Athletes of the Year in the GHSA for 2021-22

March 10, 2022 Macon - Woodward Academy's Sydney Bowles (0) gestures as she communicates with Woodward Academy's head coach Kim Lawrence (not pictured) during the 2022 GHSA State Basketball Class AAAAA Girls Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Thursday, March 10, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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March 10, 2022 Macon - Woodward Academy's Sydney Bowles (0) gestures as she communicates with Woodward Academy's head coach Kim Lawrence (not pictured) during the 2022 GHSA State Basketball Class AAAAA Girls Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Thursday, March 10, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Countless high school athletes made their marks on the fields, courts, pools, tracks, mats and other venues across Georgia during the 2021-22 school year.

A three-sport star spent the fall season helping her flag football team capture the second state championship in any sport in her school’s history. In the winter, a record-setting wrestler fought his way to a fourth consecutive state championship and led his team to its first state titles in 15 years. And twin brothers capped off the year in the spring by helping their track program reach heights once seen during their famous father’s time at their school.

These weren’t the only ones. Here are top athletes in 26 GHSA sports whose performances during the 2021-22 school led to individual glory and team success.

Baseball

Druw Jones, Wesleyan: The senior center fielder hit .570 (65-for-114) with seven doubles, three triples and 13 homers for the Class A Private champions. He scored 72 runs, drove in 39 runs and recorded 32 stolen bases in 33 attempts. His pitching record was 10-1 with a 4.27 ERA. Jones, the son of former Braves All-Star Andruw Jones, signed with Vanderbilt. He is a potential No. 1 overall pick in the June MLB Draft.

Basketball (boys)

Bruce Thornton, Milton: The 6-foot-2 senior point guard averaged 17.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists for a team that went 22-8 and reached the Class 7A quarterfinals. He started all 120 games of his high school career, during which the Eagles were 96-24 with a state title in 2021. Thornton, the highest-ranked senior in Georgia and the consensus No. 42 player nationally, signed to play at Ohio State.

Basketball (girls)

Sydney Bowles, Woodward Academy: The 6-foot guard led her team in scoring (20.9), rebounds (7.1), assists (4.7) and steals (3.0) and guided the War Eagles to their second consecutive Class 5A championship. She finished her career with 2,441 points and 953 rebounds, and Woodward went 78-7 in her final three seasons. Bowles is the No. 37 senior nationally, according to ESPN, and signed to play at Texas A&M.

Cheerleading

Whitney Lee, Buford: The senior was named the Georgia Cheerleading Coaches Association Cheerleader of the Year for the Class 5A-7A division and led her team to a runner-up finish at the Class 6A competition. She also was on the varsity football cheerleading squad for three years and the game-day squad for two. Lee, who won the Spirit of Buford Award for the competition squad this year, will be cheering at Clemson in the fall.

Cross country (boys)

Ethan Ashley, Denmark: The senior had the fastest time at the state meet, earning the Class 7A individual title with a time of 15:45.78 and leading the Danes to a third-place team finish. He was named the Atlanta Track Club All-Metro Boys Runner of the Year and is ranked No. 57 in the national DyeStat Top 100. Ashley signed to run cross country and track at the United States Air Force Academy.

Cross country (girls)

Samantha McGarity, Harrison: The sophomore had the fastest time in any classification at the state meet, running the course in 18:39.48 to win the Class 7A individual title by 41 seconds and lead the Hoyas to a runner-up finish. Her time was an improvement of about 1:45 from her freshman season, when she finished in 17th place. McGarity also won titles at the Region 3-7A meet (18:21.26) and the Hoya 2-Mile Invitational.

Flag football

Lauren Render, Hillgrove: The senior intercepted three passes, one of which she returned for a touchdown, and caught a touchdown pass in the Hawks’ 20-6 victory over Marietta in the Class 7A final. It was the second state title in any sport in school history. She finished the season with 750 yards receiving, 316 yards rushing and 19 interceptions. Render also was an all-region basketball player and signed to play lacrosse at Virginia Tech.

