None of the parents of Cape Coral diver Megan Galbreath and Fort Myers runner Josh Kennedy’s had their cameras ready during the announcement of the Female and Male Athlete of the Year awards Tuesday at the Sixth Annual News-Press All-Area Stars banquet.
Thinking neither of the finalist won their individual sports, there was no need.
That’s when the bios of the winners started to sound familiar.
Galbreath, a Harvard signee, may have lost out to four-time Female Swimmer of the Year Kendall Brent of Fort Myers, but she came out on top when the final awards were announced. The state champion diver dedicated her award to her coach Jenn Panicaro, who suffered a brain aneurysm days before the regional meet this season.
Galbreath wasn’t sure she’d finish the season much less win state. While she was surprised to be heading to the stage to accept the award it was the perfect ending to a tough season.
“There’s just so many amazing athletes out there,” Galbreath said. “It’s been a tough year. It’s been an amazing year. I’d never thought it’d happen.”
Kennedy didn’t think he’d be in the running for Male Athlete of the Year after Fort Myers teammate Evan Babatz took home honors in cross country and track and field. His perfect SAT score and work in the community made him a perfect fit for the award honoring athletic achievement as well as academic achievement.
“I’m just thrilled,” Kennedy said. “I’d really like to thank my parents. My mom, first of all, for pushing me academically and athletically and for driving me to practice for two years. I’d also like to thank Coach (Yancey) Palmer because without his excellent coaching I wouldn’t even have been a finalist.”
It was a breakout season for Kennedy as he finished 18th in Class 3A and took on a leadership role with the Green Wave.
“It meant a lot to me to show our younger runners what it means to represent Fort Myers High School,” Kennedy said. “I wanted to show them what hard work is all about.”
Repeat winners included Fort Myers’ John Carlin, who won the Boys Tennis Player of the Year for the third year in a row, Ida Baker bowler Tyler Altmann, Bishop Verot swimmer Santiago Corredor, Brent, Fort Myers golfer Landon Weber and Fort Myers’ Krissy Gear (cross country and track and field).
“It’s like a dream come true,” Brent said.
Naples swept the football categories with University of Tennessee signees Tyler Byrd and Carlin Fils-aime taking home Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, respectively.
“It means everything. It’s just a blessing to be here,” Byrd said. “To start four years and get where I am now, I couldn’t do it without my parents and the support of my coaches and other teammates.”
While Estero’s Taylor Hatch was named the Girls Soccer Player of the Year, Erick Rivera became the second straight Mariner player to win the Boys Soccer Player of the Year award.
“It means that all the hard work has actually paid off,” Rivera said.
Wrestler of the Year Mike Delago, Girls Basketball Player of the Year Destanni Henderson and Volleyball Player of the Year Alayna Ryan added to the list of Fort Myers’ winners.
In the baseball and softball categories, Bishop Verot senior Michael Richey and North Fort Myers junior MacKenzie Peterson prevailed.
“I was just shocked. It was crazy,” Peterson said. “It was just awesome to be put in this position.”
The News-Press 2015-15 Player of the Year are:
Football Offense: Carlin Fils-aime, Naples High School
Football Defense: Tyler Byrd, Naples High School
Girls Bowler of the Year: Kyndall Snyder, Island Coast High School
Boys Bowler of the Year: Tyler Altmann, Ida Baker High School
Girls Golfer of the Year: Brittany Shin, Ida Baker High School
Boys Golfer of the Year: Landon Weber, Fort Myers High School
Girls Swimmer of the Year: Kendall Brent, Fort Myers High School
Boys Swimmer of the Year: Santiago Corredor, Bishop Verot High School
Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year: Krissy Gear, Fort Myers High School
Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Evan Babatz, Fort Myers High School
Volleyball Player of the Year: Alayna Ryan, Fort Myers High School
Girls Basketball Player of the Year: Destanni Henderson, Fort Myers High School
Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Jacob Tracey, Riverdale High School
Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Taylor Hatch, Estero High School
Boys Soccer Player of the Year: Erick Rivera, Mariner High School
Wrestler of the Year: Mike Delago, Fort Myers High School
Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year: Arianna Endelmann, Estero High School
Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year: Joey Cerniglia, Bishop Verot High School
Girls Tennis Player of the Year: Emily Javedan, Canterbury School
Boys Tennis Player of the Year: John Carlin, Fort Myers High School
Girls Track Athlete of the Year: Krissy Gear, Fort Myers High School
Boys Track Athlete of the Year: Evan Babatz, Fort Myers High School
Softball Player of the Year: MacKenzie Peterson, North Fort Myers High School
Baseball Player of the Year: Michael Richey, Bishop Verot High School