Athletes and coaches celebrated

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The outstanding athletic and coaching talent of Section IV which includes Tompkins County gathered to be honored for their superior accomplishments at ESPN Ithaca’s Night of Champions last Sunday, June 9.


The event, held at the Country Club of Ithaca and presented by Ehrhart Energy and Guthrie, welcomed representatives from 15 schools across the local Section IV scene and was well represented by a large number of students from Tompkins County school districts.


Throughout the early goings of the evening, a common sight was that of former and current competitors and rivals shaking hands and laughing together, a sign of the sportsmanship and class.


The awards portion of the evening opened with honoring the outstanding athletes and coaches that achieved excellence in the fall athletic season, a season that was well represented by Tompkins County athletes and coaches, who brought home 13 of the 18 awards.


Ithaca High School found itself with three pairs of athletes and coaches awarded for their excellence in a specific sport. Maureen Whitehead was selected as the girls soccer coach, and her player Seneca Blakely-Armitage was named the girls soccer athlete. The same was true for the coach and athlete pairs of Mari Mitchell and Asha Duhan for girls tennis and Mike Blakely-Armitage and Elise Nishii-Kim for girls swimming and diving.


Lansing’s Benji Parkes was selected as the boy’s soccer coach after leading his team to a second consecutive state championship in 2019.


The winter awards season was highlighted by outstanding coaching performances as Dryden’s boys track and field coach, Lee Stuttle, was, yet again, honored for his continued efforts to build his Purple Lions team into a sectional powerhouse.


Holly Norsen, also headlined the winter coaches for her outstanding first season coaching the Ithaca girls hockey team. One of Norsen’s players, Kiely Howe, joined her coach as the outstanding girl’s hockey athlete.


In the spring sports awards portion of the evening, one of the headlining athlete awards went to Lansing’s Garrett Bell, who was named the baseball player of the year after rolling through the season as a standout hitter and a shutdown pitcher.


Bell wasn’t the only Lansing representative in the spring awards season, as Becca Lovenheim, the head coach of the girls track and field team, and Sam Panzer and Catalina Zaloj of the boys and girls track and field teams were also the recipients of awards for their sports.


The student-athletes, parents, and coaches were treated to a memorable keynote speech from Julie Lenhart, the newly retired softball coach of SUNY Cortland. In her speech, Lenhart shared her personal stories of coaching, while calling upon the student-athletes to strive for success in their athletic careers and in their personal lives.


The most anticipated awards of the evening were for male and female coaches and athletes of the year awards, given out to the two most outstanding performers on the field and on the sidelines.


Parkes, while earlier in the evening was named the outstanding boy’s soccer coach, was announced as the Coach of the Year in a Boys Sport and gave credit to his team and coaching staff in a heartfelt speech when he accepted his award.


Watkins Glen’s Alicia Learn and Hannah Morse were named coach and athlete of the year in the female categories, while Odessa-Montour’s Dylan Houseknecht was selected as the male athlete of the year.


By the end of the night, 34 of the 58 awards were won by members of four Tompkins County schools: Ithaca, Lansing, Trumansburg, and Dryden.
For a complete list of this year’s award winners visit ESPNIthaca.com. Head to pages 10 and 11 to find the full spread of Tompkins County Champions.

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