The AJC athletes of the year for high school sports

McEachern forward Ace Bailey (4) celebrates their win against Norcross in their quarterfinal round of the Class 7A boys GHSA boys basketball playoffs at McEachern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Powder Springs, Ga. McEachern won 72-57 to advance to the semi-finals Saturday. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

McEachern forward Ace Bailey (4) celebrates their win against Norcross in their quarterfinal round of the Class 7A boys GHSA boys basketball playoffs at McEachern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Powder Springs, Ga. McEachern won 72-57 to advance to the semi-finals Saturday. (Jason Getz /

Georgia continued to produce elite athletes on the fields, courts, pools, tracks, mats and other venues across Georgia during the 2023-24 school year.

A flag football player led Southeast Bulloch to its third consecutive state championship in the fall and helped the three-year-old program improve its all-time record to 62-0. In the winter, a McDonald’s All-American put up massive numbers for a McEachern boys basketball team that finished as the Class 7A runner-up and was ranked No. 13 nationally. And a junior boys lacrosse player was one of many highlights of the spring when he helped Wesleyan reach its goal of winning at least one state championship in all 20 sports it offers.

Here are top athletes in 26 GHSA sports whose performances during the past year led to individual glory and team success.


Connor Shouse, Pickens: The shortstop/pitcher hit .473 with six home runs, 18 doubles and 53 runs scored for a 31-8 team that reached the Class 3A quarterfinals, losing to eventual champion Harlem. He stole 46 bases. As a pitcher, he won eight games and struck out 91 batters over 57⅓ innings. His ERA was 1.34. Shouse signed to play baseball at Georgia Tech.

Basketball (boys)

Ace Bailey, McEachern: The 6-foot-9 senior forward averaged 32.9 points, 15.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.5 blocked shots for a 26-6 team that was the Class 7A runner-up and finished at No. 13 in MaxPreps’ national rankings. He was a McDonald’s All-American and a finalist for the Naismith national player of the year. Bailey is a five-star recruit and the consensus No. 2 senior nationally. He signed to play basketball at Rutgers.

Basketball (girls)

Danielle Carnegie, Grayson: The 5-foot-9 senior guard averaged 21 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.9 steals in helping lead Class 7A Grayson to a 32-0 season and the first girls basketball championship in school history. The Rams were the only undefeated GHSA basketball team, boys or girls, in the state. She was named Georgia’s all-classification player of the year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gatorade, MaxPreps and the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Carnegie signed to play basketball at Georgia Tech.


Jadyn Singleton, Savannah Christian: The senior was a captain and four-year member of a competition team that won one state title and had three runner-up finishes. Singleton, who also participated on the Sideline and Game Day squads, was named the Class A-4A Cheerleader of the Year by the Georgia Cheerleading Coaches Association. She also won state titles in the long jump and triple jump at the Class 3A track meet this spring. Singleton will attend Georgia and be a member of the All-Girl Cheerleading team.

Cross country (boys)

Joseph Jacquot, Westminster: The senior had the fastest time at the state meet, earning the Class 4A individual title with a time of 15:30.89 and leading the Wildcats to their seventh consecutive state championship. He had finished ninth, fourth and fourth in his previous three seasons, with a best time of 16:37.26 as a junior. Jacquot also won the 1,600 meters (4:15.05) and 3,200 meters (9:09.52) at the Class 4A track meet in the spring. He signed to run cross country and track at Georgia Tech.

Cross country (girls)

Katelynn Dollar, Creekview: The senior won the Class 6A individual title with a Carrollton course-record time of 17:49.94, an improvement of 1:43 from her fourth-place finish as a junior. She was the only girls runner in any class to break the 18-minute mark. Dollar was named the Atlanta Track Club’s girls runner of the year. She missed the spring track season because of an injury but signed to run cross country and track at Florida State.

Flag football

Alex Odom, Southeast Bulloch: The senior wide receiver/safety had 62 receptions, 1,141 receiving yards, 21 touchdowns, 34 extra points, 26 flag pulls and 10 interceptions for a team that won its third consecutive state championship. Since starting the program in 2001, the Yellow Jackets are 62-0, the longest win streak in any sport in school history. Odom, an all-area player of the year and all-state selection, is the school’s career leader in receiving yards (2,277), receiving touchdowns (48) and interceptions (27).


