South Charlotte Weekly recognizes top athletes in their respective sports with Player of the Year awards.
Jenna Thompson, tennis
Why she was chosen: Thompson is an elite talent whom www.tennisrecruiting.net ranks as a five-star prospect, the No. 1 player in the state in the Class of 2020 and the No. 25 junior tennis player in the nation. This season, Thompson posting a 13-0 record. In the individual state tournament, the junior came from a set down to win the Class 4A state championship for her third straight time after also taking the state crown following her freshman and sophomore seasons. She is the fifth three-time state champion winner and next season will look to join only four other players – including Charlotte Catholic’s Laura Cowman (1989-92) – in the history of the NCHSAA as a four-time winner.
What they’re saying: “Jenna finished her tennis season undefeated and winning her third straight state title,” said Sabres coach Susie Porter. “She was challenged significantly in the state final matchup when she lost the first set, down 1-4 in the second and came back to win the match. With her consistent determination, she is able to compete at the highest level.”
Christian Landis, boys cross country
Why he was chosen: Landis was the frontrunner on the now two-time defending NCISAA champion Chargers. This season he was sensational, recording a 15:25 at the Great American Cross Country Festival. That time was the eighth fastest in the state and the fastest sophomore N.C. time by more than 20 seconds. Landis also added wins at three other events during the season including victories at the conference championship (16:08) and at a muddy and rainy state championship (17:08). He may be the best to ever run at Providence Day before it’s all said and done.
What they’re saying: “Christian Landis had a remarkable sophomore year, finishing as the CISAA conference champ and the NCISAA state 4A champ,” said Providence Day coach Ben Hovis. “Christian finished out his season at the Nike Southeast Regional placing 15th overall. He was the top sophomore in the field as well as the top N.C. athlete. His personal best on the season was 15:25, which is the fastest sophomore time in North Carolina since 2009.”
Audrey Nelson, golf
Why she was chosen: Nelson was the top golfer on the Mustang team all fall with her consistent play, but really picked it up as the season wore on. This year she had a 37.6 stroke average – including a low round of 35 that led to a one-stroke lead over South Meck. She shot a 79 and was seventh out of nearly 70 competitors at the Pinecrest Invitational and won the Southwestern 4A crown by 11 strokes with a 72. Nelson shot a 77 to tie for fourth in the region and carded rounds of 81 and 75 for a two-day 156 that tied her for seventh at the state tournament.
What they’re saying: “Audrey is a pleasure to play with on the golf course and a pleasure to be around off the golf course,” Myers Park coach Jason Lockwood said. “Girls have nothing but great things to say after getting the chance to meet her and play a round of golf with Audrey. She is not only a great player and works hard on her personal game but is very encouraging to other girls on the course in regards to their game. I’m most impressed with how hard she works on her game but also finds time to stay on top of her academics in the classroom. She is at the top of her class at the largest school in the state.”
Daniel Watts, soccer
Why he was chosen: Watts was a central figure in the Mustangs winning 17 games at one point in the season and in them reaching the 4A championship with a dominant run through the postseason. This season, in addition to earning all-state honors for the Mustangs, Watts led a balanced group of attackers with 24 goals and contributed eight assists for an offense that averaged 4.3 goals per match on the season.
What they’re saying: “The words I think can best describe Daniel as a player and a teammate is committed and intelligent,” said Myers Park coach Bucky McCarley. “His attention and focus on the success of the team and his teammates is very impressive…He is smart in a way that makes the game easier to coach. He is honest about himself, what he can and can’t do. He sees the game at a high level, and the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent and this allows he and I to communicate in the game and he allows us to implement changes during the game that are effective because of the clarity with which he sees the game.”
Emma Ellis, volleyball
Why she was chosen: The outside hitter put down 406 kills this season, which ranked 13th in the nation on Maxpreps.com, and leaves Catholic as the Cougars’ all-time kills leader with 1,125. The Purdue signee also had 722 serve receptions, 256 digs, 58 blocks and 38 aces. Ellis, who is 6-foot-2, is also the Southern Carolinas Player of the Year, is an all-region selection and has been picked to represent North Carolina in the 2018 Under Armour All-American game. She also has a 4.24 grade-point average.
What they’re saying: “She’s awesome,” said Charlotte Catholic coach Tracy Landschoot. “I think Emma Ellis is the best kid on the floor. I don’t think anyone we see or anyone we’ll play is asked of her what I ask of her. She’s in the middle of the court to receive (the serve) every time, she’s playing all around and she’ll play middle, right side or outside. I don’t think there’s a better kid around than Emma. She’s a true competitor, a true champion and a dynamite kid.”
Cora Cooke, girls cross country
Why she was chosen: After first breaking out during her freshman season in outdoor track, Cooke continued that success into her fall cross country season and dominated from beginning to end. Cooke won three races this season including a home meet, the Southwestern 4A conference championship (18:13) and the Heelsplitter Invitational, where she ran a personal-best 18:11. That time was No. 8 this season in the state and the fastest run in North Carolina by a sophomore this year. In addition, Cooke also crossed the finish line first at the regional championship and was fourth in the state with a run of 18:27 to earn a spot on the N.C. Mile Split second-team all-state squad.
What they’re saying: “Cora is a prime example of what happens when natural talent meets hard work,” said Myers Park coach Lamont Hayes. “Her desire to be great shows on a daily basis as she pushes herself in workouts to get better.”