An inspiring collection of 16 young men and women from across the commonwealth of Kentucky make up the 2022 edition of the tomleachky.com All-Resilient Team. They are saluted for their ability to handle adversity in their quest to excel or even just compete in their sports
"First, we should note that every student-athlete gets honorable mention status on this team for their resiliency in facing the most unusual set of circumstances for the past year. But these nominees faced additional obstacles and as is always the case, their stories are so inspiring," said Tom Leach, voice of the Kentucky Wildcats, who oversees this annual project along with Mackenzie Hanes of Midway University.
Nominations are sought from high school athletic directors and the team is honored at the annual KHSADA awards banquet each spring. With the pandemic, that banquet was not staged last year and will be a virtual event this year but the All-Resilient Team members still received their commemorative posters plus other awards in 2021 and will do so again in 2022.
The student-athletes are also recognized via 'salutes' on 'The Leach Report' radio show's statewide network. The awards and the radio spots are made possible by longtime sponsors Keeneland, GameOne Sports, Welch Printing and Star Manufacturing.
Zach Brooks, Owen County
Zach was a four-year starter on the offensive line for Owen County HS. He was elected captain by his teammates and was a two-time all-conference selection and made the all-district squad as well. Midway through his senior season, Zach was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma and had to immediately begin a regimen of chemotherapy treatments. He maintained a weekly connection with his team through pregame Zoom sessions and kept a positive attitude that inspired his teammates and the community.
Makayla Clark, Raceland
At age 16, Makayla was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease known as Systemic Sclerosis, which affects her digestive system. She ended up being hospitalized for malnutrition before doctors could get a handle on it. Makayla eventually returned to join the track and volleyball teams at Raceland. She qualified for the state track and field meet in high jump and made the all-district team for volleyball, all while achieving at a high level academically.
Chloe Cook, Allen County-Scottsville
The covid-19 virus hit some much harder than others and Chloe had to fight a challenging battle with that disease. She developed an irregular heartbeat condition as well as blood pressure disorder as a result of the covid infection. Chloe rallied to rejoin the Allen County-Scottsville volleyball team as a fifth-year starter and earned all-district and all-region honors. And after missing her junior year of basketball, she returned to that squad as a senior and a third-year starter.
Tammy Cordell, Boone County
Tammy had to grow up faster than the typical teenager because of some unusual circumstance--losing a father and having a mother not present in her life. She lives with a grandmother and works two jobs in the summer and fall to help pay the bills. Still, Tammy achieved a high level in the classroom and in competition for the wrestling and cross-country teams at Boone County. She was state runner up in her wrestling class in 2020 and had two other top four finishes while earning three varsity letters in wrestling and one each in track and cross country. And did we mention that she was also named homecoming queen and served as a drum major in the marching band!
Jalen Dunnavan, North Bullitt
Jalen suffered a broken collarbone as a freshman and a serious knee injury as a sophomore but each time, he fought his back to join the North Bullitt football and power lifting teams. He was a two-time state champion in his weight class for power lifting and set state records for dead lift and total lift, as his team won three titles. And Jalen played defensive end and fullback for the North Bullitt football team.
Adam Gibbs, Beechwood
Adam's high school career started with adversity, in the form of a torn labrum suffered during a preseason practice. The setback tested his mental toughness but a rigorous rehab program put him back on the field, only to suffer a torn knee ligament as a junior. Adam reclaimed his starting spot in the offensive line as a senior only to have his season derailed with another knee injury in the sixth game. Having dealt with these setbacks previously, Adam helped teach technique and run drills with other O-linemen and kept up the spirits of other injured seniors as Beechwood completed an undefeated run to another Class 2A state title.
Ben Gloyd, Mayfield
A promising senior football season for Ben ended too soon when he suffered a torn knee ligament but he channeled his passion for playing into his rehabilitation and his support for his teammates. Ben is a four-year member of the football and baseball teams at Mayfield and also played one season of basketball. As a junior, he earned all-state honorable mention as a wide out. In baseball, Ben was all-district and all-region and he was named to the academic all-state team as well. And Ben was also among the volunteers who gave their time and effort to help others recover from a devastating wave of tornadoes that struck the Mayfield community.
Kaden Groves, Hopkins County Central
Imagine being the center on a football team, with on-rushing defenders from every angle, and you have vision in only one eye. That's the adversity that Kaden faced game in and game out for Hopkins Central but he was a two-year starter and last fall, his team achieved its first winning season in 13 years. Kaden also earned a regional championship in shot put, with a throw that bested his nearest competitor by more than two feet.
Brandon Hawes, Hopkins County Central
Dealing with the adversity that comes with having a prosthetic leg kept Brandon from participating in games once he moved to the high school level but it did not prevent him from making an impact with three different teams at Hopkins County Central. Brandon served as a manager for the football, baseball and boys' basketball teams and faithfully did his job through numerous practices and games. HCC's football coach says Brandon fought one of life's biggest challenges by never giving up on his desire to be part of a team.
William Knight IV, Marion County
A serious wrist injury suffered in a soccer match put Will on the sidelines for his senior seasons in both that sport as well as football. But it compromised his training for his best sport-swimming. He found other ways to get himself in shape, however, and he was part of a relay team that made it back to the state championship meet for a third consecutive year. Will was a state qualifier then as a sophomore, junior and senior. In soccer, he was team captain in his final season and was named academic all-state. And he was the punter and kicker for the Marion County football team and set a school record for longest field goal.
Sydney Martin, Ballard HS
On the day Sydney's mom was buried, after losing a battle with cancer, Sydney had to decide whether or not to play in the 8th Region softball title game with her Ballard High teammates. Sydney says it was a tough call but ultimately, she knew the move her mom would have wanted her to make--and she played. In a scoreless tie early in the game, Sydney hit her first home run on the season, a three-run shot that gave Ballard a lead it would never relinquish and the Bruins made it to the state tournament for the first time in three years. Sydney had lost her father to cancer when she was just two-years old but she and her sister were recently adopted by her step-father and Sydney now plays softball for Lindsey-Wilson College.
John Carter Myers, Glasgow
John Carter has been dealing with adversity his entire life, having to manage diabetes that requires him to have an insulin pump while playing sports. He also suffered a collarbone injury as a junior and a broken hand as a senior but he kept coming back. John Carter played football, baseball and basketball for Glasgow High School. He was a third-team all-state pick as a defensive back and was named Player of the Year in the Fourth Region by the athletic directors. He had 75 solo tackles and four interceptions and on offense, accounted for more than a thousand yards passing and rushing and accounted for 13 touchdowns.
Luke Short, Garrard County HS
Luke suffered what was later determined to be a broken neck and still played the entire opening football game of his senior season for Garrard County, against rival Danville. He wasn't able to play again but he returned to the sidelines to support his team. The injury also derailed his final season of basketball at Garrard County but Luke switched to the role or manager and maintained a great attitude all along the way. Luke had to endure surgery and a lengthy rehab to be able to return to normal status and he and his family credit his strong faith for helping his through his ordeal. Luke maintained a 3.5 GPA despite his physical setbacks and he aspires to a career in the ministry.
Walker Smallwood, Dixie Heights
Walker's improbable story is the stuff of movie scripts but this really happened. About to start his sophomore year at Dixie Heights, Walker was told he had bone cancer. Eights months later, after intensive chemotherapy and six leg surgeries including a knee replacement, Walker learned he was cancer-free but the doctors said he'd never be able to run again. He slowly regained the strength to throw a baseball and the Dixie Heights training staff came up with a brace to protect his leg, enabling him to return to the mound. In his first game back, Walker threw a no-hitter and tied his brother's school record of 19 strikeouts. And throughout it all, Walker maintained a nearly 4.0 GPA.
Hillary Smith, South Laurel
Hillary suffered a serious knee injury in the 2019 school year while throwing a discus but she battled her way back into competition for the track and cross country and swim teams at South Laurel High School. She was named most improved for both the cross country and track teams and in swimming, Hillary became a regional qualifier for the swim team in the '21 and '22 school years. She is also active with the Laurelettes at South Laurel and during the summer, she helps coach younger swimmers. And Hillary maintains a 3.8 GPA while balancing a job with obligations to her church and team.
Jordan Maddox Smith, Henry Clay
Maddox was a three-year starter for the Henry Clay football team but his final season was filled with setbacks. A non-football related concussion in the summer kept him off the gridiron to start the campaign but when he did return, what an impact he made. Maddox caught a 40-yard touchdown pass and had a 25-yard kickoff return. That promising year was unfortunately derailed later in the season by a broken collarbone but Maddox stayed connected to his team all the way through the end of the season.
Kaylee "Bella" Spalding, Marion County
Wayne Ziegler, Grant County
Wayne was only 10 months old when he first encountered adversity in his life. A cyst was discovered that could lead to brain damage if not treated with surgery. Then, a rare condition was discovered that led to pressure on the brain and spinal cord that could cause problems with balance, coordination, and dizziness. But Wayne fought through it and by his junior year at Grant County, he was a starter on the basketball team. Leading into his senior year, headaches became more frequent and more severe and that led to another brain surgery. But once more Wayne fought his way back onto the court and by the end of the season, he had a stretch where he averaged 16 points per game. Wayne was also voted a team captain and kept a 3.0 GPA in the classroom too.
