Westminster senior Deryk Kern made the most of his opportunity as the Owls' new starting quarterback last fall, passing his way to several records.
Catholic junior Ellie Gonzalez came into the school year as an established distance runner who then decidedly separated herself from the rest of the pack.
On Wednesday, Kern and Gonzalez added to their lengthy list of athletic accomplishments this year by being named The Baltimore Sun's Male and Female Athletes of the Year at the 47th annual awards luncheon at the newspaper's downtown headquarters.
Aaron Leeds, a three-sport athlete at Boys' Latin, received the seventh annual Hayley Milbourn Integrity Award for the high character he displayed one morning last fall.
For Kern, who also was a four-year starting point guard for the Owls basketball team, the signs of a special football season showed up early when he tied a state record with seven touchdown passes in a win at Linganore in the third week. He went on to throw 63 touchdowns in 13 games — smashing the old record of 56 set by Arundel's Billy Cosh in 2008 — and lead the Owls to the state semifinals.
In shattering a number of Carroll County and Monocacy Valley Athletic League passing records, Kern completed 213 of 356 passes for 3,890 yards with 12 interceptions. In his four years playing point guard, the Owls went from 1-21 the year before he came to two straight 19-5 seasons, with this year's team winning the first county championship in more than a decade. Kern, who is set to play quarterback at Wesley College in Delaware, was humbled and taken back by receiving the award.
"When I was listening [to the introduction speech] and realized it was me they were talking about, I was so nervous and really excited," Kern said. "It was a special season. Working hard with teammates and just having fun with them and then seeing all the hard work pay off was great."
The other boys finalists were: Hale Bullen (Annapolis), Vince Ciattei (Perry Hall), Jack Clark (McDonogh), Shane Cockerille (Gilman), Cory Daniel (River Hill), Stephen Kelly (Calvert Hall), Micah Kiser (Gilman), Henry Poggi (Gilman) and Tevon Saddler (St. Frances).
The only way to describe the year Gonzalez had competing in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track and field was overwhelmingly dominant.
Gonzalez won every race she entered but one in the three seasons this school year. She was The Baltimore Sun's Runner of the Year in cross country and Performer of the Year in indoor track, with more honors upcoming in outdoor track.
In cross country, Gonzalez won her second straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland title by 40 seconds. In the indoor and outdoor track seasons, she swept IAAM crowns in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and her times in all four races would have comfortably won every classification at the public schools state meets.
"Running is like my art form, a way for me to express myself, and receiving this is special because my hard work is being recognized by others. This is just such a great honor," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was selected over fellow finalists Taylor Bresnahan (South River), Sharon Dorsey (Western Tech), A'Lexus Harrison (Digital Harbor), Lakin Hatcher (McDonogh), Kacie Longo (South River), Jimmia McCluskey (Aberdeen), Jade Scaife (Archbishop Spalding), Abby Smucker (C. Milton Wright) and Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge).
Coming out of a restaurant last fall, Leeds found an envelope in the parking lot that contained $3,000 and — without hesitation — he returned to the restaurant and gave it to the cashier. The money found its way back to the owner and a Boys' Latin alum was so impressed with the senior's responsible act that he donated $3,000 to the school in Leeds' name.
Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette served as the keynote speaker for the event, delivering a message to the student-athletes that if you find work that you love and surround yourself with others equally as passionate, it won't be like going to work everyday.