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The 2002-2003 Athletes of the Year

Sunday, June 22, 2003

(Photo)
The 2002-2003 Standard Democrat All-Around Athletes of the Year are Sikeston's Michael Colon and Dexter's Hannah Burleson.
ABOUT THIS LIST: The Top 10 All-Around Athletes of the Year is a collection of the top multi-sport athletes in the Standard Democrat coverage area. Athletes had to participate in at least two sports to qualify, and players that succeeded in three sports were given an edge over those who did well in two. Schools in our coverage area include Sikeston, New Madrid County Central, Portageville, Bell City, Charleston, Scott County Central, Kelly, Richland, Oran, Dexter, Chaffee and East Prairie.

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

1. Hannah Burleson

Dexter, 5-5, Jr.

Sometimes it's hard to find a female that enjoys all sports. To find one that is skilled at three sports is even tougher to find.

That's why Dexter junior Hannah Burleson sets the standard for high school girl athletes in the area.

Our repeat Standard Democrat Female Athlete of the Year, Burleson excelled in volleyball, basketball and on the track this past season.

"Ever since I was little I've always done things and I've always wanted to participate in more and more sports," said Burleson. "At times I've wanted to stop and quit because it gets overwhelming, but I love them all. So I couldn't ever quit one."

She's a valuable member of the Lady Bearcats' volleyball and basketball teams, but it's on the track where she is the premier girl athlete in the area and one of the best in the state.

"Track was my very first sport I liked," said Burleson. "I did it at park and recreation. I've run ever since I could."

She took sixth in Class 3 in the 100 meter dash and she ran legs on Dexter's 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 meter relay teams where they broke the school record in both.

The 4 x 100 team took fourth in the state and the 4 x 400 team qualified for the state meet.

She also set the school record in the long jump with a leap of 18-feet, 1 1/2-inches.

"She's as good an athlete as there is around here," said Dexter head track coach Jill Becker. "She's a leader. A lot of the girls look up to her. She's such a good role model for the team because she works very hard in practice."

Burleson was also the starting point guard for Dexter's basketball team, which set the school record for wins, finishing 20-6.

She averaged 10 points per game with five rebounds and 3.8 assists on average.

"She handled about every press out there," said basketball coach Gavin Miller. "She's got such great speed and ball-handling abilities that it's tough to guard her and press her. She's just an incredible athlete to have on your team. She makes all kinds of things happen for us."

On top of it all, she was one of the top defenders and setters on the volleyball team.

She served at a 94 percent clip with two aces per game. She also had a .402 hitting percentage and had 18 assists per game.

"I've not been an athlete quite like her in the seven or eight years I've been in high school sports," said Miller. "She's got the attitude and she's the most coachable female athlete I've been around. And she's got all the skills to be the best athlete in the area. She's got the speed, she's strong. We're very fortunate to have her at Dexter."

1. Michael Colon

Heading into his freshman year, Sikeston's Michael Colon would have been considered a longshot for the Standard Democrat Male Athlete of the Year.

But with some persuading from the coaching staff, Colon broadened his horizons and gave basketball and track and field a chance.

As fate would have it, Colon went from a one-sport standout to the top multi-sport athlete in the area.

"When I started out as a freshman I just wanted to focus on one sport," said Colon. "But Coach Dement and a couple other coaches talked me into playing all three because they were telling me I would be a much better all around athlete."

It turned out to be the best decision Colon could have made.

He was a starter this past season for the Bulldog basketball team where he was considered one of the top rebounders and defensive players on the 13-13 team.

He averaged 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

"Michael came in and gave a good effort every day," said basketball coach Gregg Holifield. "He's an outstanding defensive player and he's a very good offensive rebounder. He was a team player and he helped us in several games this year."

On the track, he was the team's most valuable performer. He took first place in Class 3 in the triple jump with a career-best leap of 45-feet, 10 1/2 inches to become Sikeston's first state champion since Marshaun West won the long jump in 1995.

He also ran a leg on the state placing 4 x 100 meter relay team. And he played an instrumental part in Sikeston's third consecutive district championship as he pointed in all four of his events.

And in football, which he says is his favorite sport, Colon snared a team-leading 23 passes for a team-leading 284 yards with a touchdown.

He also had 43 tackles with two interceptions from his cornerback position for Sikeston's 7-2 team.

"He was a key member of our receiving corps and he was a two-year starting defensive back," said football coach Charlie Vickery. "He was all-conference and had a really good year for us."

