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IMHO: Athletes of the Year section, banquet fruit of a school year’s labor

  • Valley News sports editor Greg Fennell talks with Hartford Athletes of the Year recipients Abayomi Lowe and Kennedy Mullen during the AOY banquet in West Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Campbell McCorkle, looks over the Athletes of the Year supplement during the Valley News AOY banquet in West Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Her sister Maddie McCorkle is Hanover's AOY. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Newport Athlete of the Year Selena Coronis, center, talks with her father Brian Coronis, left and Newport coach Steve Christensen at the start of the AOY banquet on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 in West Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Christine Slocum records her son Robert Slocum during the Valley News Athletes of the Year banquet in West Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Robert Slosum a senior at Windsor High School played baseball, basketball and footbal this past school year. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 6/29/2019 10:11:22 PM
Modified: 6/29/2019 10:17:34 PM

I dread May. And not because it’s the tail end of mud season.

The Valley News has produced an Athletes of the Year supplement the last five years, honoring one male and one female athlete from each of the 17 public high schools we cover. The work really begins in August with the start of fall sports, but by May we have two seasons of results (and part of a third), with compiled statistics and stories from which to begin deliberations.

May also signals the final high school tournament campaign. We pile on Athlete of the Year responsibilities on top of regular work, then cram that onto a reduced staff and early sports page deadlines. It’s easily the most stressful time of our year.

Then dinner night arrives. And I get a fresh reminder of why we started Athlete of the Year in the first place.

Almost 130 people — athletes, coaches, administrators and family members — joined us for Tuesday’s awards dinner at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon. Of the 34 athletes we chose to honor, 28 made the evening. That’s a pretty good turnout, and very gratifying.

Beyond that were the many new things I learned about the athletes we selected, each of whom came up on stage with me for a short interview before receiving their plaque. With so many schools, teams and teenagers involved, it’s impossible to know these people as deeply as we might, so the new discoveries were fun and welcome.

Some cases in point:

■Sharon Academy runner Laila Reimanis has more to train than just herself. She’s a competitive equestrian as well. As much effort as she’s expending on the road this summer, she’s also investing time in her horses because they’re athletes and need to build up for their events as well, she explained.

■Stevens High bowler Ian Fitzpatrick, who dominated the New Hampshire lanes in leading the Cardinals to their first state team championship last winter, admitted he picked up the sport because it was a source of intra-family rivalry. He also credited an older brother with being an inspiration, but he didn’t completely commit to which of them was the better bowler now.

■Newport’s Selena Coronis was the second member of her family to be selected as an Athlete of the Year; older brother Spencer was part of the inaugural group five years ago. He did his portrait for the print supplement dressed for golf, the sport in which he led the Tigers to a state crown. Asked about the state of her golf game, Selena grinned and said, “You don’t want to see that.”

■Windsor’s Robert Slocum won five state championships over three sports (basketball, baseball, football) during his four years, but he’ll concentrate on baseball at Norwich University next year. His position with the Cadets: “P.O.,” he acknowledged. That’s “pitcher only” for the uninitiated. Not a bad call for someone who struck out 16 batters in his last high school game.

■Oxbow track standout Jarret Rock excels as a sprinter, with VPA Division III state championship wins in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash at states. Longer distances, however, don’t come quite as easily, which he realized when trying to compete in the recent Vermont state decathlon meet.

It’s become a rarer circumstance that an Upper Valley high school star gets a chance at NCAA Division I competition, but several of this year’s honorees will. Oxbow softball pitcher Maddie Fornwalt will join at the ground floor when Merrimack College moves to the D-I Northeast Conference later this year. Hanover soccer standout Charlie Adams has a spot waiting for him at Brown University next year. Hartford sprint star Abayomi Lowe plans to land a walk-on spot on the Bears’ track and field team; with multiple state titles and school records, I wouldn’t bet against him.

Then there’s Hanover athlete Maddie McCorkle. It’s been no secret for about two years that she would be heading to Duke University for women’s lacrosse in 2020. But she’s also one of the key elements of the Marauders’ girls basketball program, which rolled to an NHIAA Division II state championship last winter and will get a large chunk of the roster back for a repeat run next winter.

Some athletes might back off multiple sports with an Atlantic Coast Conference future in their sights. McCorkle won’t, although she confessed it will be a bittersweet ending when her senior Hanover hoop season closes, regardless of result.

The statistics we accumulate — with the considerable help and forbearance of our high school coaches — only serve as the foundation of our Athlete of the Year selections. We consult coaches and administrators, as they’re the ones who see these folks day in and day out, and later debate amongst ourselves who our selections will be.

Tuesday night was the culmination. The month of May might terrorize us with the amount of work that has to be done, but June’s banquet night left an element of satisfaction as I watched our honorees gather for one group photograph for family and friends.

Thank you, all of you.

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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