Jackson State’s female athlete of the year, Madison Ellis, has been a key member of the Lady Generals softball team. Ellis boasts a .303 batting average with 44 hits in 145 at bats, nine doubles, three triples, one homerun, 28 RBIs, and nine stolen bases. In 2017, she led the team and TCCAA with 11 HBP. Ellis was named to the 2017 TCCAA All-Academic First Team and received the NJCAA Scholar Award. She was also a member of the 2018 Captains Council. With a 3.4 GPA, Ellis plans to continue her softball career while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree.
Jackson State’s male athlete of the year, Tyler Taylor, has been a critical part of the Generals basketball team. As team captain this past season, he was awarded Most Selfless teammate due to his humble spirit and encouraging attitude. Taylor averaged 13 points and five rebounds per game, and boasts a game-high 36 points scored. Upon receiving his associate’s degree in general studies, Taylor plans to continue his basketball career and pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in business.
Lane’s female athlete of the year, Aza-Rae Underwood, led the Lady Dragons volleyball team to a career-high in victories this season as a freshman. She collected 256 kills and 780 attacks over the season. Underwood was recognized as Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Newcomer of the Year and SIAC Offensive Player of the Year, and she was selected to the All-Conference Team. Due to her contributions, the Lady Dragons qualified for the post-season tournament for the first time in ten years. Underwood is pursuing a degree in business, and boasts a 3.6 GPA over her first semester.
Lane’s male athlete of the year, Kendarius Ash, has been a critical member of the Dragons basketball team, reaching the 1,000 point club in his third season. Ash was named Defensive Player of the Year (2016-17), Pre-Season All-Conference (2017-18), and Player of the Year (2017-18). He was a two-time Player of the Week selection this past season. Ash held multiple national rankings: 11th in offensive rebounds per game (2015-16), 22nd in double-double (2015-16), sixth in defensive rebounds (2016-17), fourth in offensive rebounds (2016-17), seventh in total rebounds (2016-17), seventh in double-double (2016-17), and second in rebounds per game (2016-17). Ash will graduate from Lane next year.
Union’s female athlete of the year, Janey Berends, led the Lady Bulldogs cross country team to win two conference tournament titles and two NCAA tournament appearances. Berends won the Union Cross Country Invitational, and was recognized as Gulf South Conference (GSC) Runner of the Week twice. She was named to the All-GSC First Team three times, All-GSC Second Team, GSC All-Freshman Team, and Division II All-South Region Team four times. Berends received multiple honors for her academic performance: GSC Academic Honor Roll, CoSIDA Captial One Academic All-District selection, two-time GSC All-Academic selection, and two-time USTFCCCA All-Academic selection. After graduation, Berends plans to teach, and is in the running for the Fullbright teaching opportunity in Peru.
Union’s male athlete of the year, Paul Langford, led the Bulldogs soccer team as captain and started every game as a senior. Langford played in 54 games for Union and scored 11 goals with six assists. He ranked second on the team with three goals this past season. Langford was a representative for the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and was recognized as a four-time Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll selection. Upon graduating from Union, Langford plans to pursue a career in college athletics. He is currently working with the marketing staff at NCAA Division I Lipscomb University in Nashville.