High School Sports

The N&O Athletes and Scholar-Athletes of the Year for the 2017-18 season

From left to right: The 2017-18 N&O Athletes and Scholar-Athletes of the year are Green Hope’s Jordyn Adams (male athlete); Athens Drive’s Jennifer Chang (female athlete), Cardinal Gibbons’ Jack Biestek (male scholar-athlete) and Wakefield’s Veronica Fraley (female scholar-athlete.
From left to right: The 2017-18 N&O Athletes and Scholar-Athletes of the year are Green Hope’s Jordyn Adams (male athlete); Athens Drive’s Jennifer Chang (female athlete), Cardinal Gibbons’ Jack Biestek (male scholar-athlete) and Wakefield’s Veronica Fraley (female scholar-athlete.

He’s one of the best two-sport stars to come through the Triangle.

She’s the best to play her sport in state history.

Together, Athens Drive’s Jennifer Chang – the state’s only four-time girls golf champion – and Green Hope’s Jordyn Adams – the only U.S. Army All-American in baseball and football – are the winners of the The News & Observer’s male and female high school athletes of the year for the 2017-18 season.

The N&O scholar-athlete of the year awards go to athletes with exceptional academic and athletic feats – good enough to have possibly won one of the other awards.

Cardinal Gibbons’ Jack Biestek was a two-sport star in football and boys lacrosse and will play the former next fall at Yale. Wakefield’s Veronica Fraley finished with a 4.61 GPA and won two state titles and one national title.

In addition to these awards, The News & Observer honors one player of the year for each area sport – 24 in all. The coverage area spans 20 counties, going as far east as Kinston and Greenville, so regional winners were named for the first time in each sport. Our regions are grouped by county: Wake County, Herald-Sun counties (consisting of Chatham, Orange, Durham, Person, Granville, Vance and Warren), southern counties (Lee, Moore, Harnett and Johnston) and eastern counties (Franklin, Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Wayne, Greene, Lenoir and Pitt).

The regional male and female athlete of the year award winners are as follows:

Wake County: Adams, Chang, Biestek, Fraley.

Herald-Sun counties: male athlete – Jamar Davis, Orange soccer/track and field; female athlete – Destiny Cox, Carrboro volleyball; male scholar – Quincy Monday, Carrboro wrestling; female scholar – Megan White, South Granville softball/volleyball.

Eastern counties: male athlete – Dexter McDuffie, South Central football/track and field; female athlete – Cassandra Lassiter, C.B. Aycock softball/volleyball/basketball; male scholar – Hunter Perry, Southern Nash football/basketball/golf; female scholar – Hunter West, South Lenoir volleyball/basketball.

Southern counties: male athlete – Trey Whitley, North Johnston football/basketball/baseball; female athlete – Toyin Koleoso, O’Neal School volleyball/basketball/track and field; male scholar – Jahmir Smith, Lee County football; female scholar – Barrett Davis, North Johnston soccer/basketball/volleyball/track and field.

Jordyn Adams

Regarded as one of the nation’s top wide receivers and outfielders, Adams was heading to UNC to play in both sports until his draft stock soared from the top 10 rounds to a sure-fire first-rounder. He was selected by the Los Angeles Angels with the 17th pick of the MLB Draft and signed for $4.1 million.

He was also an all-state selection in both sports during his senior year and was named MaxPreps’ national athlete of the year.

In football, he returned five kicks for touchdown and caught 55 passes for 1,060 yards and 12 touchdowns. He tied a state record with three punt returns for touchdown in a single game. He played in the Shrine Bowl, was the leading receiver in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and

It was Adams’ only time on the gridiron in the Triangle. He moved from Blythewood – just outside Columbia, S.C. – during the winter of the 2016-17 season in time to play his junior year for the Falcons’ baseball team where he batted .494.

Adams batted .453 (1 home run, 15 RBIs) with 31 stolen bases in his senior year for Green Hope and graduated with a 2.65 GPA.

He played three semesters in the Triangle and has three N&O All-Metro selections – one in football and two in baseball – to show for it.

Green Hope’s Jordyn Adams (left) is tagged out at second base by orange Lutheran’s Zach Lew (9). The Green Hope Falcons and the Orange Lutheran Lancers played the championship baseball game in the National High School Invitational tournament in Cary on Saturday, March 31, 2018. Christine Richman newsobserver.com

Jennifer Chang

It’s not often the girls athlete of the year only played one sport in all four years. But when those four years add up to being the best to ever play the game, it’s just too much to ignore.

Other players had won three N.C. High School Athletic Association girls golf titles, but Chang eliminated any “greatest ever” debate by scorching the field on her way to a fourth.

Her first, as a freshman, was arguably her toughest. She had been edged for conference player of the year honors by another all-state golfer, but Chang always had a knack of coming through when it mattered most.

She shot 5-under at the state championships as a senior, 2-under as a junior, 6-over as a sophomore and 4-over as a freshman.

On Oct. 2 of last year, she shot a 10-under 61, which is tied for the lowest score ever recorded in any 18-hole event in NCHSAA history.

Chang graduated early from Athens Drive with a 3.9 GPA and enrolled at USC in time to play as a freshman (the N.C. season is in the fall, but the NCAA season is in the spring). She made her mark immediately, earning second-team All-American honors just months removed from wrapping up her decorated career with the Jaguars.

Jennifer Chang of Athens Drive goes after her 4th Championship. The NCHSAA 4A girls golf state championship was held Oct. 23-24 at the Pinehurst golf club. Johnny Johnson newsobserver.com

Jack Biestek

Biestek entered this year having committed to Notre Dame for lacrosse, but his football interest picked up considerably.

So he’ll instead head to a different university known for its academics, and wear a different kind of helmet. He’ll play football at Yale this fall.

Biestek was all-state and N&O All-Metro in lacrosse, scooping up 57 groundballs as a defender for the 4A East runner-ups. In football, he helped the Crusaders to an 11-1 record, rushing for 582 yards (9.2 per carry) and three touchdowns while also hauling in 69 passes for 883 yards and six touchdowns.

He sported a 3.98 GPA at Gibbons.

Jack Biestek (5) of Cardinal Gibbons carries the ball against the pursuit of Thomas Gongs (9) of Northern. The Cardinal Gibbons Crusaders played the Northern Knights in a football game that took place in Raleigh, N.C. on Friday, November 4, 2016. Cardinal Gibbons won 25-7. Fabian Radulescu newsobserver.com

Veronica Fraley

Fraley was one of the best throwers in the nation and won the N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year award for girls track and field.

The Tennessee recruit won the NCHSAA 4A shot put title with a toss of 47 feet, 2 inches, and won the discus (142-2).

She also won the prestigious New Balance Nationals in discus with an even longer throw of 169 feet, four inches. Her best throw of the year came earlier in the spring (175-9). Fraley is a three-time N&O All-Metro pick in outdoor track and field.

Wakefield’s wins both the Girl’s Discus and Shot Put CAP-8 championships. Dean Strickland

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer