Niles hands out annual Weede, Whitwam awards

NILES — May is typically the month for senior athletes to start wrapping up their careers and collecting scholarships and accolades, but with spring sports canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, schools have had to come up with creative ideas to try to make things as normal as possible.

The Niles Athletic Booster banquet is annually held in May, but was canceled due to the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. However, that does not mean the boosters will not be handing out their annual Ed Weede MVP and Joseph Whitwam Sportsmanship awards.

Senior Kaylee Thompson was selected from a strong group of female athletes for the Ed Weede Award.

Also nominated were Nikki Nate (volleyball), Alycia Patterson (basketball), Kelsey Barkman (softball), Grace Florkowski (soccer), Grace Lister (tennis) and Shelby Jaynes (bowling).

Thompson, excelled in cross country and track at Niles during her four-year career, currently holds the school’s cross country record for a 5K run with a time of 19:25. She also holds the 1,600-meter record in track with a time of 5:15.3.

“Kaylee was a varsity letter winner all four years in both cross country and track,” said Niles athletic director Jeff Upton. “In cross, she was a state qualifier three consecutive years, and Academic All-State individually the past three seasons. In track, she was a SMAC champion in both the 1,600-and 3,200-meters her junior year, as well as a state qualifier all three years of competition.”

Thompson plans to attend Grand Valley State University in the fall, where she will continue to run both cross country and track for the Lakers. Thompson is a member of Niles’ Top 10 for 2020.

Javond Ball was named the Ed Weede Award winner for the boys.

The coaches selected Ball from a field that included Jamison Zimmerman (wrestling), Ryan Franco (wrestling), DeMarian Nichols (basketball), Trey Knight (tennis) and Drew Gourlay (soccer).

“Javond was a three-year starter in football,” Upton said. “In 2018, he was a 1,000-yard rusher and first-team SMAC All-Conference at running back. In 2019, Javond was named first-team SMAC All-Conference at defensive back and second-team at running back, along with Detroit Free Press honorable mention all-state at running back.”

Ball also was a three-time regional champion in track, a three-time state qualifier and all-state his junior year. In wrestling, Ball was a state qualifier his junior and senior seasons. He finished his career with more than 100 victories.

Morgan Warren captured the prestigious Joseph Whitwam Sportsmanship Award from a strong field of candidates.

Also nominated were Erin Thomas (cross country), Bianca Pickens (volleyball), Skyler Brawley (soccer), Syndey Prillwitz (tennis) and Ydalle Sotelo (bowling).

“She is always smiling — our go-to person when the team was struggling mentally,” said Niles girls basketball coach Jessica Johnson, who nominated her for the award. “Morgan always put her teammates and team first. Her positive attitude definitely qualifies her for this award.”

Besides basketball, Warren also excelled in track.

“Every goal she created, she would dedicate herself to her workouts and practice with a smile on her face, whether it was with the team or on her own,” said the Vikings’ track coach Rikki Jones. “Her junior year, her time and dedication paid off with both SMAC and regional championships along with 11th-place state finish in shot put. Morgan is uplifting and positive not only to her teammates, but also to other competitors. She stands above the rest in sportsmanship.”

Leon Williams captured the boys Whitwam award.

He was selected from Kade Wagley (wrestling), Drew Gourlay (baseball), Jacob Gondeck (tennis), Andrew Boling (soccer) and Adam Shepherd (cross country/track).

“One of the most unselfish players I have ever coached,” said Niles football coach Joe Sassano, who nominated him. “Leon was always focused on helping the team improve. He always kept a mature approach to things and demonstrated respect for both players and coaches.”

Williams was also a positive influence on the basketball for Niles, according to his coach.

“Leon was a team leader on and off the court and always led by example,” said Niles basketball coach Patrick Touhey. “Leon gave countless hours to his community through all his volunteer efforts,”

Williams was a four-year, three-sport athlete at Niles, who will continue his career playing football at Manchester University in Indiana.

Other award winners were:

• Roy Brawley, golf award

• Skyler Brawley, Academic Top 10. She played on two state-qualifying golf teams.

• Tommy Nate, Academic Top 10. His senior year would have been his best on the golf team.

• Thompson, Barbara Knoll Girls Track Award

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