Tom Leach's 2014 All-Resilient Team, powered by Kentucky National Guard Career Opportunities

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Jasper Bowling / South Laurel HSJasper's coach calls him the hardest-working player she's ever coached. Jasper plays soccer at South Laurel despite having lost half of his right arm and playing with a left leg and foot that lacks an ankle bone and four toes. Jasper, who was adopted out of an orphanage in China at age four, wins universal praise for his passion and work ethic on the soccer pitch, as well as in the classroom.
Willie Burton / Fairdale HSA severe case of cerebral palsy keeps Willie in a wheelchair, preventing him from being able to walk and limiting the use of his right arm. But this has not kept Willie from participating in wrestling for his school for four years. He says the people who told him it was impossible just inspired him even more and a phrase tattooed on his left forearm says it all--"what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." On senior night, with seconds left in his final match, Willie maneuvered his opponent into position to claim his first victory, setting off a joyous celebration and prompting ESPN to make plans to tell Willie's story in one of its E-60 segments.
Emma Conley / Bracken County HSIn the summer after her freshman year in 2011, Conley was diagnosed with epilepsy. At first, she wanted to keep it secret but taunts by others unaware of her condition prompted Emma to open up about the disease and she shared her story with the whole school and community, in part to inspire a younger brother who also suffers from epilepsy. Emma has been the starting point guard for the Bracken County basketball team and is a top-notch pitcher for the softball team, earning all-region honors in both sports. She hopes to continue her athletic career in college this fall.
Macye Davis / Webster County HS Last fall, Macye was a rising star for her high school golf team but she was involved in a serious automobile accident. She suffered a broken foot but a month later, doctors cleared her to play again and using a walking boot, Macye was able to participate with her team in the regional tournament. Her coach says her drive and competitive spirit served as an inspiration to her team.
Devonte Duncan / Meade County HS Devonte missed his junior year with the football and wrestling teams at Meade County when he suffered a factured vertebrae in his neck during a practice on the gridiron. While unable to play, Devonte remained involved with his teams and provided leadership from the sidelines. Last fall, he was cleared to return and helped lead Meade County to the Class 6A state title game in football and he was able to get back on the wrestling mat as well. Through it all, Devonte has remained a straight-A student in the classroom.
Hayley Emmerich / Calvary Christian HS A serious ankle injury sidelined Hayley in late 2012. She tore a ligament that is similar to the ACL in a knee and was told that without surgery, she might not be able to play sports again. After the operation, she wore a protective boot for four months but Hayley battled back and was once again able to return to her soccer and basketball teams as a senior this past season. And as a further tribute to her resilient spirit, Hayley missed much of her sophomore seasons with a bad case of pneumonia.
Dylan Ferguson / Bullitt East HS Dylan is a fighter both on the football field and in the classroom. He has epitomized this quality through his battle with dyslexia. When Dylan entered high school, he was reading at an elementary school level but he has worked hard to improve, to the point that has academically qualified to continue his football days at the college level for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Dylan is a three-year starter at offensive tackle and this past season, he served as a co-captain, earned all-state recognition and participated in the Blue-Grey All-Star game in Tampa.
Alli Fuqua / Marshall County HS Within a span of about two weeks, Alli was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and then suffered a serious knee injury. This came on the heels of a sophomore season in which she was part of a school-record setting 4-by-200 meter relay team and another relay team that qualified for the state meet. Alli worked hard to rehab the knee injury while also undergoing treatment for the cancer and she is back competing with the track team this spring and she also gave a presentation to a church conference in Memphis of a paper she wrote about her experiences.
Madison Johnston / Hopkins County Central HS While in middle school, Madison became the starting third baseman for a regional champion softball team at her school. Before her freshman year, she injured her shoulder diving into a base. She had two surgeries over two years and finally was able to return as a soccer player before the shoulder issue flared up again, requiring yet another surgery. Madison is serving as a student assistant coach for the softball team this spring and hopes to return to the diamond for her senior year.
Chris Lattimore / Walton-Verona HS Not all adversity is physical. For Chris, his time at Walton-Verona has coincided with much turmoil in his personal life, as his mother has come in and out of his life, meaning he has had to live with two different families through his high school years. Through the upheaval, Chris has maintained a positive outlook, worked hard in the classroom and been a standout football player, rushing for almost 900 yards, averaging 15 yards-per-catch and making 80 tackles on defense. Chris set a school record with 33 touchdowns and he did all this while maintaining a part-time job.
Tyus Lewis / Washington County HS At birth, Tyus suffered a stroke, affecting his speech as well as his right arm and right leg. Tyus fought to regain the use of those limbs and by the time he reached high school, Tyus decided he wanted to play football. His coach wasn't what to expect but Tyus has not missed a single practice, makes no excuses and he is a two-year letterman for the Washington County football team. Commanders coach Sagrecy calls Tyus "one of the bravest" kids he's ever had in his program.
James Mason / Anderson County HS A swimmer with a shoulder injury faces a tough obstacle in bouncing back but James overcame a completely torn labrum to qualify for the regional this season. Last summer, doctors told James he would be out of the pool until the new year but he pushed himself through therapy to return by November's meets. The injury kept him from duplicating the times he had previously posted but by the time of the regional, James was able to post a personal best for the season. James plans to attend Western Kentucky University this fall and will also enlist in the National Guard.
Stuart Mills / Mayfield HS In the fall of 2010, Stuart tore the ACL in a knee in a game at Paducah Tilghman. Two years later, he was back on that same field, rushing for 189 yards on 39 carries. Stuart has played a key role on teams that have won back-to-back Class A state championships. And Mills is also an outstanding baseball player for Mayfield as well.
Kinsey Morrison / St. Francis HS At age five, Kinsey was diagnosed with a plastic anemia and given just a few weeks to live. She beat the odds, for the first of several times. Kinsey underwent a bone marrow transplant, overcame a life-threatening heart ailment and then dealt with Graves' disease, which included thyroid radiation--all of this before she became a teenager. Now, Kinsey has played four years of field hockey and served two years as a captain for the St. Francis team and runs mini-marathons. She's also a motivational speaker, participates in student government and excels in the classroom.
Ashton Pennington / Henry County HS Ashton had to overcome not one but two major knee injuries, one on each side, to play basketball for Henry County High School. Rehabilitation can be a grueling and sometimes lonely process but Ashton battled back to rank among the top scorers and rebounders for her team last season as a senior and her coach says she is one of the most resilient players he has ever coached.
Tee Salinas / North Oldham HS Tee provided the highlight of the North Oldham High basketball season, when he scored his first career basket. Tee has been involved with the North Oldham team as a manager since the sixth grade and he was rewarded for his loyalty by getting to be a starting player for his final game. His performance in that senior night game went viral on You Tube. Tee also ended up on ESPN's Sportscenter show and the team awarded him the game ball. And did we mention that Tee has Down syndrome?
Matt Sallee / Henry County HS Matt was born without any bones in the lower part of his right leg and the limb was amputated below the knee when he was a baby. Since he was a toddler, Matt has used a prosthetic to get around. Last season, as a freshman, Matt suited up for the Henry County High football team, in the offensive and defensive lines,. and he participates in field events for the track team. Matt is also tackling his offseason workout program with his trademark tenacity. At last count, Matt had increased his bench press to 270 pounds
Ryan Tolliver / Raceland HS Ryan was diagnosed with a detached retina in his right eye in 2011 and he has four different surgeries on that eye. The operations also led to problems with scar tissue and cataracts in the eye and vision that is described as "distorted.". Last season, as a senior, Ryan was the starting catcher for the Raceland High baseball team, with a fielding percentage of point-938, and he is now a freshman at the University of Kentucky, studying civil engineering
Nicole Upchurch / Somerset HS Nicole developed into a standout soccer player while also battling a rare form of cancer that caused her to lose one of her fingers and face issues with her lungs. When her teammates began preparing for the season last summer, senior-to-be Nicole was undergoing treatment in a hospital. She returned to her team and scored a goal in her first game back and she kept playing while taking regular shots of chemotherapy.
Phillip Vandeveer / DeSales HS As a freshman, Phillip lost his father to a heart condition, a man with whom Phillip had just recently had a chance to develop a close relationship. Less than a month later, the uncle who had helped raise Phillip since the second grade, also died. Through two tragic losses in a short time span, Phillip's resilient spirit shined through. At one point, there was a father-son banquet for which Phillip had many volunteers to accompany him but he chose to go alone as a show of support for a teammate who had recently lost his father. Phillip was a four-year player for the DeSales football team and helped lead his team to its first state championship last fall.
Clint Walker / Central Hardin HS Clint has battled both physical and emotional adversity in order to play football for Central Hardin. First, there were three different major knee injuries but Clint was able to battle back and start the next 25 games in a row for his team. Just before his junior year, both of Clint's parents were killed and yet he continued to thrive on the gridiron and in the classroom, displaying an amazingly resilient spirit.
Kadison Warren / Hart County HS An accident involving a four-wheeler caused Kadison to lose part of her right leg, below the knee, as an eighth-grader. But she was undeterred and with the use of an artificial limb, Kadison was able to secure a spot on her high school soccer team, as well as perform with the band. She had not missed a practice or a game since being cleared to return to the field and her coach says she serves as an inspiration and does so with a consistently positive attitude. And it's worth noting that it was a rival coach familiar with the All-Resilient project who was inspired to nominate Kadison.
Jayne Yocum / Frankfort HS Jayne was born with a rare tumor in her brain and last spring, the tumor triggered a form of epilepsy that led to numerous physical issues and long hospital stays. Last summer, the tumor was removed and this past winter, she was a starting forward on the Frankfort High basketball team, earning 11th Region All 'A' Tournament honors along the way. Jayne also served as co-captain of the volleyball team and she participates in both tennis and track, too--all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA.

