Partnership honors Lowndes County student-athletes

Published 8:56 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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The Lowndes Signal, in collaboration with Lowndes County Athletics and Life Restaurant, proudly announced the Lowndes County Athletes of the Year at a banquet held May 9 at Hayneville Baptist Church. The event made possible by the generous support of the Lowndes County Children’s Policy Council, the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Project (BBUWP) and Young Men on a Mission, aimed to recognize outstanding student-athletes from throughout the county. 

Additional support from The Calhoun School, Lowndes Academy, and Central High School, Hayneville, contributed to the success of the inaugural year-long initiative focused on celebrating excellence among some of Lowndes County’s finest young women and men.

Community members voted to select the first Lowndes County Athletes of the Year, choosing Ameria Maull of Central High School in Hayneville, Clayton Hussey of Lowndes Academy and Tyler Robertson of The Calhoun School.

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Lanell Smith, Regional Editor for Greenville Newspapers explained the partnership’s motivation behind the effort.

“Our staff had been floating ideas for a way to help communities celebrate the excellence of the young men and women who engage in Lowndes County high school athletic programs,” Smith said. “We wanted a way to combine efforts, working together across lines dividing public and private schools, rival schools and separate communities. 

“Lowndes County Public Schools Athletic Director Nickles Rankins had been recognizing athletes weekly. He was looking for a way to expand his efforts. We came together, joining forces and leveraging community connections so that we could support a united, county-wide program. It was important to our staff and to Nick that we celebrate all the kids as one county.” 

The selection process spanned 28 weeks and began with asking coaches to nominate student-athletes for Athlete of the Week. The community voted to elect a winner each week and then pooled for a contest which allowed voters to select an Athlete of the Season for fall and spring sports. 

Bryan Lambert was honored as the fall athlete winner, while Jamarcus Webb claimed the title of spring athlete of the season winner. At the culmination of the 28-week period, all weekly winners were entered into a final voting pool, from which one student athlete of the year was chosen from each school.

During Thursday’s banquet, all winners were recognized for their election as weekly winners.

Jarquius Maye, a senior at The Calhoun School and the tenth Athlete of the Week, expressed his gratitude for the event. Maye highlighted the significance of the recognition, especially for the often-overlooked aspects of athletes’ contributions behind the scenes.

“This is very special,” Maye said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been honored like this for what I do both on and off the field.” 

Samita Jeter, Lowndes County Public Schools superintendent, commended all student-athletes for their teamwork and dedication.

“No matter how their individual seasons ended, we are happy and grateful that the students completed the season doing their very best,” Jeter said. “We’re looking forward to even greater things next year.”

During the banquet, Rankins was honored with an award for his work in bringing the effort to fruition. He expressed excitement about the partnership with The Lowndes Signal and Life Restaurant, emphasizing the unity among Lowndes County student athletes.

“We’ve had 28 athletes honored, and the participation and voting in Lowndes County has just been great,” Rankins said. “That was one thing we wanted. We didn’t want it to be about this school or that school but [about] Lowndes County student athletes as a whole. I think we’ve accomplished our goal.”

The event was catered by Life Restaurant, owned by Lashunda Brown, who also provided free meal certificates for weekly winners. 

Editor’s Note: The Lowndes Signal applauds the efforts of Lowndes County Public Schools Athletic Director Nickles Rankins, who helped make the dream of one united student-athlete recognition program a reality. The focus would not have been possible without the support of Lowndes County Public Schools and Lowndes Academy faculty, staff and coaches. We wish to thank community partners — Life Restaurant, the Lowndes County Children’s Policy Council, the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program (BBUWP) and Young Men on a Mission — for sponsoring the program.