Sammy Brown, Jefferson: The senior running back/linebacker had 2,289 yards rushing, 40 touchdowns and 153 tackles and averaged 44.5 yards on 32 punts for a 13-1 team that reached the Class 5A semifinals. Brown finished his career with 5,859 yards rushing, 96 touchdowns and 300 tackles. He is a two-time wrestling individual state champion and won a track state title in the 400 meters as a freshman. Brown, rated the No. 2 linebacker prospect nationally, signed with Clemson and entered school as an early enrollee.

Golf (boys)

Drew Sacia, Milton: The senior completed his career by winning the Class 7A individual title, shooting 67-67 at Sunset Hills Country Club to beat defending champion Rohan Gopaldas of North Gwinnett in a playoff, and leading the Eagles to their fourth consecutive team championship. The two-time all-state player was fifth in the area tournament, which his team won by seven strokes. He signed to play at the University of Wisconsin.

Golf (girls)

Athena Yoo, Lambert: The junior capped off another great season with her second consecutive individual state championship, shooting a 2-under-par 140 to win the Class 7A title at Sunset Hills Country Club. She led Lambert to a 30-shot victory in the team competition, giving the Longhorns their fifth consecutive state title and 10th in 11 seasons. She was medalist at the area tournament, which Lambert won for the 13th straight time. Yoo made a verbal commitment to play at UCLA.


Katie Andrews, Forsyth Central: Competing as an individual after her team finished outside the top four in the preliminaries, Andrews had the highest all-around score in the state finals, posting a 38.850 to win the individual title in the Class 6A-7A division. Andrews, a junior, placed first on the bars (9.750) and floor (9.550), was second on the beam (9.650) and finished third on the vault (9.900). Andrews placed third in the all-around the past two seasons, leading her team to top-four finishes each time.

Lacrosse (boys)

Jake Meyer, Wesleyan: The junior attack was a guiding force in securing the Wolves’ first championship in program history, scoring six goals in a 15-11 victory over Westminster in the Class A-4A final. He finished the postseason, which included wins over top-ranked Starr’s Mill and No. 2 Fellowship Christian, with 14 goals, 10 assists and seven ground balls. On the season, he had 45 goals, 49 assists, 31 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. He committed to Syracuse.

Lacrosse (girls)

Gabby Henry, Milton: The junior goalie served as the backstop to a defense that Eagles coach Tim Godby said was the most consistent unit of the team all season. She finished with three saves and one goal allowed in Milton’s 17-3 win over West Forsyth in the Class 7A final – it was the Eagles’ seventh consecutive championship – capping a dominant year in which she finished with 82 saves, 76 goals against, eight caused turnovers, four turnovers and a 52-percent save percentage. She committed to Arizona State.


Katlyn Sullivan, Statesboro: The junior posted a score of 466.9 (out of a possible 490.5) in the finals to win the individual championship at the all-classification state meet, edging out Jordan DeJesus of team champion Camden County by 1.6 points. It was the first riflery title, team or individual, in school history. Sullivan has qualified for the National Rifle Junior Olympic Championships each of the past three years. “She is a superstar and a future Olympian for sure,” Statesboro coach Eric Heffner said.

Soccer (boys)

Finn Jacobson, Atlanta International: The 6-foot-2 senior forward/striker scored a state-best 51 goals and had 15 assists (averaging 2.6 goals and 5.9 points per game) in leading Atlanta International to the Class A Division I championship. It was the Eagles’ second state title in three years and the third overall. Jacobson, who played soccer all four years at the school, is an American/German dual citizen who is fluent in English and German. He will play college soccer at Emory.

Soccer (girls)

Hannah Faklaris, Marist: Faklaris, a natural center back who played center forward because of team needs and struggled with a knee injury in the playoffs, had 16 goals and three assists to help the War Eagles win their 12th state title. She scored three goals in a 4-3 victory over Roswell in the Class 6A final, including the tying goal with 90 seconds left in regulation and the game-winner in overtime. Faklaris, who also won a state title in basketball, signed to play soccer at the University of San Diego.

Softball (fast-pitch)

Madison Pickens, Buford: The senior catcher/outfielder set school records with a .609 batting average and 20 home runs in leading the Wolves to a 32-0 record and their second consecutive state championship. She also drove in 52 runs, stole 18 bases and had a .660 on-base percentage and 1.402 slugging percentage. She was named the Class 7A player of the year by the Georgia Dugout Club and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. Pickens signed to play softball at Louisville.

