The numbers are all there for history to view. But there was always something more important to Brittany Ward.
She wanted to be an example for other girls in the program to follow. Through her competitiveness, grit and determination she won over many people while always maintaining a positive attitude.
Ward overcame an ACL injury during volleyball season to once again be the go-to girl on the basketball court and capped her career with an outstanding season on the softball field. These efforts have earned her the distinction of being South Logan County Female Athlete of the Year for 2012-13.
It is the second such award for the Booneville senior, having won it as a sophomore in 2010-11.
"She is the kind of girl you would want your daughter to be," said outgoing Booneville girls’ basketball coach Jay Loyd. "She is an outstanding young lady before being an athlete."
"Brittany has been my hero since I was in the fifth grade," said sophomore Jaycie Rodatz earlier this year. This sentiment was echoed by several other underclassmen through the course of the various seasons.
Ward’s volleyball season ended prematurely in late September when she injured her ACL during an open gym period. At the time of her injury, she was leading the team in kills (42) and hitting efficiency (over 81 percent) while also digging at a 75 percent clip. Fittingly, her last act as a Lady Cat volleyballer was a crosscourt kill that sealed a thrilling five-set conference win over Malvern.
"She worked and played extremely hard no matter what sport," said Booneville volleyball coach Robert Dean. "When you do that you have success."
Loyd recognized the competitive streak in her. "She always came to practice ready to work," he said. The coach added that while she was injured, she still couldn’t be kept off the floor. "I wanted to sit her and rest her, but she would have none of that."
Ward averaged almost 16 points per game in basketball season with a high of 28 against Waldron, but it was never about scoring for her. She wanted to get her teammates involved, and to that end she had five or more assists in a game 10 different times. Ward led in that category as well as in steals, and sank a school-record 49 three-pointers for the season. "For all of her individual accomplishments, she would have traded it for more team success," said Loyd. Nevertheless, Ward was rewarded by being named All-State.
She finished her career third in all-time scoring with 1,135 points and is the only Lady Bearcat to have over 1,000 career points, 300 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals. Ward finished third in assists (229) and steals (201) for her career while leading in career three-pointers (131) and charges taken (21).
Ward decided to play softball this season until she had knee surgery, and for the 19 games she played in she was magnificent. Ward batted .481 for the season—second on the team—and played shortstop at a very high level. She made an outstanding catch against Jonesboro in the Heber Springs tournament to start a double play, and during that week—which also included a doubleheader against Clarksville and a conference tilt at home against Pottsville—Ward’s batting average was an astonishing .760 (19 for 25).
Despite the games missed, Ward tied for the team lead in doubles and was tops in slugging percentage. She was named to the All-District team; this meant that during her career, Ward was an All-District selection twice in three different sports.
Ward will press on as an athlete; she successfully tried out for the women’s basketball team at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith this spring. She will join another former Lady Bearcat, Kaytlann Schlinker, as a member of the Lady Lions. Ward will redshirt this coming season and will start as a freshman in eligibility for 2014-15.
It was not just on the court that Ward proved her mettle. She was an honor graduate from BHS, carrying a 3.7 grade-point average. Ward was a state finalist for the High School Heisman award.
This reporter has been impressed with the way Ward has presented herself through the years. There has always, it seemed to me, been a certain dignity about her, and she has been nothing less than a class individual throughout her career. Brittany Nichole Ward has a lot going for her and has all the tools she needs to make a major impact on anything she does in life.
Magazine’s Kenzie Graham also had an outstanding athletic career and is certainly worthy of high honorable mention. During this past season, Graham averaged 16 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. The highlight of her — and Magazine’s — season came against Mountainburg when she buried a half-court shot to beat the Lady Dragons. This gained a conference co-championship for the Lady Rattlers.
Graham was a three-time All-State performer, finishing with 1,344 career points. She also has at least one more game left to play, as she was selected to participate in the All-Star Game in June.
She was also an ace pitcher for the Lady Rattler softball team, winning 15 games and striking out 162 opposing batters. At the plate, Graham hit .435 with five doubles, two triples, four home runs and 23 runs batted in.
Some other athletes who are worthy of mention include Booneville’s Morgan Osborne (hit .351 with 2 home runs and 19 RBI in softball and saw considerable action off the bench in basketball), Lauren Lloyd (led the Lady Cat basketball team in rebounding and qualified for the state track meet), Hallie Davis (qualified for state in both cross-country and track), and Jaycie Rodatz (All-District in volleyball and scored 15 runs as a pinch-runner in softball), as well as Magazine’s McKenzie Loyd (an excellent talent in both basketball and softball).
The Democrat’s Athlete of the Year award changed to a school year format five years ago. The previous eight awards were announced at the end of a calendar year.
All previous winners are:
• 2011-2012, Katy Carter
• 2010-2011, Brittany Ward
• 2009-2010, Rebecca Rockenhaus
• 2008-2009, Sarah Hotubbee
• 2007-2008, Sarah Parker
• 2006-2007, Tabby Horton
• 2005, April Pote
• 2004, Sandy Dyle
• 2003, Hope Raggio
• 2002, Hope Raggio
• 2001, Amy Swint
• 2000, Samantha Adair
• 1999, Jenny Mikles
• 1998, Lyndsey Shirey