If one thing links the three major award winners from Thursday night's Best of Preps Banquet, it would have to be a commitment never to settle for just being successful.
For GPS senior Tory Kemp, honored with the Scrappy Moore Female Athlete of the Year award, it means working hard enough to be a star in three sports. For Baylor five-time wrestling champion Zach Watson, the Scrappy Moore Male Athlete of the Year, it means striving not to just be the best in the area or state, and for Calhoun's Hal Lamb, the Coach of the Year, it means not letting three consecutive state-runner-up finishes derail your championship goals.
In a prep season full of great individual and team performances, they were the best of the best and humble to the end.
"This is a shock," said Kemp, a future North Carolina Tar Heel who won five individual track and field state titles this year and was a key part of the Bruisers' championship basketball team and state-qualifying volleyball team. "This is the ultimate award. I've worked so hard, and to be honored as the best in the entire area is truly an honor."
Watson, who also won the John Franklin Award for academics, is headed to Virginia, where his competitive spirit will keep him motivated.
"I guess I've always been competitive," he said. "Even when I was little and playing pingpong with my brother, when I would lose I would get mad, literally mad. I guess it's just deep in my heart that I want to be the best I can be, no matter what I do. I know, no matter how many awards I win, there's always somebody better than me. It's a continual lifetime goal for me to never be satisfied."
Ricky Ross is Coach Lamb's right-hand man at Calhoun, the defensive coordinator for a program that has won 10 consecutive region titles and before the 2011 season had achieved four runner-up finishes in Georgia's Class AA -- the last three to mighty Buford. So after the Yellow Jackets shocked the Wolves with a 27-24 overtime win in December to end a 15-0 season, the staff celebrated, but only briefly. Ross knows the title won't change anything, especially with the man in charge.
"Coach Lamb is, to me, a great mentor," Ross said. "He's unbelievably organized and so very level-headed. He talks all the time about faith and family, and he really lives by it. He lives it and kids really come to respect it. This award speaks volumes about our community and kids and the commitment from our coaches. Everybody buys in."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...