Football

Travis Hunter, Collins Hill: The wide receiver/defensive back had 1,284 receiving yards and four interceptions, despite missing five games with an injury, for a team that finished 15-1 (the loss came in a postseason bowl game) and won the first state championship in program history. Hunter is the nation’s No. 1-ranked senior in the 247Sports Composite. He signed to play at Jackson State, where he participated in practices and the spring game in April.

Golf (boys)

William Love, Westminster: The senior became a three-time state champion when he led the Wildcats to their fourth consecutive team title. Love had a stroke average of 69.4 on a team that won nine times in 10 starts. He has led the team in scoring for three consecutive years. Love won three tournaments – the MCI, the High School Invitational at the Atlanta Athletic Club and the Georgia-South Carolina Cup. He signed to play at Duke.

Golf (girls)

Sara Im, Lambert: After shaking off an early-season injury, the junior was unstoppable. After missing the area tournament, she shot 67-71 to win medalist honors and lead the Longhorns to their third consecutive team title. Im also won the GSGA’s Top 60 Women’s Classic and teamed with Thienna Hunyh to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. She qualified to compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Im committed to play at Vanderbilt.

Gymnastics

Madelynn Crow, Pike County: The senior had the highest all-around score at the state meet, posting a 39.700 to win the individual overall title in the Class A-5A division for the second consecutive season. She also swept the apparatus events, scoring perfect 10s in the vault, beam and floor and a 9.7 on the bars. Crow, a Level 10 gymnast and the third pick for the Junior Olympic National Team, signed to compete in gymnastics at Georgia.

Lacrosse (boys)

Will Overly, Lovett: Overly, a senior midfielder, finished the season with 102 goals and 49 assists to lead the Lions to a 22-0 season and a state championship in the A-5A division – their first state title since winning three of the GHSA’s first five from 2005-09. In five playoff games this season, Overly had 20 goals and 10 assists. He signed with Utah in November.

Lacrosse (girls)

Ava Besson, Walton: As the Raiders’ driving force, Besson finished the year with 39 goals on 75% shooting, 43 assists and 19 draw control wins, leading them to a 16-6 record and a Class 6A-7A semifinals finish. In four playoff games, the senior attack had seven goals and three assists. Besson is Inside Lacrosse’s lone 5-star girls recruit in Georgia for the Class of 2022 and signed with powerhouse Boston College.

Riflery

Jacob Day, Northside-Columbus: The junior posted an overall score of 393.0 to win the individual championship at the all-classification state meet. He scored a 293 in the preliminaries, tied for second place, but moved to the top with a 100 in the final. Day, who led the Patriots to a runner-up team finish in 2021, is the first Northside shooter to win the individual title since Arielle Mouhot in 2010.

Soccer (boys)

Tyler Vitelli, Harrison: The senior led Harrison to an undefeated season and the second state championship in program history (first since 2007). He finished the season with 16 goals and 13 assists, including one in a 2-1 victory over Cobb County-rival Pebblebrook in the Class 7A finals. Vitelli was named the Region 3-7A player of the year and was a Gatorade Player of the Year nominee. He will play soccer at the University of North Georgia.

Soccer (girls)

Allie Ross, Westminster: The junior forward was the leading scorer for a 19-1 team that won a GHSA-record seventh consecutive state championship, finishing with 49 goals and 22 assists. She scored 15 goals in the Wildcats’ five-game playoff run, including two in a 4-0 victory over Greater Atlanta Christian in the Class 3A final. Ross, rated a four-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer, committed to Virginia.

Softball (fast pitch)

Amber Reed, North Gwinnett: The junior pitcher was named the Georgia Dugout Club Class 7A player of the year after leading the Bulldogs to their second state title in six seasons. She went 25-0-1 with a 0.93 ERA and 215 strikeouts, and she hit .449 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs. Reed was the winning pitcher in all four of the Bulldogs’ games in the tournament finals in Columbus, including two against defending champion East Coweta.

Softball (slow pitch)

Morgan Martin, Haralson County: The junior shortstop and leadoff batter hit .625 with seven home runs, six doubles and a triple for a team that won the all-classification state championship for the third time in five seasons. She hit two home runs over the final three games of the state tournament and went 4-for-5 with two runs scored in the final, an 18-15 victory over Cherokee. Martin is a pitcher and shortstop on the school’s fast-pitch team.

Swimming (boys)

Sebastien Sergile, Centennial: The senior won four individual titles and set two state records in helping the Knights earn second place in Class 6A at the state meet, the best finish in program history. He won the 200 free with a state-record time of 1:34.05 and the 100 fly (47.50) and was a member of the 200 medley (1:31.71, state record) and 400 free (3:08.01) relay teams. Sergile, a top-10 recruit nationally, signed to swim at Virginia.

Swimming (girls)

Gigi Johnson, Westminster: The senior won the 100-yard fly (52.59), took second place in the 200 IM (1:58.15) and was part of two winning relay teams in leading the Wildcats to their fifth consecutive team title in the Class A-3A meet. Her relay teams in the 200-yard free (1:32.56) and 400 free (3:24.20) both set state records. Johnson, ranked as the No. 2 senior in Georgia by Swimcloud, signed to swim at Stanford.

Tennis (boys)

Charlie Burdell, Westminster: The sophomore played No. 1 singles for the second consecutive year and led the Wildcats to the school’s 22nd state championship. He finished 17-1 and won the clinching match in the Class 3A final. “Even with a busy USTA schedule during our spring season, Charlie always puts our important team matches first,” Westminster coach Ralph Geeza said. “He is the type of team leader that every coach wants – someone who plays the game the right way, with sportsmanship and integrity, but also has a blast being part of this squad.”

Tennis (girls)

Hayden Mulberry, Walton: Mulberry went 15-0 and did not lose a set all season. The sophomore helped the Raiders win the Class 7A championship for the second consecutive season. “Hayden is not only the best player I have ever had the privilege to coach, she is also one of the best kids I have ever come into contact with as an educator,” Walton coach Anthony Foti said. Mulberry is rated as a five-star recruit. This is the second consecutive year Mulberry has been selected as Player of the Year.

Track and field (boys)

Isaiah and Xzaviah Taylor, Southwest DeKalb: The twin brothers accounted for 60 of their team’s 84 points at the Class 5A meet as the Panthers won their 11th state title. Isaiah earned gold in the 300 hurdles (36.56), 4x400 relay (3:14.63) and 4x100 relay (with his brother), in addition to silver in the 110 hurdles (14.26). Xzaviah also earned a gold on the 4x200 relay team and had bronze finishes in the 400-meter dash (49.15) and 300 hurdles (38.24). The Taylors are the sons of Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor, who was a five-time state champion as part of the 1995 and 1996 Southwest state championship teams.

Track and field (girls)

Adaejah Hodge, Alexander: The sophomore won four individual state titles that helped the Cougars earn the Class 6A team championship. She began the state meets by winning the long jump (20-4.25, eighth-best jump in state history) and then completed the sprint trifecta with top finishes in the 100 meters (11.33), 200 (23.40) and 400 (53.26). Hodge also won the prestigious Austin Sealy Award for most outstanding athlete in the Carifta Games in April while representing her native British Virgin Islands.

Volleyball

Cheridyn Leverette, Eagle’s Landing Christian: The 6-foot senior outside hitter had 564 kills, 370 digs, 72 service aces and a .416 hitting percentage for a team that finished 39-6 and reached the Class A Private semifinals. She was named the Gatorade state player of the year and a second-team Under Armour All-American. Leverette, ranked nationally as the No. 34 recruit by PrepVolleyball.com, signed to play at UCLA.

Wrestling

Chase Horne, West Laurens: The senior became his school’s first four-time individual state champion when he won the 285-pound title in Class 4A at the traditional meet, completing a 59-0 season. He led West Laurens to team championships in both the traditional and dual meets, the Raiders’ first titles in the sport since 2007. Horne had a career record of 194-2 and set a school record with 175 consecutive victories. He signed to wrestle at N.C. State.

- Stan Awtrey, Todd Holcomb, Adam Krohn, Seth Ellerbee and Craig Sager contributed to this article.