Nathan Rivera and Lindsey Kelly are well deserving of being Karns High’s Athletes of the Year. Nathan lettered four years in football and was one of the state’s top decathletes. Soccer was Lindsey’s best sport, but she also lettered in tennis, track and dance.

By Steve Williams

It is a special group, made up of talented young athletes. But in many cases, the field of play is not the only place where they shine.

The Knoxville Focus today recognizes 35 Athletes of the Year – 18 males and 17 females – from 19 high schools in Knox County.

Athletic directors, at The Focus’ request, sent in the names of their school’s honorees, along with their accomplishments on and off the field, which will be spotlighted in The Focus in weeks to come, starting June 3.

We’ll tell you about one young man who lettered in five sports in the 2012-13 school year, a rare endeavor in this day and age when so many specialize in one sport and two is usually the max.

One of our female athletes of the year has a lot of experience in beach volleyball and will be headed to college in the Sunshine State to add to it. Does she have Olympic dreams?

You’ll find out the two who sparkled playing for their dad and the one who literally followed in his brother’s footsteps.

Success in athletics does not come without success in the class room. That is very noticeable up and down the list of honorees.

In commenting on Farragut High’s Athletes of the Year, Jonathan King and Madison Blevins, athletic director Seth Smith said: “Jonathan and Madison represent all that is good in high school athletics. They are smart, kind, and natural born leaders. I know that they will do great things in life.”

Many of the athletic directors could have said the same thing about their honorees.

South-Doyle AD Clark Duncan noted “Landon Raby and Erin Ketron exemplify the true meaning of student-athlete. They are both leaders on the athletic fields, but more importantly they are leaders in our class rooms and the hallways. We are honored to have Landon and Erin represent South-Doyle High School as our Athletes of the Year.”

Each school has its own way of selecting its Athletes of the Year. Christian Academy of Knoxville gives its honorees the Warrior Award.

Fitting the “definition of the Warrior Award,” wrote CAK athletic director Steve Denny, is an “athlete that best represents CAK Athletics academically, spiritually, emotionally, socially and athletically. Athletically, they are usually multi-sport athletes or exceptional in a single sport. This award is voted on by our varsity head coaches.”

Knoxville Catholic’s principal chose to sidestep tradition this year. He had two very good reasons.

“We do not traditionally give an Athlete of the Year award, but I would like to give you two,” noted Dickie Sompayrac. “They are twins – Clare and Kathleen Conaty. They both were starters in basketball and softball and both were recognized as All-District in softball. They are also both in the top 25 percent of their class. They were seniors this year and they graduated this past Saturday (May 18). They will both be attending the University of Notre Dame next year.”

We would like to thank Tracy Miller Davis, administrative assistant for Knox County Schools’ athletics department, for her assistance in putting us in touch with the athletic directors, and to the athletic directors themselves for taking the time, as the school year was coming to a busy end, to send in information on their Athletes of the Year.

This is the second year The Focus has recognized the local Athletes of the Year.

Some school representatives expressed their gratitude for the Focus’ efforts.

“Thanks for doing this,” noted Rick Ziegler of Webb School, after submitting Burton Sampson and Kensi Wieland.

“Thank you for helping us recognize an exceptional young man,” wrote Andre Caballero, Bearden High Social Studies and Physical Education teacher and the football team’s offensive coordinator, after e-mailing facts and figures on quarterback Nicky Frizen, who will be continuing his football career at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., this fall.

Frizen’s impressive resume, by the way, includes being the 2013 senior prom king and an undefeated amateur boxer.

What can I say?

It’s a special group, and a versatile one, too.