NCHSAA announces annual Clary Medal winners

CHAPEL HILL – The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 William Clary Medal scholarship. West Forsyth senior Ashley Smith and East Surry senior Blake Marion were chosen from a highly competitive field of applicants.

The Clary Medal is made possible through the generosity of the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation and annually recognizes an outstanding male and female varsity student athlete participating in varsity competition in at least two NCHSAA-sanctioned teams. The award is based on the individual’s excellence in athletic participation, extra-curricular activities and community service. Each recipient of this medal exhibits a desire to excel in all areas of life – athletics, education, sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, honesty and integrity.

Smith participated in swimming and cross country for all four of her years at West Forsyth. As a senior, she led the cross country squad as team captain, making All-Conference, qualifying for the 4A State meet. She was named NCHSAA 4A All-Region as well as to the Footlocker All South Team. In swimming she qualified for the NCHSAA 4A Swim Championships.

A standout performer in the classroom as well, Smith is President of West Forsyth’s Math Honor Society, a group she founded her junior year, as well as one of the school’s math tutors. She is a Crosby Scholar and has been named an AP Scholar With Distinction. She has taken Spanish classes all four years in high school, and hopes to continue studying the language in an effort to become bilingual. She plans to pursue a degree in the medical field and says that she hope the combination of language and medical sciences, “will allow me to effectively provide medical support to Spanish speakers who are unfamiliar with the English language.”

West Forsyth guidance counselor Sean Sandag marveled at all Smith accomplished in her time at the school saying, “Every year there are a few students whose achievements leave the counselors and faculty incredulous. No one can comprehend how these students can do so much. Ashley Smith is one of these indefatigable students.”

He went on to say, “People told Ashley she could not do it when she took on cross country and swimming at the same time while taking one of the most rigorous schedules her night grade year. There simply is not enough time in the day with the countless hours the sports consume. She did it and got all A’s. They said the same sophomore year. She did it again. Surely, she could not do it junior year taking six AP courses and a third level honors language course. Wrong.”

Smith will hold an incredible 16 varsity letters when she graduates West Forsyth as a varsity member of the cross country team as well as swimming, indoor track and outdoor track. She did all of that while maintaining a weighted GPA well over 5 and holding a spot in the top 10 of her graduating class as of the winter semester’s end.

Blake Marion participated in football and baseball during his time at East Surry. He closed his career at the school in football as the all-time leading wide receiver in receptions and touchdowns. His senior season he was named a pre-season All-State Selection and backed that up as he was named the All-Northwest Conference Specialist of the Year, All-Northwest All-Conference on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball and was the Cardinals’ Most Valuable Player.

Marion plans to attend Wingate University and hopes to be able to return to his home of Pilot Mountain as a Nurse in a critical care unit, a desire that stems from two friends’ involvement in an accident that placed him in the waiting rooms and halls of Wake Forest University Medical Center. “I witnessed a variety of emotions from sadness to joy. The staff at Wake Forest impressed me with not only their knowledge, but also their sincere compassion for others. I decided that I wanted to be apart of this power atmosphere which could change people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Blake’s football coach, Steven Whitt, described Blake’s positive attitude as the thing that sets him apart. “His integrity and desire to do things the right way is second to none.” Whitt continued saying, “Blake realizes there are no short cuts in life or athletics and this was evident by his work ethic and time he spent perfecting his craft as an athlete and student.”

Marion carries a weighted GPA well over four and is in the top 25 of his graduating class heading into the final semester of his high school career. He was also awarded one of Wingate University’s Trustee Scholarships.

Wilburn Clary’s athletic career involved coaching, officiating and administration. He coached several sports at the Methodist Children’s Home for almost 30 years, was an outstanding official on the high school and collegiate level, and served as the executive secretary of the Western North Carolina High School Activities Association from 1949-1977 until it merged with the NCHSAA. Mr. Clary was the first collegiate football official to be inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Winners of the Clary Medal are awarded a one-time $2,000 scholarship and a commemorative plaque at the NCHSAA’s Annual Meeting. This year’s meeting will be held Thursday, May 5, 2016 at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.