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Howard is 2009s top athlete
Tiffany Howard received the 2009 Bryan County Athlete of the Year award Monday at the Winter Family Café in Pembroke. Among those in attendance were (from left) Coach Mario Mincey, Coach Cindy Bennett, Asst. Principal Rod Backman, Coach Al Butler and Coach Blake Nesmith. (Ross Blair)

Bryan County High School sophomore Tiffany Howard was just named the 2009 Bryan County News Athlete of the Year.

She was selected by the Bryan County News sports staff, with input from coaches.

Howard stayed active throughout the entire year, gravitating to the top of the roster in softball, basketball, track and cross country. The head coaches from each sport were among those on hand Monday during the award presentation Monday at the Winter Family Café in Pembroke.

"Tiffany is truly an impact player. There is no team that she’s not apart of that doesn’t have the chance to win because Tiffany’s out there," said BCHS Vice Principal Rod Backman, who attended the presentation. "There was no better athlete in the county this year."

Among the accolades Howard racked up in 2009 include All-State honors and Region 3A Player of the Year for softball, second place at the region meet and 11th at state for cross country, and track and field region titles for the 800 meter run, 3200 meter run and 4x400 meter relay. In softball, Howard threw two no-hitters and led her team to the Elite 8 round of the state tournament. At the state track meet, she broke the school records for the 800, 3200 and 4x400.

"She doesn’t understand why we all go crazy over the things she does," BCHS softball coach Al Butler said. "It’s just her uncanny ability to be special."

Butler said he is constantly amazed at the ease in which she handles pressure and counters with skilled, intelligent plays. He said he does not worry when she is on the pitcher’s mound and has only had to give her three pitching signals in the two years he has coached her.

BCHS basketball coach Mario Mincey began placing her as a starting point guard last year – an unprecedented position for a freshman. He said she is good at offense, but incredible on defense.

"On defense, I would hate to play against her," Mincey said. "That would be as aggravating as a gnat on a picnic table."

BCHS track coach Blake Nesmith said coaching Howard is "nothing but enjoyable," and he does not have to worry about how she is doing academically or if she is going to show up at practice.

"On the contrary, you pretty much have to run her off from practice," Nesmith said. "It’ll be like ‘I want to do the triple jump five more times.’ Then it’s two more times.

"Other than her winning all the events at region, the biggest thing Tiffany has added to our track program is her enthusiasm," Nesmith added. "Sometimes track meets get tough to where you’re run down and stressed out, but here’s Tiffany running around and full of energy. That rubs off on me; it rubs off on other kids. It’s a tremendous assete that we have."

BCHS cross country coach Cindy Bennett discovered Howard late in the season last year, when softball wrapped up and Mincey sent his girls to Bennett for conditioning.

"On that first day, Tiffany is out there beating the boys on the cross country team," Bennett said. "We had two region meets left, but I convinced her join the team. She ended up winning the region title."

Howard’s mother, Christie Howard said her daughter’s secret to success is hard work, natural ability and "the way she drives herself and strives to improve. She applies that same philosophy off the field as well."

Backman called Howard the "poster child for the student-athlete." He said she’s an honor student who not only takes the hardest classes, but gets A’s in the hardest classes while still still managing a very rigorous and demanding athletic schedule.

Howard said she participates in sports year-round simply to stay active, and the success that has come her way is a bonus. She said she hopes to play sports in college while studying to become a veterinarian but does not yet have a preference as to which sport to continue with at that level.

"I really want to go Tennessee, so I’d go there no matter what sport they offered me to play," Howard said.

Honorable mentions: Chakiris Moss, Preston Jenkins, Lindsey Vasher, Billy Kilmer, Willie Deloach, Shaquille Walker, Lauren Simerly, Devon Rohde, Gaby Parker, Bridget Bacon, Samantha Howard, Olivia Melvin and Josh Bryant.

To see a photographic history of all the past Bryan County Athlete of the Month/Year award winners, click here

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