The 6-2, 175-pounder graduated in May and will continue his track career at Southeast Missouri State University where he has a full scholarship.

"He's a good example of how valuable it is to be involved in multiple sports," said Dement, the head track coach. "He gave himself three chances to represent the school and have individual success. His third activity is the one that rewarded him. We're really proud of Mike. He's what we look for at Sikeston High School."

2. Willie Dooley

Dooley was a multi-sport star for the Bearcats this season, excelling at football, basketball and baseball.

On the gridiron, he was one of the top receivers in the area, catching 26 passes for 482 yards. He was also a stellar defensive back, making 40 tackles with seven pass break ups and seven interceptions.

"He's just a good player," said football coach Aaron Pixley. "We expected big things out of him this year and he went out and produced."

In basketball, Dooley averaged nine points, six rebounds and four assists per game for the Bearcats' 21-5 team.

"He was a good all-around player for us," said basketball coach Eric Sitze. "He did a lot of the little things that people don't normally take notice of. He's a good athlete."

Dooley was also the best player on Dexter's 14-9 baseball team. He batted .361 with three home runs, five doubles, a triple and 19 RBIs. He was also the team's top defensive player.

"He made himself one of the top baseball players in Southeast Missouri," said baseball coach Brian Becker. "He was a very good team leader and came through for us in the clutch more times than not."

3. Jacob Priday

As a two sport standout, Priday was one of the top players in the area in both football and baseball.

In the fall, the junior wreaked havoc on opposing offenses as he recorded a mind-boggling 176 tackles with three quarterback sacks and three interceptions for Sikeston's 7-2 team.

He was rewarded by making first team all-state as a linebacker in Class 4.

"He was the core of our defense," said football coach Charlie Vickery. "Our defense is basically built around him. He's our middle linebacker and that's what you build your defense around. He's an outstanding athlete for us and he's well-deserving. He had a great year."

He followed that up with a big year in baseball where he was arguably the best catcher in the area for the Bulldogs' 23-2 team.

He led the team with a .519 average and 41 hits. He also had eight home runs, 13 doubles, 31 RBIs, 30 runs scored and six stolen bases. He was named as a first team all-state catcher in Class 3.

"He had a great year for us," said baseball coach Kevin Self. "He was one of our top hitters and he had a real good defensive year."

4. Drew Wethington

Dexter High School voted Wethington as its Athlete of the Year this season. In the fall, he was a second team all-state linebacker for Dexter's 8-3 playoff football team. He recorded 109 tackles, had three sacks and made three interceptions, leading Dexter to its first district title since 1992.

"He attacked every play," said football coach Aaron Pixley. "He runs well, he's a good athlete and he's very bright."

Over the winter, Wethington was the sixth man on Dexter's 21-5 basketball team. He provided eight points and six rebounds per game for the Bearcats.

"He gave us the depth we needed at the rebounding spot," said basketball coach Eric Sitze. "He provided a lot of defense off the bench and did everything we asked him to do."

In the spring, Wethington was the No. 1 player on Dexter's tennis team. He finished with an individual record of 6-4 against the area's top players.

"He gave it everything he had, all the time," said tennis coach LeAnne Dooley. "He was a true team player. You couldn't ask for a better kid."

5. Orrice Stanback

Stanback was a two-sport star for Charleston this season in football and as a member of the track and field team. He was solid in the spring, but football was his strongest sport. As a running back, he rushed for a school record 2,125 yards on 315 carries, scoring 21 touchdowns.

"The kid wants the football," said coach Brent Anderson. "He doesn't care how he gets it, he doesn't care where he gets it. Inside, outside -- it doesn't matter. He wanted to carry the football team."

Stanback did exactly that, leading Charleston to its third consecutive district title. His success carried over into the track season. As a member of Charleston's 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay teams, he took fourth place at the Class 2 state meet in both events. Individually, he took eighth place in the open 400 at state.

"He could've done anything he wanted to do on the track," said track coach Dan Kesselring. "If he wanted to be a thrower, he would've done it well. He wanted to be a runner and ran every sprint event there was. He had a great work ethic."

6. Nathan Seyer

Oran had banner seasons in both basketball and baseball this year, and Seyer was the biggest reason why. He was Oran's top player on the hardcourt, averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a night game for the Eagles' 22-7 team.

He was named Player of the Year in the Scott-Mississippi Conference and was first team all-state.

