Hillsborough's best celebrated at prep awards banquet
It was a memorable year, to say the least, in Hillsborough County prep sports.
At the ninth annual Parade of Athletes banquet at the A La Carte Pavilion on Monday night, the top athletes and coaches in Hillsborough County were recognized by The Tampa Tribune for their accomplishments, and no two awards were greater than overall Male and Female Athlete of the Year.
From among thousands of athletes competing throughout the county, two athletes — Freedom High senior Faith Woodard and Durant senior Tyler Danish, were bestowed the prestigious honor.
For Woodard, the award marked third straight year being named the Tribune's Female Athlete of the Year.
Woodard, a Parade Magazine Girls Basketball All-American who will play for Georgetown, led Freedom's girls basketball team to its first state final four while shooting an eye-popping 74 percent from the floor with an average of 22.6 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. She finished her prep career with 2,071 points, placing her seventh on the all-time girls scoring list in Hillsborough County. A few months after the basketball season, she took home a gold medal in the high jump for a second straight year, clearing 5 feet, 10 inches, one of the best heights in the nation.
On Monday, she was named girls basketball and girls track athlete of the year.
“I just can't believe it,” Woodard said. “As a junior last year, I was saying it in hopes of maybe coming in here and repeating and doing it again, and I just can't believe it actually happened. I'm just really blessed and really happy.”
Danish did the unthinkable this season, leading his team to the state championship, the farthest of any team in program history, while not allowing an earned run on the mound to finish with an unblemished ERA of 0.00. Also an elite hitter, Danish led the team in hits, runs and RBIs and set a school record for home runs in a season with nine, his final one coming in the state semifinal.
Danish signed with the University of Florida and will be one of the top local players selected in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft in the upcoming weeks.
“It's an honor to end my senior year with these two awards,” said Danish, who also was named Baseball Athlete of the Year. “This county has a lot of talent, so this is a great way to end my year. I couldn't ask for a better night.”
After 26 years and 469 wins at the helm at Jesuit High, boys basketball coach Neal Goldman finally tasted victory on the big stage when he guided the Tigers to claim the Class 5A state championship. Goldman earned his 470th victory in the state title game and was not only named the Tribune's Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, but Male Sport Coach of the Year.
In her fifth season as softball coach at Freedom, Autum Hernandez took the Patriots, a team that had never advanced to the playoffs, all the way to the state championship, which earned her Softball and Female Sport Coach of the Year. During her team's memorable run, the Patriots upset state-ranked and defending state champion Chamberlain and won playoff games on a grand slam and solo home run in the final innings to reach the state final.
Other notable award winners included Will Worth being named Football Athlete of the Year, Chamberlain's Reggie Hart winning Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year and Sidney Brown of Berkeley Prep taking home Volleyball Athlete of the Year.
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