Photo: Ashville High graduate J’Brelin Cook (pictured seated at center) is joined by family members and coaches while signing a track scholarship with Montevallo University on June 12. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
A trio of recent Ashville High School graduates realized their dreams of playing sports at the next level.
Tori Layfield, Ty Armstrong and J’Brelin Cook signed college athletic scholarships on June 12.
A shortstop, Layfield will play softball at NCAA Div. III Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The Lady Scots compete in the USA South Conference.
“It’s been my dream to play college softball, so this is very exciting,” said Layfield, who plans on studying biology. “I really love the [Covenant] campus and the coach really made me feel welcome, so I’ll feel right at home.”
AHS head softball coach Kristen Seals took over the program prior to Layfield’s freshman year.
“Since I’ve had her, Tori has been a true leader and a true athlete. She gets after it in the field and means business when she steps to the plate. We only played about 10 games, but Tori hit back-to-back homes runs in one game. She also was the best glove we had on the field. We’re going to miss her tremendously. Tori and our five other seniors were such a special group, and it broke my heart when the season shut down so early in the season (due to coronavirus restrictions).”
Since his senior season ended with an injury against Springville in the second game of the 2019 season, Armstrong is looking forward to getting back on the field this fall at Birmingham Southern. He played running back and inside linebacker for the Bulldogs.
“Football is something I’ve done since I was four years old, so just getting the opportunity to continue playing is really exciting,” said Armstrong, who plans on studying nursing at BSC. “It really is a dream come true. There were so many sacrifices that went into this day, but I wanted to make it to the next level in any way that I could.”
AHS head football coach Shea Monroe said that he never had to wonder if Armstrong was doing the right things at any given moment.
“Ty’s a really hard worker and a lead-by-example guy,” said Monroe. “He’s a great ambassador for our team, our school and our community. Ty’s just an all-around great person, and we’re excited to see what he’ll do at Birmingham Southern. Ty’s a got a good frame and he’s got room to grow, and I think he can be a major contributor from Day 1 [for Birmingham Southern].”
Cook said that folding his tent and giving up on his dream of being a college athlete was not an option following his father’s death late last year.
“It was the hardest thing I ever had to go through, but I had my family help me get where I wanted to be, and I knew that I had to move on,” said Cook, who plans on majoring in business management. “Obviously, I still going to mourn my dad, but I’m going be the best I can be for him. I’m ready for the challenge.”
Cook was a state qualifier in the 400-meter run during his sophomore and junior seasons and was All-St. Clair County his freshman, sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He won the 400-meter relay in the Bulldogs’ only track meet of the season at Lincoln in mid-March.
“J’Brelin’s a really hard worker, and it’s been a pleasure watching him go from a young eighth grader to a leader on our team,” said AHS track and field coach Michele Rogers. “On the days when we didn’t practice as a team, he went out and practiced on his own and set a great example for the other kids. I’ve seen him deal with difficult circumstances that weren’t favorable to be successful, but J’Brelin pushed through it and set goals for himself and made sure he attained those goals. I can’t see any reason why he won’t be successful [at Montevallo]. He’ll be a great asset to that program.”