: The junior finished another undefeated season and helped Walton to its third consecutive state championship and 23rd in school history. Mulberry played No. 1 singles and was rarely tested all season. “Not only is she a great tennis player, she’s a great young lady,” Walton coach Anthony Foti said. Mulberry made an oral commitment to Notre Dame. This is the third consecutive season that she’s been the AJC player of the year.
Track and field (boys)
Isaiah and Xzaviah Taylor, Southwest DeKalb: The twin brothers were part of a 4x400-meter relay team that broke the state record (3:10.55) in the final event of the Class 4A meet and lifted the Panthers to their second consecutive state title and 12th overall. Xzaviah also was part of the 4x200 relay team that won the title in state-record time (1:25.13). Isaiah won individual titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, finishing one spot ahead of his brother in the 300. Xzaviah also finished third in the 400 meters. The Taylors, sons of former Olympic hurdler Angelo Taylor, will run track next season for North Carolina A&T.
Track and field (girls)
Grace Smith, Westminster: The junior won the long jump, 100-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles and finished second in the 100-meter dash at the Class 4A meet to lead Westminster to its second consecutive state championship and fifth overall. Smith, a six-time Junior Olympian, contributed 38 of Westminster 124 points, and her individual points would have ranked sixth as a team. She also won the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles in Class 3A as a sophomore.
Ashley Sturzoiu, Buford: The 6-foot senior outside hitter had 487 kills, a .457 kill percentage, 302 digs, 71 aces and 20 blocks for a team that went 38-5 and won its third consecutive state championship (and first in Class 7A). She was named the state player of the year by MaxPreps, Gatorade and VolleyballMag and was selected as a MaxPreps first-team All-American. Sturzoiu signed to play volleyball at Mississippi State.
Dominic Bambinelli, Mill Creek: The sophomore completed a 50-0 season when he won the 165-pound individual title in Class 7A at the traditional state meet. It was the second state championship for Bambinelli, who won the 7A title at 152 pounds as a freshman and has a two-year record of 92-2. Bambinelli is a consensus top-10 wrestler nationally in his weight class. Mill Creek finished in third place at both the duals and traditional state meets.
- Stan Awtrey, Todd Holcomb, Adam Krohn and Score Atlanta contributed to this article.