Century junior Jalen Stanton stood out in whichever sport he played on a given day.
Franklin senior distance runner Nyjari McNeil separated herself from her peers with consistent brilliance.
Stanton, a four-sport star and state champion in track, and McNeil, who captured five state titles in the two track seasons this past school year to close out an illustrious career, were named The Baltimore Sun’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year at its 52nd annual awards luncheon Wednesday at Martin’s West in Windsor Mill.
The two were selected from a list of 10 boys and 10 girls finalists, all of whom were recognized for their athletic achievements at the luncheon.
City boys lacrosse coach Anthony “Merc” Ryan also was recognized for his strong leadership under the most trying of circumstances this spring.
On May 5, just two days before the Knights were set to play in the Baltimore City championship game, junior captain Ray Glasgow III was slain in Baltimore. Ryan, in his 13th season as coach, provided much-needed support and guidance to his grieving players.
After the impressive accomplishments of all the finalists were read during Wednesday’s program, Stanton and McNeil were singled out as the top winners.
“I was a little bit surprised because there was so many great athletes here and I thought it could be anyone to get the reward,” said McNeil, who finished her career with 15 state titles. “I’m really glad it was me and I’m thankful The Baltimore Sun recognized my achievements.”
Stanton earned the award by regularly displaying athleticism, versatility and a team-first approach throughout his busy school year. In his first varsity football season, he was a playmaker at wide receiver and a lockdown defender at cornerback, earning all-county first team honors from the Carroll County Times.
In indoor track, he was named The Sun’s All-Metro Performer of the Year after leading the Knights to the Class 2A state championship. At states, he won the high jump and scored team points in three other events.
This spring, he finished with 25 goals and 10 assists at midfield on the lacrosse field and enjoyed another stellar track season with second-place finishes at states in the 200-meter dash, 110 hurdles and the high jump.
How did he manage it all?
“Honestly, it’s all my coaches just helping me get through everything, making everything easy for me,” he said. “It’s also my teammates making things easy for me and being understanding. Playing two sports in the spring, not being able to be at every practice and being able to accept that — I’d really like to thank my teammates and coaches for that. Just the success each team I was on had is the best feeling. Just being able to help each team out in different ways is the best feeling I had.”
After using the cross country season in the fall as a warmup for things to come in track, McNeil dominated. At the Class 3A indoor meet, she captured the 500 and 800 crowns, and helped win the 1,600 relay to be named The Sun’s All-Metro Performer of the Year for a third straight indoor season. She then swept the 400 and 800 titles at the state outdoor meet Saturday.
Over her career, she has been an All-Metro selection in indoor and outdoor track every year of her career. The San Diego State commit holds state championship meet records in the 500 indoors and 800 outdoors.
“Track is really my life at this point and it’s not a chore,” she said. “It’s fun for me because I chose to do it and I like practicing and I like the people I work with, and I’m excited to be able to continue it in San Diego.
“For the team aspect of it, I feel like I’ve grown more of a leader and I think that leadership mindset will definitely follow me wherever my career takes me. And I’ve gotten more confident in my abilities and believe I can do great things. and I’m looking forward to the future.”
The other boys recognized were Elian Ahmar (Broadneck), Eyabi Anoma (St. Frances), Jason Kraisser (Centennial), Kai Muniz (Reservoir), Brandon Madison (Gilman), PJ Mustipher (McDonogh), Jorden Pryor (Dunbar), Immanuel Quickley (John Carroll) and Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph).
The girls were Anna Callahan (Glenelg), Jasmine Dickey (Catonsville), Haley Downin (Chesapeake-AA), Nathalie Friedman (Notre Dame Prep), Elizabeth Hillman (Bel Air), Maddie Jenner (McDonogh), Julie Lynch (Sparrows Point), Ada Clare Tempert (Mercy) and Allison Zolkiewicz (South Carroll).