Union County Weekly recognizes top athletes in their respective sports with Player of the Year awards.
Rose Kenny, tennis
• Why she was chosen: Kenny is the clear-cut ace on the talented Cougars line that has won two consecutive state titles. After an 0-3 start last season, Catholic hasn’t lost in 46 consecutive matches and Kenny has been right in the middle of it. In addition to her team success, Kenny has also claimed the past two individual titles. This season, the junior star was 16-1 in singles play and 12-1 in doubles matches atop the talented Cougar lineup.
• What they’re saying: “Rose Kenny won the 3A singles championship for the second consecutive year and had to beat her own teammate to win conference, regional, and state titles (and that’s) no easy task,” said Cougar coach Jo Cabana. “She also led her team to back-to-back state championship titles. Her only loss this year was to Jenna Thompson, the 4A three-time state champion (from South Meck). She leads by example and models what it means to be a student athlete at Charlotte Catholic High School.”
Patrick Papa, soccer
• Why he was chosen: The senior forward was a huge reason for Marvin Ridge’s run to the 3A soccer championship. Papa, who was named to the 3A all-state team, had a career year this season and set individual best with 18 goals and 13 assists to lead a very balanced Mav attack. In 53 career games at Marvin Ridge, Papa scored 40 goals and added 34 assists, but did most of his damage during his junior and season seasons when he totaled 29 scores and 24 assists.
• What they’re saying: “Patrick is a four-year varsity player and a senior captain,” said coach Jason Zak. “A strong left foot with the ability to create and make plays put him on the radar of our opponents. Patrick’s hard work and leadership this season have made him an invaluable member of our program.”
Kyle Durham, boys cross country
• Why he was chosen: It’s tough to go wrong with any of Weddington cross country coach Rick Spencer’s top runners this season as the Warriors were far and away the best team and Durham was right in the middle of it. Durham set his personal best this season with a 15:30 run at the Great American Cross Country Festival and also placed second in the conference (16:20), fifth in the region (16:05) and 12th in the state (16:13).
• What they’re saying: “We have six guys who can be No.1 at any point,” Weddington coach Rick Spencer said. “Sure they tease each other. They might say ‘I beat you by this many seconds’ but we have never had a problem with someone worrying about themselves. They always work together to achieve their goals.”
Layla Meric, golf
• Why she was chosen: Meric was a model of consistency for the Cavs this season, but really came on strong late to earn the title of the county’s top golfer. Meric had a medalist round during the season, where she averaged 38.4 strokes per nine holes with a low round of 36. She shot 12 of her 13 in-season rounds at 40 or under. At the state tournament, Meric was fantastic after rounds of 84 and 79 gave her a 7-over par two-day score of 163, which was the county’s low score on the season and tied her for 13th in the 3A tournament.
• What they’re saying: “Layla is so deserving of this recognition because of her tremendous work ethic and positive attitude,” said Cuthbertson coach Catie Helms. “She practices and plays year round almost every day, and as a coach witnessing her support, encouragement and enthusiasm toward her teammates shows what a great leader she is.”
Madeline Hill, girls cross country
• Why she was chosen: Still just a sophomore, Hill is a bonafide star after leading the Cavs to the 3A team championship and becoming the Cuthbertson 5K record holder after winning the state meet with a more-than-impressive 18:11 run. Her six wins, in reverse order, included the 3A state title, the 3A Midwestern Regional, Southern Carolinas and Union County Championships where she picked up all-region and all-state honors for a second straight season.
• What they’re saying: “Madeline’s list of athletic achievements is long and impressive, but her very best attributes don’t attract headlines,” Cuthbertson cross country coach Kirk Walsh said. “Since the day I met her in her sixth-grade year, Madeline has been everything a coach could ask for: kind, encouraging, hard-working and humble are words that come immediately to mind. If you were to attend one of our summer workouts, you would be drawn to her because of her approach, but would be surprised to learn that this unassuming kid is actually one of the best endurance athletes in the Southeast U.S. Madeline combines elite talent with elite routines, and would run through a wall for her team. She makes everyone around her better, and we all just love her for it.”