A banner year for GPS athletics has led to Bruisers being half of this year's finalists for the Times Free Press Scrappy Moore Female Athlete of the Year award.
The winner will be announced at Thursday's Best of Preps banquet, with doors set to open at 6 p.m. and two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning serving as the guest speaker.
The finalists for the overall female honor are GPS three-sport stars Simone Busby and Tory Kemp as well as basketball star Chadarryl Clay, softball pitchers Brenna Nation of Gordon Lee and Kelsey Nunley of Soddy-Daisy and McMinn County runner Haley Ward.
Busby is a three-sport all-state performer. She signed a soccer scholarship with Evansville University, competed in two events at the state track meet and helped lead the Bruisers to consecutive Division II state basketball titles. She was a three-time all-state keeper in soccer and played on Guyana's national team last fall in the Under-20 World Cup. She owns a state title in both the discus and shot put as well as three second-place finishes in those events and was the state basketball tournament MVP as a junior.
Kemp has been a three-sport starter since her freshman year. She helped the volleyball Bruisers reach the state semifinals with 24 kills in one match, and she made two crucial 3-pointers in the championship game to spark the basketball team to its second straight state title this year. A state track qualifier since eighth grade with firsts or seconds in eight events the previous two years, she became the biggest story of the 2012 state meet by winning five individual state titles, including four in one day. Three days after winning the grueling pentathlon, the North Carolina signee won state titles in the long jump, triple jump, 100-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles. In winning all five events she entered, the state maximum, Kemp set school records in four.
Clay, an Auburn signee, led the Bruisers to their second consecutive Division II-AA state basketball championship by averaging 17.3 points, 4.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds and three steals per game. She also was the state's D-II Miss Basketball for a second straight year and was voted state tournament MVP after contributing 21 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the Bruisers' 17-point title-game win. Clay is ranked as one of the top point guards in the nation, according to ESPN.com recruiting, and GPS plans to retire her No. 5 alongside the No. 51 of Alana Smith, also a two-time Miss Basketball. Clay also competed on the Bruisers' state-qualifying sprint relay teams in track.
Nation went 24-0 with a 0.49 ERA in helping lead Gordon Lee to a second consecutive Georgia Class A championship. She also batted .447 with eight doubles, three home runs, 28 RBIs and 28 runs scored and was 47-0 as a pitcher the last two years. The Carson-Newman signee ended her prep career with a record of 71-1 and is a two-time Class A Georgia pitcher of the year. Against the toughest nonregion schedule in program history, the Lady Trojans went 37-1 this season.
Nunley was the only senior on the other area Lady Trojans softball team this year and was a key reason they earned the eighth Class AAA state championship in program history. The Kentucky signee pitched 246 innings and totaled 401 strikeouts while giving up 95 hits and 21 walks. She pitched 12 no-hitters and 31 shutouts on the way to a 36-4 pitching record with an ERA of 0.45. She also totaled 1,376 points and 1,003 rebounds for Soddy-Daisy in basketball and throughout her career was a key member of the volleyball program that set a season school record for victories last fall and finished third in the state.
Trying to juggle cross country and soccer, Ward wasn't even sure she was going to be able to do both sports in the postseason. A district-semifinal loss in soccer opened her schedule, however, and she was able to claim the Class AAA cross country state title. Her time of 18:41.47 in the state meet was the best recorded by any girl that day at Percy Warner Park in Nashville. This spring she added a state track title by winning the AAA 3200 meters and followed that with a second-place finish in the 1600.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.