Photo: Seven Glencoe High School seniors signed college athletic scholarships on May 10. Pictured, from left: Conner Cothran (cross country, Northeast Alabama Community College), Kinslee Gray (volleyball, Gadsden State), McKinley Kay (cross country, Gadsden State), Hailey Hanners (softball, Gadsden State), Jaxon Sizemore (basketball, Gadsden State), Katie Giles (cross country, South Alabama), Conner Strawn (cross country, Gadsden State). (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Seven Glencoe High School seniors signed college athletic scholarships on May 3.
Katie Giles will run cross country and track at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where she plans to study biomedical sciences with the goal of attending medical school. She hopes to eventually specialize in orthopedics or sports medicine. Giles carries a 4.46 GPA and scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. She recently 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.
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 races. 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, Giles won multiple state medals in the 800-meter, 1600-meter and 3200-meter run events. She holds the school records in the 800-meter, 1600-meter and 3200-meter and 5000-meter runs in both indoor and outdoor track.
She also participated in the North/South All-Star cross country meet last July in Montgomery.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” said Giles. “I visited a lot of colleges and spoke with a lot of coaches, so it’s exciting to see it come to fruition. My junior year was tough because I was injured, and that’s the biggest recruiting season. I lost touch with several coaches, but several others kept in touch with me, one of those being the coach from South Alabama. I’m very thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to run in college.”
“I think it’s awesome that we had four kids from this year’s cross country team sign scholarships,” said GHS cross country coach Karen Cothran. “They were dedicated and put in a lot of hard work, and I’m excited for them. Katie is a real go-getter who inspired so many of her teammates to push themselves and each other. She’s self-motivated and easy to coach, and she’ll accomplish whatever she sets out to do at South Alabama and in life.”
Jaxon Sizemore will play basketball at Gadsden State. She was selected MVP of the 2022-23 All-Etowah County Schools team and Co-Player of the Year for the 2022-23 All-Messenger and made the ASWA Class 3A All-State second team after averaging 17.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while helping the Lady Yellow Jackets go 19-11, finish as the county and area tournament runner-up and make it to the Northeast Regional Tournament for the first time in five years.
For her career, Sizemore finished with 1,144 points, 460 rebounds, 267 assists and 231 steals. She also is a five-year varsity letterman in volleyball, cross country and softball.
“It’s long been a goal of mine to play right here in my hometown, so it feels super-special,” said Sizemore. “We had a couple of rough rebuilding years, and our senior year, we came together and wanted to leave a legacy. We were able to do something that hadn’t been done around here in a few years, and it was a great way for us seniors to go out.”
“Jaxson has provided so much to our program, so to get to see the fruits of her labor pay off today is exciting,” said GHS girls basketball coach Blake Badgett. “Besides being a great player, she showed our younger girls how to work hard to reach your goals, and for that we’ll be forever grateful. The moment never got too big for Jaxson, and she definitely set the standard that everyone should meet in our program. Gadsden State is getting a proven winner and an incredible human being.”
Conner Cothran will compete in both cross country and indoor track at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville. He qualified for the Class 3A state track and field meet in the 800, 1600 and 5000-meter runs.
“This is not something that I actually thought would ever happen,” he said. “I’ve brought it down from running 45-minute 5K’s in eighth grade to 18 minutes.”
“Conner has come a long way in his career,” said Karen Cothran, who is Conner’s mother. “He was self-motivated to run, and he made things happen.”
Kinslee Gray will play volleyball at Gadsden State. She was a 2022 All-Etowah County Schools and all-area volleyball selection and a member of the All-Messenger volleyball first team. She finished her varsity career with an AHSAA state record 1,332 digs along with 261 assists, 150 aces, 131 kills and a 91 percent serving percentage.
Over her five-year varsity career in volleyball, basketball and softball, Gray has played in a combined 401 matches.
“Kinslee brings those intangibles,” said GHS volleyball coach Jamie Barkley. “She’s going to sacrifice life and limb in going after a ball she shouldn’t be able to get to, and then getting a hand on it and getting it to a teammate who can do something with it. There’s no telling how many points Kinslee saved for us with those digs. She’s been doing that for us since the eighth grade. To know that you can count on someone for that consistency game in and game out is irreplaceable.”
Hailey Hanners will play softball at Gadsden State. For her prep career, she finished with a .406 career batting average, an .453 on-base percentage, a .712 slugging percentage, 19 home runs, 122 RBI and 90 runs scored.
Hanners has helped the 2023 GHS softball team win the area tournament and qualify for the East Regionals.
“I’m so thankful that I have this opportunity, and I really feel like I’m ready to play at the next level,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to have so many new experiences and make lasting relationships with my teammates and my coaches. I think it’s going to be a great learning lesson for me.”
“Hailey’s been huge for us, especially this year,” said GHS softball coach Taylor Talbot. “Her attitude and her work ethic have been great. She puts in a lot of hard work, which shows when she goes from two home runs a year ago to 11 this season and 25 RBIs to 54 as of right now. It’s been an honor to coach Haley, and I’m really excited for her with this opportunity. Gadsden State starting back the [softball] program is a big deal for a lot of kids in this area.”
McKinley Kay and Conner Strawn will run cross country at Gadsden State.
Kay was a five-year letterman for Glencoe. Last season she helped the Lady Yellow Jackets win their first-ever Etowah County School cross country championship.
“I never really wanted to run [in college] until this year, when I knew that I could do it,” she said. “I’m really excited to be a part of the program.”
“McKinley was our most consistent runner,” said Cothran. “She set a pace and nailed that pace every single time. She’s really dedicated and she works hard during the season and during the offseason.”
A two-year letterman for the Yellow Jackets, Strawn finished in the top 10 at the 2022 country meet.
“My family is not very athletic, and I’m the first student-athlete from my family,” he said. “It’s an honor, not just to further educate myself but to better myself physically. I want to thank Gadsden State cross country coaches for putting me on scholarship and I want to thank everyone who helped bring me to this point today.”