The Positive Athlete group recently released its Northwest Georgia regional award winners for the 2019-20 school year and several student-athletes from the Catoosa-Walker County area were among the winners.

Ridgeland had a pair of winners in Sarah Williams (volleyball) and William Voyles (boys' cross country), while Carly Smith (cheerleading) and Emma Moore (girls' golf) won for LaFayette. LaFayette High School was also named as the Most Positive School in the region.

Catoosa County was represented by LFO's Justin Swindle (football), Heritage's Christian Merrill (wrestling) and Ringgold's Brayden Broome (baseball).

The Northwest Georgia region includes schools from Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Pickens, Polk, Walker and Whitfield Counties.

Other regional winners included Gilmer's Jocelyn Birko (softball), Dade County's Noah Hodges (boys' cross country), Model's Elizabeth Marshall (girls' cross country), Coosa's Sam Richardson (boys' basketball), Armuchee's Emily Tomlin (girls' basketball), Calhoun's Josh Tolson (boys' swimming and diving), Pickens' Michelle Pickett (girls' swimming and diving), Rome's Sophia Vargo (girls' soccer), Cedartown's Grant Hendrix (boys' tennis), Pepperell's Hannah Nash (girls' tennis), Rockmart's Jourdan Rachel (boys' track and field), Armuchee's Grace Stanley (girls' track and field), Haralson County's Tyler Carter (boys' golf), Dalton's Orrin Withrow (alternative sports) and Sonoraville's Blade Bryant (multi-sport).

In addition, North Murray's Steve Granger (boys' coach) and Darlington's Al Shorey (girls' coach) were also named as winners.

Regional winners will also be eligible for statewide awards to be announced at a later date.

Since its inception, Positive Athlete has awarded over $350,000 in college scholarships to high school student-athletes.

According to the Positive Athlete website, winners are based more on character than athletic performance. Nominating an student-athlete or coach can be done by parents, coaches, teachers, administrators or fans of high school student-athletes, grades 9-12, and can be done on the group's website (

Positive Athlete looks for athletes who have overcome difficult circumstances, given back to their schools and communities or just have an infectious positive attitude.

In addition to Georgia, Positive Athlete also names winners in New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Western Pennsylvania. The group's spokesperson is Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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