Photo: Glencoe High School senior Katie Giles (pictured at right) poses with Hatton senior Jazzmine Mason after the two were named the 2023 winners of the Bryant-Jordan Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Student Achievement of the Year awards on April 10 in Birmingham. (Courtesy of AHSAA)
Courtesy of AHSAA
Katie Giles is officially the cream of the crop in terms of Alabama’s high school student-athletes.
The Glencoe High School senior received the 2023 Larry D. Striplin Jr., Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award as the overall scholar-athlete of the year at the 38th annual Bryant-Jordan Student Athlete Awards Banquet on Monday, April 10 in Birmingham.
Giles received a $3,000 scholarship for being named a Bryant-Jordan regional winner, a $3,500 scholarship for being the Class 3A winner and an additional $4,000 scholarship as the overall state winner.
Giles thanked her principal Wendy Tinker and GHS teachers for their impact in her life.
“I thank them so much for their kind words,” she said. “They have always pushed me to be the best I can be. It’s definitely a big honor that I wasn’t expecting it all.”
The cross country and track and field standout was a true scholar-athlete in every sense of the word. She will graduate with a 4.46 weighted grade point average on a 4.0 scale and is a National Merit Finalist who is on track to be her graduating class’ valedictorian or salutatorian. She also scored a perfect 36 on the ACT college entrance exam. Giles is enrolled in dual enrollment, taking college courses in addition to her Advanced Placement classes.
“Katie is just the total package,” said Glencoe High School Principal Wendy Tinker. “She’s just the real deal. We’re proud to be part of her high school journey, and we hope she takes a little piece with her wherever she goes. She’s one of the most determined kids I’ve ever met. If she can’t do it the first time, she’s going to work and work and work until it’s perfect. Katie is as close to a perfect kid as I’ve ever seen.”
Giles displayed her determination in other ways throughout her high school career. She battled a series of injuries during her junior season that slowed her progress. Even when she could not clock elite times, she paced younger teammates in an effort to help them log personal bests. She also works a part-time job as a local soccer official, attended Girls State, served as president of the school’s Junior Civitan Club and volunteered her time in numerous community service projects. She played soccer and basketball before giving up both to focus on running.
Giles plans to attend the University of South Alabama in Mobile and will compete on the Jaguars’ cross country and track teams. She plans to study biomedical sciences with the goal of attending medical school. She hopes to eventually specialize in orthopedics or sports medicine.
“Katie is one of the most driven individuals I have ever known,” said her mom Donna, a teacher at Etowah High School. “For her teachers and such, I hope they don’t think we constantly push her, because she doesn’t require pushing. It’s all motivation from within. She just strives for excellence in everything she puts her hands on. She wants to do her very best in academics and athletics.”
Giles won the Class 3A state cross country championship as a sophomore. This past season, she overcame a nagging hip injury to win two events and finish runner-up in four. She placed in the top 10 in 11 out of her 13 races. She won her third straight Etowah County Meet, the Class 3A Section 3 Meet and came in sixth out of 148 runners in the AHSAA state meet. She helped the Lady Yellow Jackets win the program’s first-ever county meet and finish as the top public school in the state for the second straight year. In outdoor track, she has won multiple state medals in the 800-meter, 1600-meter and 3200-meter run events.
“When Katie has a task that she has to complete, she does whatever it takes to get it completed,” said Glencoe High School girls’ track and field coach Adrian Payne. “She works harder than any athlete I’ve ever had. One of the things I like to say is that you will not outwork Katie Giles.”
Hatton High School’s Jazzmine Mason was named the over state winner of the Bryant-Jordan Student Achievement award.
Joining Giles as scholar-athlete classifications winners were Kinston’s Reece Hall in 1A, Ranburne’s Carson Hall in 2A, Corner’s Brooklyn Ehlers in 4A, Eufaula’s Annie Wingate in 5A, Cullman’s Jack Heap in 6A and Auburn’s Maxwell Hardin in 7A.
A total of 104 high school regional senior honorees were recognized at the banquet and awarded more than $410,000 in scholarships, with more than $500,000 also available through the Bryant-Jordan program annually. Named in honor of the late coaches Paul Bryant of Alabama and Ralph Jordan of Auburn, the scholarship program recognized 52 regional scholar-athlete winners selected for their excellence in athletics and academics and 52 achievement winners chosen for their ability to overcome major obstacles during their high school careers.
“I think of the word ‘grit’ for Katie,” said GHS teacher Sherry Firestone. “There is something inherent in certain people, and Katie has that. People are born with it. You can’t teach it. The kid has that quality that doesn’t come along often.”
The Messenger Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.