By Benjamin Cohn
NBMS – Whatever teachers and coaches are doing at North Buncombe Middle School is working wonders, judging by the stiff competition for this year’s male and female athletes of the year, who are Ethan Robinson and Devon Davis.
According to recent Buncombe County Teacher of the Year Chris Brown, the two awards were competed for fiercely. Among the criteria for consideration are the requirement that athletes play at least three sports, one per season, and the maintenance of a perfect grade point average.
According to Brown, “Every year the athletics [department] selects a male and female athlete of the year. All the coaches on the coaching staff get to vote for them. It’s usually athletes who play three sports, one in each season. This year the male athlete of the year was Ethan Robinson. Ethan wrestles for [Coach] Travis [Hannah].”
Hannah, a Language Arts teacher and head coach of winter wrestling, spoke with fondness and admiration for Robinson. “Ethan played football this year. He wrestled this year and he also played baseball. He was undefeated both years in wrestling, conference champion both years in wrestling. He’s finished out the season, you know, perfect record both years. He’s also a phenomenal baseball player.”
The coach told the Tribune that, among Robinson’s other accomplishments, he is known for having maintained perfect grades for five years straight. This fact, unbelievable as it is, was not even enough to clinch Robinson’s award. Several other athletes also had years-long streaks of perfect grades, according to Hannah.
“Football, this is his first year. All around academically, solid kid. Straight As. I think he was one of those kids we honored for straight As from third through eighth grade. We had four of those kids this year. Two of them were wrestlers,” he said with a laugh.
“We look at athletic characteristics. We also look for that kid who has shown leadership ability. It’s that go-to kid, never misses a practice, always there, works hard in the classroom, works hard on the mat. Goes the extra mile, so to speak, and just is an all-around good kid. Discipline is great, behavior is great. We look for those kids who we can truly honor. Not just a sound athlete but a sound student, just a sound person. He’s got a good shot to be state qualifier next year. I’d love to see him win a state championship for North Buncombe.”
Brown, head softball coach and Social Studies instructor, then spoke up with her own kind words to describe the nominee she most closely advised, eighth-grade basketball phenom Devon Davis.
Said Brown, “Devon has played basketball for a really long time. This year she’s decided that she really wanted to be honored as the athlete of the year, so she learned how to play volleyball and softball this year so she could be a three-sport athlete. She had never thrown a softball until January.”
Davis is described as an athlete with great natural ability and instincts. “She’s one of those kids who’s just a natural athlete,” Brown said. “If she had been playing either one of those sports her whole life, she’d be amazing at all three of them. She started almost every game we played the entire season. Made some phenomenal catches in the outfield, a whole bunch of quality at-bats.”
Athletic abilities aren’t enough to make one worthy of being a middle school athlete of the year, though. Candidates will be an outstanding person in every aspect of their lives, according to Brown and Hannah.
“She’s a young woman of outstanding character. Absolutely [great instincts]. She’s got great hand-eye coordination, works hard all the time in everything that she does. I’m pretty sure she started every game on the basketball team, too. Both of the young people are just amazing kids. They’re the ones that do the right thing even when the teacher’s not looking.”
Brown made sure to include those who competed for, but ultimately weren’t selected, the yearly award. “We had other candidates who played three sports and were on the ballot, good kids too. These two young people just shine above everybody else.”