Softball (slow-pitch)

Emily Pettit, Creekview: The junior outfielder hit .490 with a .918 slugging percentage and had seven doubles, four triples, two home runs, 22 RBIs and 20 runs scored for the all-classification state championship team. She also threw out three runners at home plate and robbed two home runs. Pettit was 2-for-2 with two walks, three RBIs and two runs scored in a 14-3 victory over Jefferson in the state final and hit .600 in the playoffs. She committed to play fast-pitch softball at Reinhardt.

Swimming (boys)

Baylor Stanton, Brookwood: The sophomore won individual titles in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke and was a member of relay teams that finished first (400 freestyle) and second (200 IM) at the Class 7A meet for the Broncos, who finished third in the team standings. He set a state record in the 200 IM with a time of 1:44.74 in winning the event for the second consecutive season. Stanton is ranked by Swimcloud as the No. 1 sophomore and No. 3 overall swimmer in Georgia.

Swimming (girls)

Katie Christopherson, Westminster: The senior set GHSA records in winning individual titles in the 200 IM (1:55.46) and 100 breaststroke (59.91) at the Class 4A-5A meet and was part of two winning relay teams (400 freestyle, 200 IM) as Westminster dominated for its seventh consecutive state title. Her leg of 48.59 in the 400 free relay bettered a record held by Amanda Weir for 20 years. Christopherson, ranked No. 1 in Georgia and No. 8 nationally by Swimcloud, signed to swim at Virginia.

Tennis (boys)

Charlie Burdell, Westminster: Burdell finished his stellar career by going 22-0 at No. 1 singles and helping the Wildcats win their fourth consecutive state championship. Westminster didn’t lose a match at any position during its five-round playoff run. Burdell had a career record of 66-5 in singles play, mostly in the top spot. He was also the AJC player of the year in 2022. Burdell signed to play tennis at Tulane.

Tennis (girls)

Hayden Mulberry, Walton: Mulberry finished her senior season undefeated and completed her high school career with an unblemished 82-0 record at No. 1 singles. She helped the Raiders win three state championships (2021, 2022, 2023) during her tenure. The Raiders lost in the semifinals to eventual champion West Forsyth this season. She is a four-time AJC girls tennis player of the year. Mulberry will play tennis at the University of Georgia.

Track and field (boys)

Maurice Gleaton Jr., Hughes: The junior won individual titles in the 100 meters (10.31) and 200 meters (20.89) and was part of winning relay teams in the 4x100 (40.95) and 4x200 (1:25.84) at the Class 6A meet to solidify his reputation as Georgia’s top sprinter. He helped lead the Panthers to their second consecutive team title and second in school history. Gleaton, a three-star wide receiver prospect on the Panthers’ football team, is aiming to compete in track and football at the collegiate level.

Track and field (girls)

Sanaa and Sole Frederick, Druid Hills: The twin sisters concluded their varsity careers with photo finishes and state records that helped the program earn a runner-up finish in Class 4A. Sanaa and Sole took first and second place in the 100 meters with 11.444 and 11.446 marks. In the 200 meters, both sisters broke Sanaa’s 2023 meet record of 23.39, with Sanaa clocking a 23.16 and Sole finishing second at 23.32. They also led the 4x100 relay (45.24) and 4x400 relay (3:54.20) teams to first-place finishes. Both sisters signed to run at Georgia next season.


Grace Agolli, Pace Academy: The 6-foot-2 senior setter and right-side hitter had 389 kills, 362 assists, 47 aces and 52 blocks for a 37-3 team that won its seventh consecutive state championship and finished No. 5 in MaxPreps’ national rankings. She was the Class 4A player of the year and was named first-team All-American by MaxPreps and the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Agolli, who had more than 1,000 assists and 1,000 kills in her career, signed to play volleyball at California.


Dominic Bambinelli, Mill Creek: The junior completed a 41-1 season when he won the 175-pound individual title in Class 7A at the traditional state meet. It was the third state championship for Bambinelli, who won the 7A title at 152 pounds as a freshman and 165 pounds as a sophomore. He has a three-year record of 133-3. He is the No. 11 wrestler nationally in his weight class, according to FloWrestling. Mill Creek finished in fourth place at both the duals and traditional state meets.

- Stan Awtrey, Todd Holcomb, Adam Krohn and Score Atlanta contributed to this article.