Ethan Chenoweth, Hart County
Ronnie Darnell, Bracken County
Jacob Danneman, Covington Catholic
Caleb Hager, Floyd Central
Jacob Heist, Boyle County
Jeremiah Hicks, Holy Cross
Luke Justice, Cooper
Brayden Morris, Muhlenburg County
Isabella Newman, St. Henry
John Curtis Petett, Monroe County
Emma Picklesimer, Raceland
Drake Pyle, North Oldham
Evan Schumacher, Mason County
Abbie Slaughter, Edmonson County
Makala Stambaugh, Jenkins
Reginald Whyte, Jr., Louisville Central
Faith Alford, Walton-Verona
Kate Bale, Assumption
Amy Barry, Sacred Heart Academy
Chloe Boa, Oldham County
Cathryn Brown, Lyon County
Charlie Calvert, Allen County-Scottsville
Preston Dykes, Oldham County
Kaleb Givens, Tates Creek
Katie Heath, Hart County
Torie Lynn Houston, Holy Cross (Covington)
Trey McCoy, Fairdale
Jason 'Blaze' Nalley, Hancock County
Kade Neely, Mayfield
Kaylin Page, Logan County
Hayden Perkins, Muhlenberg County
Ivan Prudencio, duPont Manual
Samantha Rogers, Bourbon County
Cassidy Rowe, Shelby Valley
Abigail Thomas, Danville
Erin Toller, Sacred Heart Academy
Devin Uyhazy, Tates Creek
Rylee Austin, Raceland-Worthington
McKensey Bunch, Tates Creek
Makenzie Burns, Mercer County
Keeton Burnside, Danville
Isaac Dowdy, Hopkins County Central
Anthony Franklin, Bryan Station
Andre Green, Lexington Christian
Grace Hardy, Bourbon
Esmond Morris, McCracken
Lexie Mullins, Buckhorn
Kasia Parks, Frederick Douglas
Dylan Penick, Logan County
Audrey Rawls, Paul Laurence Dunbar
TJ Richardson, St. Francis
Benjamin Spratt, Grant County
Cameron and Cooper Stewart, Butler Traditional
Jasmine Ward, Ft. Campbell
Mia Ying Wright, Hopkins County Central
Dylan Arnett, Magoffin County HS
Tristen Ballinger, Oldham County HS
Webb Bates, Collins HS
Anna Bergman, Holy Cross HS
Grace Bringard, Assumption HS
Ashley Brown, Greenup County HS
Keaton Bryant, Union County HS
Ellie Caffee, Metcalfe County HS
Trey Crump, Mason County HS
Madison Davis, Franklin-Simpson HS
Bradley Fetherston, Tates Creek HS
Molly Franklin, George Rogers Clark HS
Matthew Givens, Green County HS
Matthew Harper, Murray HS
Natalie Hayes, Boyle County HS
Sophia Head, Oldham County HS
Anna Lauren Jacobs, Southwestern HS
Nick Johnson, Edmonson County HS
Ryan Lagestee, Christian Academy of Louisville
Skylar Lewis, Edmonson County
Sophie Metheny, Madisonville-North Hopkins
Caleb Mitchell, Corbin HS
Kristen Mitchell, Bullitt Central HS
Alexis Nelson, St. Francis HS
Tay Offutt, Lewis County HS
Nelson Perrin, Scott HS
Day Po, Butler HS
Tyler Ray, Livingston Central HS
Kristynn Releford, Mercer County HS
Allison Robertson, Notre Dame Academy
Abby Ross, Morgan County HS
Noah Sewell, Mercer County HS
Molly Skaggs, Elliot County HS
Maddie Stokes, Beechwood HS
Kylee Tyson, East Jessamine HS
Gabriel Whitehead, Fort Campbell
Bryce Williams, Bath County HS
Ben Wood, Ohio County HS
Kari Wood, Webster County HS
Travis Austin Bays, Raceland HS
Tyler Beisner, North Oldham HS
Lindsey Duvall, Bullitt East HS
Allison Ellis, Lyon County HS
James Michael England, Middlesboro HS
Haley Harkins, Assumption HS
Lara Klein, Covington Holy Cross HS
Nick Jones, Bracken County HS
Logan Mann, Anderson County HS
Andrew Pajor, Murray HS
Cory Pitsenberger, Eastern HS
Sarah Schmidt, duPont Manual HS
Alex Shea, St. Henry HS
Marquelle Rene Spencer, Dayton HS
Hiroto Takeuchi, Villa Madonna HS
Hunter Ziegelmeyer, Covington Catholic HS