The top high School athletes and teams from across WNC were recognized over the weekend at the 61st WNC Sports Awards Banquet, at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
More than 100 of WNC’s top student-athletes are invited to the banquet. Finalists for the awards and scholarship recipients are selected each year from nominations from WNC coaches and athletic directors, who received their nomination forms in March.
The banquet, first held in 1959 and conducted by the Mountain Amateur Athletic Club, honors the area’s top high school athletes and teams with 24 awards, 20 scholarships, the Riley Howell Courage Award and a Special Olympics Scholarship.
Aniyah Sampson, an incredible nine-year old girl from Cherokee was posthumously awarded the Fourth annual Riley Howell Courage Award. Sampson was diagnosed with and beat cancer on two different occasions all before her 10th birthday. However, Sampson passed away earlier this year after her third diagnosis of cancer, this time in her brain.
In addition to Sampson, other athletes from Swain and Macon County were amongst the winners Sunday night.
Swain High School Women’s Outdoor Track and Field received the Mills Manufacturing Division II Female Team Olympic Sport and Matthew Gray from Swain was named the Tara and Frank Burdette Division II Male Athlete Olympic Sport award winner.
Franklin High School also finished the night with several wins with Blake Cassada being named the winner of the Massasoit of North Carolina, Inc. Division I Male Athlete Olympic Sport winner and Boston Stringer being named the First Citizens Bank Division I Female Athlete Olympic Sport winner. The Franklin High School Indoor Track and Field team was named the Rodeway Inn & Suites Division I male team Olympic Sport winner.
In addition to the night’s awards, several local athletes walked away with scholarships to support them during the next step of their education. Scholarship winners include Israel Jackson of Franklin and Amelia Rogers of Swain.