Photo: Southside High’s Grace Ann Clontz signed a bowling scholarship with Springhill College on March 4 at the SHS auditorium. Pictured, sitting, from left: dad David, Grace Ann, SHS bowling coach Zack Blume. Standing, from left: sisters Cora Lee, Jennifer and Jessica; mom Tiffany. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Several Southside High School seniors signed athletic scholarships on March 4 at the school auditorium.
Maggie Bell signed for volleyball with Snead State. At outside hitter, she helped the 2019 Lady Panthers to a 47-14 record, a third straight county championship, second straight area title and third straight appearance in the North Super Regional Tournament. Bell finished her prep career with 788 kills, 147 blocks, 116 aces and 70 digs.
“This was one of our most successful seasons in a while,” said volleyball coach Courtney Brothers. “Maggie has worked very hard to get herself to this moment. She was a tall and lanky kid as a seventh grader and we weren’t sure that she would develop into the athlete she is today. I’m so glad that she proved us wrong. She made herself a fierce hitter and an exceptional blocker. We’re very proud of Maggie and look forward to seeing her excel at Snead State.”
Bell will play for SHS athletic director Angie Sanders at Snead State.
The Lady Parsons went 24-14 this past season.
“It’s exciting because I know I worked hard enough to be able to pursue college volleyball, which is what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Bell. “My sophomore year, Coach Sanders talked to me a little bit about working harder and potentially playing for her in the future. She coached me in club season, so I knew how she coached and I really liked her.”
Also headed to Snead State is Austyn Patterson who signed for softball. Patterson recently underwent surgery for a torn labium and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2020 season. In her junior year of 2019, Patterson batted .319 with 37 hits, 21 RBI and a home run.
“It’s a blessing to have at least two more years to do what I grew up loving,” said Patterson. “I knew I could play at the next level when I started developing a relationship through hitting lessons with the Snead State coaches (Hannah Strength). They’re great people (at Snead State).”
Sanders read a letter from head softball coach Brett Yancey, who currently is battling esophageal cancer and was unable to attend.
“One of my favorite characteristics of Austyn is that she has a soft and sweet heart. She truly cares about her teammates and is a blessing to me and my family. Even though she had surgery and won’t play this year, she’s been at every practice and every game. I’m so proud that she is going to further her career at Snead State, and we as the Southside softball family wish her the best. Snead is getting a great third baseman and an even better teammate.”
Grace Ann Clontz signed a bowling scholarship to Spring Hill College in Mobile. A starter on the SHS bowling team since the program when she was an eighth grader, Clontz is one of the most decorated student-athletes in the history of Southside athletics. With Clontz leading the way, the Lady Panthers won five straight area titles, four straight North Regional championships and four straight state titles.
“It’s really special and shows how much the program has grown since it first started,” said Clontz. “It shows that it really does pay off when you put hard work into it. Everybody was basically family at Spring Hill. Everyone knows who everyone else is because it’s a smaller college and smaller community.
“After we won the second state title my sophomore year. Coach (Blume) was like, ‘Okay, you have to start looking at colleges now. You need to bowl in college.’ A lot of my family, and me personally, want to join the PWBA, which is the professional women’s league. It’s on TV and it’s really cool.”
Individually, Clontz was a four-time all-state and all-region selection, the 2018 Etowah County Tournament champion, the 2019 North Regional champion and the 2020 state runner-up. She also was a member of seven all-tournament teams and twice finished in the national top 75.
“Grace is genuinely one of my favorite people and a wonderful student,” said bowling coach Zack Blume. “When she started in eighth grade, I knew that Grace was going to be someone truly special. After a truly crushing loss, she came up to me and said, “I don’t like this (losing), and we’re not doing this again.’ After she said that, Grace’s teams went 111-3. We’re very excited to see what she can do a Spring Hill.”
Macie Williams signed for track and field with Jacksonville State, the first SHS female student-athlete to do so. Williams, who also lettered in volleyball and basketball for Southside, won the Class 5A gold medal in the shot put event her junior year.
“It’s going to be awesome because I’ve always been involved in sports, so I’m excited to be able to further it in my college career, too,” said Williams. “I’m going to be a teacher, so JSU has always been one of those schools I’ve wanted to go to.”
The first time Williams threw as an eighth grader in 2016, she placed third in the Etowah County meet.
“For not having technique or training, that 29.8-foot throw was pretty good,” said SHS track and field coach Ray Cargill. “Every year after that, she’s set a goal, and her PR last year was a 41 [foot throw]. Everybody who knows Macie knows that once she sets her mind to something, she’ll excel at it. We know this year that she’ll repeat the [shot put] title. JSU was Macie’s dream school to go to, and fortunately, she was able to get there. We’re very proud of Macie and we look forward to watching her compete at JSU.”
Lanora Hill signed a cross country scholarship with Wallace State-Hanceville. Since she joined the SHS program as a sophomore in 2017, she improved her PR from a time of 23:18 to a 22:36 as a junior to a 20:57 as a senior.
“Being able to keep going in cross country in college is exciting,” said Hill. “Around sectionals, I told myself and my coaches that I wanted to run for a college. Coach Nails knows the coaches at Wallace State because her son runs there, and she helped me out.”
Hill’s sophomore season was the first time that the girls program qualified for the AHSAA state meet. During her junior year, the Lady Panthers won the sectional meet, where she finished in the top 10 individually. This past season, Hill finished in the top six helping Southside win a second straight sectional championship. She was also a member of three straight county championships. Hill is joining a Wallace-Hanceville team that won the past two Alabama Community College Conference titles.
“As far as I’m aware of, Lanora is our first female cross country runner to sign a scholarship,” said cross country coach Kim Nails. “Every year, she has shown great improvement, and those [PR] times just don’t happen. It requires commitment, determination and hard work. Lanora’s a very good athlete and one of the toughest kids that I know. Somewhere in that toughness is a fierce competitor and true grit, and I believe that best is yet to come.”
Savannah Nunn signed with Auburn-Montgomery for basketball.
As a four-year letterman for the Lady Panthers, Nunn was a part of four area championships and Northeast Regional Tournament appearances her junior and senior seasons. She was an All-Etowah County and all-area selection multiple times.
“It’s exciting being able to continue playing basketball because it’s something I’ve always loved to do,” said Nunn. “The coach’s style of playing is a good fit for me. He coaches basketball the way I was taught to play.”
This past season, Nunn averaged 13.3 points along with 115 rebounds, 49 assists, 39 pass deflections, 36 blocks and 26 steals while helping Southside to a 15-13 record.
“Savannah has worked to improve her game each and every year,” said girls basketball coach Kim Nails. “We depended on her to play multiple roles for us and we relied on her heavily on both ends of the court. I’ve coached many good players over the years, and none were a versatile as Savannah. That versatility was a result of hard work and countless hours in the gym in order to develop into a complete player. She’s also a great teammate who was very unselfish and nurturing to the younger players. AUM is a great school, and they’re lucky to have Savannah joining them. She’s truly a great athletic and academic ambassador for Southside High School.”
Cole Frederick contributed to this article.