The 28th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, aired on June 21.
It's the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so Star Local Media has decided in recent years to put a high school spin on the concept.
This has been a year that nobody will soon forget with the COVID-19 pandemic touching every facet of life, including high school sports, which saw its athletic year truncated on Mar. 12.
Though many of the spring sports were unable to complete their stories, Allen and Lovejoy showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last year of local varsity sports into an award-winning perspective.
In recent weeks, the Allen area’s top athletes, teams and games have been recognized among nine different awards.
With that said, Star Local Media presents its eighth edition of The Varsitys, the last of a three-part series.
Best Male Athlete
Raylen Sharpe, football and track
After flashing brilliance behind center as a backup, Sharpe was given the reins of the Allen offense in 2019 and submitted a year befitting of district MVP honors as one of the area’s top dual-threat quarterbacks.
His first snap as a starter resulted in an 80-yard touchdown run in Allen’s season opener against Cedar Hill — offering a glimpse into the weaponry the Eagles possessed in the backfield.
Although Sharpe battled an ankle injury that subdued his mobility the first half of the season, the Eagles slowly loosened the reins as the year went along. Sharpe’s production escalated — closing out the season with 2,803 passing yards, 569 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns to help Allen to a 14th consecutive district championship and a seventh straight unbeaten regular season.
And as evidenced in last week’s “Best Performance” accolade, Sharpe went out on his shield with a 571-yard haymaker of an effort in Allen’s season-ending 60-59 loss to Rockwall.
Sharpe’s spring was sidetracked by the pandemic as well, deprived of closure to what had the makings of a promising senior season with the Eagles’ track and field team. The school’s top hurdler, Sharpe had already turned in first-place efforts at the DeSoto Nike Invitational in the 110-meter hurdles and at the Lancaster Meet of Champions in the 300 hurdles.
Best Female Athlete
Anni Fan, swimming
All Fan has known during her decorated high school career has been competing at the state meet, qualifying all four years on varsity.
She had momentum heading into her senior year after taking fifth in the 100-yard butterfly as a junior, a mark head coach Brent Mitchell was optimistic Fan could improve upon as a senior. Fan did just that and then some — placing third in the event after shaving nearly one second off her 2019 state time by swimming a 54.51 in her final high school meet.
Fan added a sixth-place swim in the 50 freestyle — an event she hadn’t raced during the postseason in either of her three prior years on varsity — and chipped in as a leg in the Lady Eagles’ fifth-place 400 freestyle relay to help Allen’s girls team take eighth place overall at state.
Fan’s time of 54.51 in the 100 butterfly ranked as the state’s fourth-fastest of the season, a mark she earned an all-state nod in as well as her 23.56 in the 50 freestyle.
For the 11th consecutive year, the Eagles were without peer on the wrestling mats.
Allen continued its dynastic run with an 11th straight UIL state championship for its boys program, submitting another emphatic season that saw it lap the field in Class 6A. The Eagles posted 203.5 points in their latest run through the state meet, outscoring the combined totals of second- and third-place finishers Arlington Martin (100) and Katy (94).
Allen’s championship roster was headlined by four individual title winners in senior Braxton Brown (113 pounds), junior Mario Danzi (145), alum Elise Brown Ton (160) and alum Zane Davis (195). Brown and Danzi remained unbeaten in the postseason for their high school careers.
In total, 10 of Allen’s 13 state qualifiers placed in the top six of their weight class, showcasing the depth and skill that have been the program’s calling card during their decade-plus reign of dominance.