BY MELANIE BUCK –
Longtime Coach and Athletic Director, Ken Marshall, was honored at the 2015 Mena Sports Awards and Recognition Banquet on Tuesday, May 26. The banquet was hosted by Bearcat Foundation, Incorporated and was held in the Mena High School Cafeteria before the crowd moved into the Performing Arts Center for the awards ceremony. Many athletes were recognized and awarded for their hard work, dedication, and determination, all proven by the amazing year the athletic program has had.
Bearcat Foundation’s P.T. Plunkett took the stage first to welcome the crowd. “It’s a good time to celebrate a great sports year at Mena High School,” said Plunkett. He also listed some of the ways that BFI has benefitted Mena Schools this year including new weights in the Field House, two Vertamax machines for basketball, new baseball equipment, new sound system at Bearcat Stadium, and the Ladycats’ State Champion volleyball rings. Plunkett added, “Nothing is happening because of one person, one board, or one group, it takes everybody. Collectively we’ve rewritten expectations. People in the rest of the state look at the Bearcats and Ladycats as the jewel of academics and athletics in Western Arkansas.”
Athletic Director Tim Harper listed some of the accomplishments made in the last year by both boys and girls teams. They include:
* 2014 7-4A Volleyball Conference Champs
* In 2014, Mena hosted a home playoff football game for the first time since 1996, and they not only hosted one, they hosted four.
* 2014 4A State Volleyball Champions
* 2014 4A State Runner-Up in Football
* 2015 7-4A Conference Champions in Softball
* 2015 Regional Champions in Softball
* 2015 Meet of Champions, State Champion Zack Jewell in Long Jump
* 2015 Class 4A State Runner-Up in Weightlifting
* Top 14 Finishes in State Boys and Girls Track
* 2015 4A State Champion in Softball
The first awards of the evening were given in football. The Mena Bearcats ended their season with a record of 12-3, tied the school record for number of wins, broke the school record with the most points scored in a season, and also broke a school record playing 8 winning games on their home field.
Several members of the team were made All-Conference in 7-4A. They were Luke Bowser, David Hatfield, Justin Castor, Ross Graves, Robert Doty, Brady Davis, Zane Sherrer, Greg Craig, Jared Flemens, D’Wayn Grinder, Jackson Daugherty, Garrett Smith, David Goodner, and Kevin Harris.
Jackson Daugherty made the All Arkansas Prep Team. Jackson had over 100 tackles in 3 years, 1150 yards rushing, over 1000 yards receiving, over 30 touchdowns to which Harper said was bound to be a school record.
Sage Kesterson was awarded All-State. Sage rushed for over 1100 yards and passed for over 3000 yards, and 26 touchdowns with 12 touchdowns rushing, and also broke school records.
Players voted for their favorite offensive and defensive players. Garrett Smith was given the Offensive Player Award and Colton Hendricks received the Defensive Player Award.
The William G. Spencer Award for the Most Outstanding Football Player was awarded to Sage Kesterson and Jackson Daugherty. Harper said it was just too hard to decide between the two.
Coach Brad Lyle was on hand to give out the Ladycat Volleyball Awards. Coach Lyle said, “It’s amazing what’s happened here and it’s not over.” Coach Lyle also told a story of Coach Wright asking an applying coach, ‘why Mena?’ To which the applicant said, “Mena is where most people in the state like to be.” Coach Lyle also stressed that with his girls, “it wasn’t about individual stats, it was about one team with one dream.”
Out of six slots open in the conference for the All-Conference team, Mena got an impressive four of those slots. Brooke Hines, Daryan Torix, Bailey Bunch, and Rachael Wood were chosen for those slots.
Rachael Wood, Bailey Bunch, and Daryan Torix were chosen for All-State. Daryan was also selected as MVP of the State Championship Game and was chosen on 1st Team for Arkansas Preps, making her one of the top six in the state. Rachael Wood was also chosen for the All-Star game to be played in June.
The Ladycat Volleyball awards voted on by teammates were: Best Setter Award given to Brooke Hines. Best Hitter Award was received by Daryan Torix. Bailey Bunch was given the Best Passer Award and Macy Brotherton got the Best Blocker Award.
Coach Scott Wright passed out the Ladycat Basketball Awards. All 7-4A Conference 1st Team, Jacquelyn Johnson; 2nd Team, Macy Brotherton and Madeline Brotherton; and Honorable Mention, Brooke Hines, Kenzie Spurgin, Keeley Jones, and Samantha Pearson.
Best Offensive Award went to Jacquelyn Johnson and Macy Brotherton. Jacquelyn also received the Best Defensive Award and the Elks Girls Basketball Award.
The Boys Basketball Awards were given by Coach Aaron O’Brien. All 7-4A Conference 1st Team, Drew O’Brien; 2nd Team, Zak Terwilliger and Sage Kesterson; Honorable Mention, Jarrett Clibrey.
Best Offensive Award was given to Sage Kesterson. Kaleb Posey received the Best Defensive Award and Brandon Sibbett was awarded the Elks Boys Basketball Award.