"He was our best player all year long and led us the last two years," said coach Mitch Wood. "We were tickled to death to have him."

Seyer wasn't the flashiest or most athletic player on the floor, but he was stronger than most forwards and quicker than most centers, creating matchup problems for most teams. He was equally dominant on the baseball diamond, even with a nagging knee injury. He batted .400 with nine home runs, eight doubles, 41 RBIs and scored 39 runs.

"To me, he's one of the better catchers in the area," said Wood. "He did a pretty good job of hitting all year long." Seyer led Oran's baseball team to a 22-3-1 record and a second place finish in the Class 1 state tournament.

7. Edgar Givens

Givens was the top all-around athlete at New Madrid County Central this year.

In football, he had 77 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception.

He was also a threat at receiver, making 21 catches for 251 yards. He has verbally committed to play at the University of Missouri.

"He's a very versatile player," said coach Steve Rogers. "He's a great receiver and a good tackler. We're expecting a lot of big things out of him next year."

Givens was also one of NMCC's top basketball players, averaging eight points and eight rebounds a night.

"He was about the biggest and strongest kid we had in the middle," said former coach David Fields. "When he wasn't in there, his absence was felt."

Givens also succeeded at track and field, winning state as a member of NMCC's 4 x 100 relay team. He also participated in the long jump, triple jump and high jump.

"He has come in fifth place in a lot of his events at the district the last two years," explained coach Dempsey Craft. "We're hoping next year, he's going to have an outstanding year. He's got a chance to go to state in four events and place high in all of them."

8. Blake DeWitt

Sikeston's football and baseball teams had strong seasons, and one of the main reasons behind that success was Blake DeWitt.

The junior was named the starting quarterback just prior to the Bulldogs' first game and he showed why.

He led all quarterbacks in the area with 547 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. And he completed 48-of-108 passes for 771 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. On defense, he led the team with seven quarterback sacks and recorded 81 tackles.

"He's the guy that we built the offense around," said football coach Charlie Vickery. "He handled the ball a lot. Not only did he pass the ball well, but we had him run the ball quite a bit as well. Blake did a little bit of everything for us. Everything but drive the bus. He punted and kicked extra points, played quarterback and linebacker and he had an exceptional year."

DeWitt, who played basketball as a sophomore, took the winter off to prepare for baseball.

The extra work paid off as he had one of the great offensive seasons in state history, with a .513 average, 14 home runs, 56 RBIs, 15 doubles, two triples, 40 runs scored and 17 walks.

He was named a first team all-state pitcher as he went 9-0 with a 0.87 ERA in 48 1/3 innings. He struck out 62 and walked 10.

9. Matt Burnett

Burnett would've been a strong candidate for our Athlete of the Year, but a knee injury kept him from playing basketball this season. Still, he was dominant in two sports for the Bearcats.

In football, he picked up the most prestigious honor in Southeast Missouri, winning the Carr Trophy. The award is given out to the top football player in the area each year. "He's been making a name for himself for a couple of years now," said coach Aaron Pixley. "He's always been a great athlete, and that helps in football, but he's put in a lot of hard work to become a great football player."

Burnett rushed for 1,470 yards on 235 carries, scoring 24 touchdowns. He set school records for points in a season (160), points in a career (329) and became Dexter's career rushing leader with 3,968 yards.

In baseball, Burnett led the Bearcats with 12 doubles and batted .367 with one homer. He also had 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases. He was also a solid defensive second baseman. "Matt is one of those kids that you love to have on your team," said coach Brian Becker. "He's just an all-around excellent athlete. He had a great year at the plate for us. He's a good guy to have around."

10. Matt Boyer

Boyer was a solid three-sport athlete for East Prairie this year. In the fall, he was quarterback of the football team, throwing for 604 yards on 45-of-138 passing.

He was an even better defensive player, registering 50 tackles at outside linebacker.

"He had a good year," said former coach Ken Latham. "There were times where we threw the ball 39 times a game, which is a ton in high school. He was also one of our best defensive players."

Boyer's strongest sport was basketball, where he averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the Eagles. He signed a letter of intent to play for Mid-America in Oklahoma City.

"Matt was a really good leader for us," said coach Jason Irby. "He has always been a good shooter, and this year he got better at taking the ball to the basket. He really helped us in all of his sports."

Boyer was also East Prairie's top baseball player. He was one of the top catchers in the area as he batted .390 with two homers and 21 RBIs.