By Wil Crews
Four student-athletes from Opelika/Auburn were recently named to the AHSAA North-South All-Star game rosters.
Three cross country runners and one volleyball player from the respective schools made the cut.
Making the South squad in the 5th annual AHSAA North-South All-Star cross country races was Opelika’s Breckin Gould. Gould took fourth place in last fall’s Class 6A state meet race with a 19:18.62 time.
“Breckin is a motivated athlete that shows dedication to the sport,” said Opelika Cross Country coach Jonathan Fischer. “You can tell she loves cross country by her willingness to work hard each day. I have seen Breckin achieve All State Honors for the state of Alabama for both the 2019 and 2020 cross country seasons. In 2019, Breckin was a top-10 finisher and in 2020, she finished top five at the AHSAA 6A State Meet. She brings lots of fun energy that is contagious amongst our entire team which helps to make the sport enjoyed by all. That’s what makes Breckin the all-star she is.”
Teaming up with Gould will be Auburn runners Sangie Lincoln-Velez and Lessye Gray, who crossed the finish line first and 29th, respectively, at the 2020 7A State Championships with times of 18:29.97 and 20:50.96. Both Velez and Gray were critical contributors to a Tigers team that took home first place at the state meet last fall, securing their fourth straight championship as a team.
“These are two of the most deserving athletes I have gotten to work with and it is so exciting to see them honored through the All-Star Meet,” said coach Olivia Tofani. “What I love about both Sangie and Lessye being selected for this meet is how different their running backgrounds are. Sangie has been running in the Auburn Cross Country program since she was in 7th grade. I remember seeing her running around Auburn before she was old enough to join the school team. She has been a pivotal member of the past three state championship teams at AHS. Lessye got a later start to running and did not join the team until her sophomore year at Auburn High School, but once she joined the team, she was fully bought in to the program, her training and the camaraderie of the team.”
Tofani said that the quality that seperates Velez and Gray is their fearlessness in competition.
“For Sangie, her consistent racing and diligence at practice sets a model for her teammates. She is a quiet, confident leader who can really tell the pulse of her team, but when it’s time for her to step to the starting line, she is courageous and bold. Sangie pushes herself to meet goals in every race, holding nothing back. She doesn’t worry about running out of steam or losing stamina, she pushes for those 3.1 miles knowing that it will make her better and help push her team to victory.
Lessye, a newer runner in our program, is incredibly inclusive and a role model for her younger teammates because she has shown how hard work and self-confidence can lead to success over the course of a single season. During the 2019 season, Lessye’s times dropped drastically from meet to meet as she learned to trust her training and set big goals for herself. Returning to the team this summer as she battled through an injury, Lessye remained fearless and strong as she worked her way back to the state championship, finishing the race with a new personal record.”
Selected to the 23rd annual AHSAA North-South All-Star volleyball games was Auburn’s Lillie Casey. Casey, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter, helped lead the Tigers to a quarter-final state tournament appearance.
“It’s an honor for the entire program and a great testament to the hard work that has taken place over the years,” said Auburn High volleyball coach Tommy Carter. “We are very proud of Lillie as she represents Auburn High School Volleyball.
“Lillie has the ability to quietly put together numbers on the court, that is a difference maker. She comes to practice and matches ready to have fun and compete. She would be the first to tell you that her teammates make her better on the court and as a person.”
Lastly, as a non-player honorable mention, Smiths Station coach Ron Peters will be the administrative coach for both teams at the All-Star cross country races.
The all-star-studded week of North-South games for baseball, softball, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ tennis and boys’ and girls’ golf are scheduled for July 19-23 in Montgomery.
The two 10-member cross country teams are comprised of 2022 rising seniors and were announced by Jamie Lee, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association on April 5.
The two 15-member volleyball teams are comprised of 2022 rising seniors and were announced by Lee on April 8.
The remaining all-star teams will be announced at a later date. The full list of volleyball participants can be found here: www.ahsaa.com/Media/AHSAANOW/News-Articles/north-south-volleyball-all-star-rosters-announced-for-2021-all-star-week-match. The full list of cross country participants can be found here: www.ahsaa.com/Media/AHSAANOW/News-Articles/north-south-all-star-rosters-released-for-2021-all-star-week-cross-country.