Bearcat Baseball awards were given by Coach Pete Rose. 7-4A All-Star Nominee and 1st Team All-Conference was Kelly Jo Miller; 2nd Team All-Conference, Bronson Castillo, Jackson Daugherty, Brandon Fields, and Seth Puckett.
Coach Kevin Bledsoe gave the Ladycat Soccer awards. The girls qualified for the State Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. McKenna Law received All-Star; Brooke Hastey received All-State, and All-Conference went to Emali Bilderbeck Abbi Goodner, Katelin Haines, and Sara Hamalainen.
Bearcat Soccer Awards were given by Coach Craig Bentley. Colten McDaniel and Nick Kjelguarrd (exchange student from Denmark who had never played soccer until this year), received 1st Team All-Conference; Justin Castor, David Hatfield, and Taylor Medlin received 2nd Team; and Zane Sherrer was awarded All-State.
Coach Lantz Castleman was the girls’ Track Coach this year. Abbie Smith received All 7-4A Conference in the 800 meter, 1600 meter, and the 3200 meter. Abbie set the conference meet record in the 800 meter, as a sophomore. Sara Hamalainen was also awarded All 7-4A Conference in the 400 meter.
State Track Meet qualifiers were Taylor Harper, Evelyn Smith, Samantha England, Brooke Hastey, Sara Hamalainen, and Abbie Smith.
Coach Aaron Pennington coached the boys track team this year. Zach Jewell has been a break-out track athlete, dominating his field in all divisions and classifications. Zach received All-State, All Arkansas Prep, All 7-4A Conference in the 100 meter, 200 meter, Triple Jump, and Long Jump. Zach was also the High Point winner in five different track meets including the District Meet where he set the meet record in the 100 meter. Zach has set school records in all of these events.
State Track Meet qualifiers were Clint Buck, Anthony Kennedy, Cody Reed, and Landon Stidman.
Coach Ray Hunter awarded his Ladycat Softball team. He began his speech by saying, “All I can say is WOW!” The Ladycats had an impressive season. Macy Brotherton, Daryan Torix, and Jordan Ward were named to the All-State Tourney Team. Jordan was also named MVP of the State Championship Game. All-Conference was awarded to Jordan Ward, Bailey Bunch, and Kenzie Spurgin. All-District was given to Lexi Hansard, Daryan Torix, Macy Brotherton, Lexi Brooks, Kristen Kesterson, and Honorable Mention went to Madeline Brotherton.
Bailey Bunch was also named an All-Star Team Player.
Being State Champion coaches, Coach Brad Lyle and Coach Ray Hunter were chosen as Conference Coaches of the Year in volleyball and softball, respectively.
Many of the seniors were awarded their Seven Athletic Letters, meaning they are multi-sport athletes. Jackson Daugherty, Lexi Hansard, McKenna Law, Ashley Philpot, Seth Puckett, Zane Sherrer, and Dexter Ward were all recipients. Bailey Bunch and Morgan Ashley were given impressive Nine Athletic Letter awards.
Senior plaques were also given to Morgan Ashley, Shane Atchley, Luke Bowser, Bailey Bunch, Leea Carver, Justin Castor, Greg Craig, Kendall Crutchfield, Jackson Daugherty, Brandon Fields, Carissa Gordon, Abbie Goodner, Katelin Haines, Lexi Hansard, Kevin Harris, Brooke Hastey, Colton Hendricks, Nick Holmes, Dustin Horn, Shauna Horner, Jacquelyn Johnson, Sage Kesterson, Lorenna Lara, McKenna Law, Jami Miller, Kelly Jo Miller, Samantha Pearson, Ethan Peters, Madison Pettigrew, Ashley Philpot, Luisa Pinheiro, Seth Puckett, Nathan Rhodes, Zane Sherrer, Garrett Smith, Dexter Ward, and Rachael Wood.
The Ladycat Award is given by Karlene Hooker. The award is not given every year, but only when she sees a Ladycat who goes the extra mile, shows CATS skills (Courage, Attitude, Toughness, and Success), and has outstanding integrity, dedication, and determination. Lexi Hansard was awarded the Ladycat Award for 2015.
Kelly Jo Miller was awarded the Orville David McMellon Award. The Frank Mosley Award for the Most Outstanding Senior Girl Athlete went to Bailey Bunch and the James Copher Award for the Most Outstanding Senior Boy Athlete went to Sage Kesterson.
This year’s athletic scholarship recipients were also recognized. They are: Lexi Hansard and Bailey Bunch, both signing for softball, and football signees, Sage Kesterson, Jackson Daugherty, Colton Hendricks, Luke Bowser, and Justin Castor.
The night was ended by honoring Ken Marshall, longtime coach and athletic director. Coach Tim Harper said, “We are saddened by this but excited for him and Mrs. Kathy at the same time.” Marshall is retiring and was received by a standing ovation while making his way to the stage. He gave a short, but emotional speech and said he looks forward to spending time with his family and that he had a lot of good times while working for Mena Public Schools.