2013 All Resilient Team

Molly HendricksHenderson County High School
Alicia KalbfieischMercy Academy
Tyler SmithWarren East High School
Jordon MeltonLeslie County High School
Lance EvansRussell High School
Kyle GehringWayne County High School
Austin CrookMadisonville-North Hopkins High School
Buddy JacksonGraves County High School
Whitney FosterduPont Manual High School
Drew SwartzMenifee County High School
Elliott PorterDanville High School
Haley ClarkBath County High School
Katie JohnsonHarlan County High School
Savannah AndersonLewis County High School
Kylie HilanderBourbon County High School
Roger RoseMadison Southern High School
Sydney Brooke ChiricoPaintsville High School
Mark HeuserOwen County High School
Madison GoochMontgomery County High School
Joel WardleFairview High School
Zenon "Jay" RodriguezPaducah Tilghman High School
Sydney ClarkFrankfort High School

2012 All Resilient Team

Rebekah BoonePowell County High School
Kevin CarricoSimon Kenton High School
Dalton ChappellBullitt East High School
C.J. DotsonPhelps High School
Adam ElkinsNorth Oldham High School
Cassidy DubreeRaceland High School
Rob HillCampbell County High School
Shavon MajorsBurgin High School
Corey MivelazThe Academy High School
Mohamed Musa St. Francis High School
Jacob RaleighLetcher County Central High School
Carly Jo Ryan Holy Cross High School
Dominic VancleveGeorge Rogers Clark High School
Kasi WatsonJohnson Central High School
Brittany WhitsonSilver Grove High School

2011 All Resilient Team

Chance AnthonyBreckinridge County High School
Calvin BrentFern Creek High School
Josh BroylesBoyle County High School
Meredith BuddeAtherton High School
Jacob ClarkNorth Oldham High School
Cassidy DubreeWarren East High School
Josh DuckworthWebster County High School
Joe ElamBourbon County High School
Caleb ErvinUnion County High School
Chance GillespieMarion County High School
Wes HopkinsNicholas County High School
Ryan LloydBishop Brossart High School
Eric MayOwensboro Catholic High School
Leslee PooleHenderson County High School
Samantha StallingsSacred Heart Academy
Morgan TurnerTates Creek High School
Heather WheelerSt. Henry High School
Sarah WheelerSt. Henry High School
Taylor ZubererduPont Manual High School

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"Resiliency" is one of the foundation concepts of athletic competition at any level. And the notion of recovery from a setback, i.e. adversity, is something we all must encounter at some point in our lives. The 2010-11 Kentucky basketball team did not have any phyiscal setbacks but they did encounter numerous obstacles and coach John Calipari's squad showed amazing resiliency in reaching the Final Four. Our soldiers must embrace the need for "resiliency" in situations that sometimes might mean the difference between life and death.

Our "All-Resilient Team, powered by National Guard Career Opportunities," celebrates high school male and female student-athletes who overcome adversity on their path to success. It might be an injury, a disability, a difficult family or health circumstance--something that puts an obstacle in their path that might derail someone who is less resilient.

We are presently seeking a nominee from each Kentucky high school. The student-athlete should have competed in the 2011 calendar year. Nominees should be directed to: The deadline for making nominations is March 9, 2012.

A team of 19 young male and female student-athletes was been chosen for the first All-Resilient Team, from high schools all across the state of Kentucky. The team was honored at the Kentucky high school athletic directors' annual meeting on April 28, 2011 in Louisville and we are making plans currently to honor our next All-Resilient Team at that same event. --Tom Leach

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