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Sunday, February 6, 2022, Priority Automotive Lounge, S.B. Ballard Stadium

(NORFOLK, VA) – Sixteen student athletes from across the state were honored Sunday afternoon as part of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Foundation’s 17th annual Student Athlete Achievement Awards.  The reception, held in-person in the Priority Automotive Lounge at S.B. Ballard Stadium on the campus of Old Dominion University, featured high school student-athletes from across Virginia that have shown strong commitment to academics and community engagement.  The event was emceed by WAVY-TV morning and midday anchor, Katie Collett, with Virginia Beach City Councilman, Aaron Rouse, providing keynote remarks.

The Hall received over 100 nominations from August-October 2021, from which the sixteen finalists were chosen by an awards selection committee.  Among the 11 girls and 5-boys, the committee selected the top four as the Hall of Fame’s Student Athletes of the Year.  This year’s winners are;

  • Zella Bailey, 12th grade, Frank W. Cox High School, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Chris-Ann Nelson, 12th grade, Meadowbrook High School, North Chesterfield, VA
  • Ella Valente, 12th grade, Potomac Falls High School, Sterling, VA
  • Tobin Yates, 12th grade, Western Albemarle High School, Crozet, VA

In addition to being named the Student Athletes of the Year, this year’s winners are the recipients of a $1,500 scholarship award to be used towards furthering their education.

This year’s finalists feature impressive academic achievements, state champion student-athletes who have already committed to further their careers with NCAA scholarships, and others who have been selected for their national team programs. Career aspirations among this year’s finalists include medical professionals, environmentalists, physical therapists, coaches and athletic trainers, FBI agents, scientists, and serving in our armed forces.

In addition to the scholarship awards provided to the four Student-Athletes of the Year, each remaining finalist will receive a $500 scholarship. The additional funds highlight the support the Hall of Fame has received for this initiative.

“Even with high school athletics being severely impacted the last two years during the pandemic, we never wavered in our goal of continuing this program,” says Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director, Will Driscoll. “We are extremely grateful for the support we have received and are thrilled to be able to pass more of that on to Virginia’s student-athletes.”

17th Annual Student-Athlete Achievement Awards Finalists

  • Zella Bailey, 12th grade, Frank W. Cox High School, Virginia Beach
  • Austin Heft, 12th grade, Ocean Lakes High School, Virginia Beach
  • Noelle Koo, 12th grade, Riverside High School/Academy of Science, Leesburg
  • Josie Mazzeo, 12th grade, Catholic High School, Virginia Beach
  • Chris-Ann Nelson, 12th grade, Meadowbrook High School, North Chesterfield
  • Alaysia Oakes, 12th grade, Heritage High School/Central VA Governor’s School, Lynchburg
  • Caroline Porter, 12th grade, Floyd E. Kellam High School, Virginia Beach
  • Hailey Rorick, 12th grade, Catholic High School, Virginia Beach
  • Alexis Schwarting, 12th grade, York High School, Yorktown
  • Robert Sloan, 12th grade, Powhatan High School, Powhatan
  • David Smythe, 12th grade, Norfolk Academy, Norfolk
  • Abigail Spear, 12th grade, Frank W. Cox High School, Virginia Beach
  • Dillon Stowers, 12th grade, Liberty Christian Academy, Lynchburg
  • Ella Valente, 12th grade, Potomac Falls High School, Sterling
  • Hayden Wasson, 12th grade, Powhatan High School, Powhatan
  • Tobin Yates, 12th grade, Western Albemarle High School, Crozet

The Hall of Fame would like to thank its sponsors for this year’s Student Athlete Achievement Awards; presenting sponsor Priority Automotive Group.  The City of Virginia Beach, Optima Health, DAVCON Inc., Davis Business Appraisers, ADS Management Group, and ESPN Radio 94.1

For more information on upcoming events, visit the Hall of Fame’s website, or follow the Hall on social media.

