A reprint from the Cleveland Journal. Pictured above: Softball players Vicki Ly, left, Fiona Clayton and head coach Rebecca Williams Leach cheer after their team is announced as a nominee for Team of the Year. Photo by Mauricio Vasquez.
After making it to the district tournament for the first time in Cleveland’s history, the Eagles softball team was named Team of the Year at the 2nd Annual Talon Awards, an all-sports banquet honoring Cleveland’s student-athletes.
Athletes and their families, along with coaches and their assistants, filled the gym, which was decorated with balloons and banners. A buffet barbecue dinner was served.
Media teacher Teresa Scribner and athletic director Jon Hughes organized the event, which is modeled after ESPN’s Espy Awards, with categories like Male and Female Athlete of the Year, Comeback Athlete of the Year and Fan Favorite.
For the Breakout Performance category, there was no shortage of talent. Six athletes were nominated; they all took home awards.
Kezia Cook was one of the nominees for her stellar softball season. Although this was her first time playing the sport, Cook put up a solid performance on the field. She said the hardest part of the sport was actually learning how to play.
“There were a lot of rules that I didn’t understand,” she said.
Cook felt good after winning because all the hard work and support from her teammates and coaches did not go to waste.
Other nominees for Breakthrough Performance were Liann Tran, Matthew Dietz, Martrez Darden, Ciera Davis, and Angus Vlasaty.
Duel-sport Athlete Breona Devers was a big winner for the night. She took home the award for Best Female Athlete and was a member of the softball team, who took home Team of the Year honors. Devers was also the winner of the Talon Award’s highest honor: Most Valuable Eagle.
“I feel special because they recognized me, even though I wasn’t looking to be recognized,” Devers said.
According to softball coach Rebecca Williams Leach, it was Devers’ contributions off the field that made her an MVE.
“Breona has served on the Athletes for Social Justice Committee, she is a captain of both the basketball and softball teams and she is the model of leadership, responsibility, and integrity for every athlete in our programs,” Williams Leach wrote in her nomination.
Devers shared MVE honors with Daniel Hamilton. According to Scribner, the three-sport assistant coach was a no-brainer.
“Dan coaches wrestling; he coaches track and cross country,” Scribner said. “The fact that he also helps out in the computer science classes was just the icing on the cake. He had to win.”
Hamilton appeared shocked when his name was called.
“It’s really surprising,” he said. “It caught me off guard, but it’s a huge honor.”
Although there were many individual nominees, there was no shortage when it came to the awards dedicated to teams. Girls golf took home the Scholar Team award and boys Ultimate Frisbee was crowned Fan Favorite based on an online vote. Girls Ultimate came in second in the voting.
Junior Molly House and senior Aram Gould tied for Athlete of the Year, while Dominic Jacobs was named Male Athlete of the Year. Freshman Jadyn Smiley was named Freshman Athlete of the Year. She has been playing softball since she was little, and said athletes should never give up.
“Keep coming back, come to all the practices, put in all your effort, all your time, and I promise you, you’ll get to your achievements and you’ll do big things,” she said.
The nominees were selected by coaches then narrowed down by a select group who worked directly or closely with sports programs at the school. According to Scribner, the nomination process was a difficult one.
“We try to give the coaches enough time to evaluate their players and submit nominations, but we really need them in the voting room advocating for their players to win,” she said.
Scribner said the process took so long that the trophies were not ordered in time for the ceremony. Winners received certificates and trophies were handed out at a later date.
Staff reporter Katrina Nguyen contributed to the reporting of this story.