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 March 12.
Though many of the spring sports were unable to complete their stories, Carrollton 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, Carrollton’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
Conrad Hendriksen and Mason Ding, Creekview wrestling
Entering the 2019-20 season, only one time had a Creekview wrestler captured a state championship and only twice had the Mustangs sent a grappler to the state finals.
Hendriksen and Ding changed that history for the better, capturing Class 5A titles in February and helping Creekview pin down its best-ever finish at the state meet. The Mustangs took third overall, riding two commanding efforts by Hendriksen and Ding in their respective weight class, as well as a runner-up finish by Coby Eikenhorst at 138 pounds.
Ding went undefeated at 43-0 on his way to winning 5A’s 195-pound bracket. As a junior, Ding pinned his first three opponents in less than five total minutes of action and went on to hand Justin Northwest’s Aiden Jean, a defending state champion, his first loss of the season in a 7-5 decision win in the finals.
Hendriksen, meanwhile, posted a 37-1 record on his way to the top spot at 106 pounds. In the final, he avenged that lone loss after besting Lubbock’s Zachary Casias in a 3-1 decision win to capture a championship as a sophomore.
Best Female Athlete
Olivia Hasler, Hebron girls soccer
Hasler was one of several standout performers in the talent-rich 6-6A girls soccer district, which had four teams nationally ranked by Top Drawer Soccer at various junctures of the season. Among that cast was Hebron, which rose all the way to third place alongside Coppell when the season was suspended.
Hasler was at the forefront of the Lady Hawks’ strong 2020 campaign, staving off double team after double team to produce 11 goals and nine assists as the focal point of the Hebron attack. Named 6-6A’s offensive player of the year, Hasler was the only player in the district to score a goal against undefeated, first-place Flower Mound.
A four-year starter lauded by head coach Robert Vaughn for her speed, skill and ability to read the game, Hasler will continue her soccer career in college at TCU.
Newman Smith boys basketball
The Trojans submitted not only their best-ever season in 2019-20 but one of the best single-season efforts by any athletics program in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD history.
Smith accomplished the rare feat of an undefeated regular season, something only two other teams in Texas accomplished. The Trojans entered the postseason at 27-0 and fresh off a commanding sweep of the field in District 11-5A — winning all but one conference game by double digits.
Smith sported one of the area’s elite offenses, eclipsing 90 points seven times and even scoring at least 100 points on three occasions.
Sam Houston State commit Jarren Cook, Star Local Media’s all-area offensive player of the year, was the tip of the spear on nearly 18 points per game, and he had plenty of help elsewhere. Domani Villaruel controlled the paint, Bobby Smith III turned in his best season with the program, and Thibaut Tagnon bolstered by bench by accepting a sixth-man role despite previously starting for the Trojans.
It all coalesced into a special season for Smith, which matched its deepest playoff run with a regional quarterfinal trip on its way to finishing 29-1 on the year.