Facebook – Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (@VaSportsHoF)

Twitter – @VaSportsHoF

Instagram – @vasportshof

2021 Student-Athletes of the Year

Zella Bailey – A senior from Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, VA have a GPA over 4.0, and has committed to play field hockey collegiately at Ohio State University. A 4-year starter for the Falcons, Bailey has helped lead Cox to 4 consecutive state championships, 2018-2021, and has been named a Max Field Hockey Top-50 Player nationally.  An active member of her school community, Bailey has participated on the Student Advisory Board all four years at Cox High School, and has been named to the Principal’s List, National Honor Society, National Latin Honor Society, NFHCA National High School Academic Squad and High School Scholar of Distinction. Outside of school, Bailey continues to make an impact in her community. She has volunteered her time as a coach and instructor with numerous field hockey camps and leagues. She has participated in programs that help support organizations such as Operation Smile and local food banks, and has lead efforts to collect donations to support victims of hurricanes. Bailey plans to pursue a career in pediatric audiology to help make a difference for children suffering from hearing impairment.

Chris-Ann Nelson – An all-state track and field performer from Meadowbrook High School in North Chesterfield, VA, Nelson currently has a 4.46 GPA, and plans to study criminology in college. On the track, Nelson has set school records in multiple sprint and relay events, and is a two time state champion in the 4x100m relay (2019) and the 400m dash. Nelson stars in the classroom as well, having received recognition from the National Honor Society, W.E.B. Dubois Honor Society, National Beta Club, and being awarded the University of Virginia Jefferson book award in 2021. An active member of her school’s community, Nelson was named Meadowbrook Academy for Developing Entrepreneurs (MADE) Student of the Year in 2019, and also volunteers as an interviewer in the MADE program. She has volunteered her time at local elementary schools and food banks, offered assistance to elderly neighbors, and helped her school track and field team with fundraising initiatives. She plans to attend a four year college with the goal of becoming a criminal profiler for the F.B.I.

Ella Valente – Valente, a senior from Potomac Falls High School in Sterling, VA is a four year starter in both basketball and soccer. A 1st team All-Region selection in both her freshman and junior seasons for soccer (sophomore season was cancelled), Valente was named team MVP after her junior year and is currently committed to play soccer collegiately at Virginia Tech. Valente currently holds a 4.42 GPA, has been recognized by the National Honor Society, and has served on her school’s Advisory Board each year of high school. In addition to her academic success, Valente has also served as President of Potomac Falls Best Buddies Club, a national organization that increases engagement between PFHS students and the special needs community. Valente also assists the school’s custodial staff as part of the Green Team Club, helping ensure the school is making positive environmental impact. Outside of school, Valente provides support as a volunteer to teachers at local elementary schools, works as a team member and counselor at local soccer camps, and volunteers with Women Giving Back, and organization that offers support and services for women and children in crisis. Valente will study in the Human, Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise Pre-Health major at Virginia Tech with the goal of obtaining her Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT).

Tobin Yates – From Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, VA,Yates is a two-time state 3A singles champion tennis player, as well as 3A doubles champion. His Western Albermarle team has also won the last four state 3A team titles. The 2021 Central Virginia Boys Tennis Player of the Year currently sports a 4.67 GPA. Yates is a National Merit semifinalist, AP Scholar with Honors, and is a member of the National Honor Society, and the National English Honor Society. Yates has also received Certificates of Honor in chemistry, English, photography, and precalculus, and is also enrolled in the WAHS Environmental Studies Academy (ESA). Away from school and the tennis court, yates has served as club leader for the Charlottesville branch of Habitat for Humanity, helping raise money and awareness for Habitat’s efforts to build affordable housing in the Charlottesville area. Yates has also volunteered his time with area organizations and events such as Rake-A-thon, Ruritan National service club, and his local YMCA through a tennis partnership. Through his studies at the ESA, Yates was granted an internship sponsored by Wildrock Youth Nature Camp and the University of Virginia Equity organization. As a counselor, he worked to with area children to promote love and respect for the environment. Yates plans to continue his environmental studies in college, and hopes to address environmental inequalities in urban areas, as well as providing children from underserved communities increased exposure to the natural world.


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