Brandon Ulmer of Booneville was named the baseball player of the year during Friday night’s second annual Best of the River Valley Preps banquet held at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
Ulmer, who played football and baseball for the Bearcats, was also one of the four finalists for the male athlete of the year, an award the ultimately went to Connor Noland of Greenwood.
An All State recipient this season, Ulmer hit an even .500 with 44 hits in 88 at bats. He hit nine home runs, 12 doubles and two triples, equating to a .989 slugging percentage. He scored 44 runs and drove in 25.
The second straight Bearcat to win the award — Brady Brasher was recognized at the inaugural banquet — Ulmer started 10 games for the Bearcats, finishing 6-2 with a 1.24 earned run average, while striking out 65.
Also invited to the banquet from Booneville were Trent Wooldridge, also for baseball; Beth Wilkinson for softball; Ethan Dobbs and Carson Ray on offense and Noah Reyes on defense in football; Haley Carter and Maddie Herrera for volleyball; Chandler Fritsche for golf; Marcus Nichols, Evan Schlinker, Kaedon Trejo and Lily Taylor for track; as well as the 4A state champion co-ed cheerleading squad.
State champion cheerleading squads from Booneville and Alma greeted those coming into the banquet.
More than 350 athletes from 29 schools in seven counties across the River Valley were recognized with individual and team awards in 19 different high school sports.
Former University of Arkansas Razorback standout running back and current Baltimore Raven Alex Collins was on hand to answer questions, pose for photos, encourage athletes and do a little dancing Friday night.
Collins spoke with Dr. Darren McKinney, Fort Smith Public Schools athletics director, during a Q&A at Friday’s event.
Collins, in his second season with the Ravens, took up Irish dancing as a way to develop the footwork that has given him an edge as an NFL running back. He demonstrated a bit of his technique during the Best of River Valley Preps event Friday night.
After beginning his NFL career in 2016 with the Seattle Seahawks, Collins joined the Ravens in 2017. He is well-known to Razorback fans from his days at the University of Arkansas.
He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2013 and set a Razorback record by scoring 20 rushing touchdowns his junior year. Collins was just the third player in SEC history to rush for 1,000 plus yards in three seasons, joining notables Herschel Walker and last year’s Best of River Valley Preps guest speaker, Darren McFadden.
Athletes attended the banquet free of charge because of sponsorships from area businesses, including Shoppers Value Foods, Arvest Bank and Taco Bell.
A special section commemorating the Best of River Valley Preps event will be published in the June 17 edition of the Times Record and in the June 20 edition of the Booneville Democrat.