The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Sports Breakfast was canceled this year for the first time since its creation in 1965 because of COVID-19 concerns, but one of the festival traditions was in full bloom on Thursday in Winchester.
Eight local athletes — all seniors in the 2019-20 school year — were recognized for their athletic and academic excellence in a small ceremony at Partlow Insurance, which serves as the sponsor for the Sports Breakfast. The athletes would have been honored at the Sports Breakfast on May 2 had the entire festival not been canceled.
Those honored were high school athletes Payne Bauer (Sherando), Colby Childs (Clarke County), Aaliyah Chunn (Skyline), Makayla Firebaugh (James Wood), Malachi Imoh (Handley), Jordan Jackson (Millbrook) and D.J. Staton (Warren County) as well as Shenandoah University’s Casey Stewart.
At the start of each year’s Sports Breakfast, athletes from the local high schools and Shenandoah University have their achievements read off by the emcee as they make their way to their seats at the front of the Sports Breakfast crowd. Last year’s Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast featured 900 people at Shenandoah University’s James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics and Events Center.
Due to COVID-19 and the need to maintain social distancing, Thursday’s event was a small one that only featured invited guests as well as festival officials and sponsors, according to a news release from the SABF committee.
“Unfortunately, the festival was not able to recognize our athletes this year, but we feel it is important to carry on this tradition and give these fine student-athletes the credit they deserve,” said SABF President Tommy Price in the news release.
The following is a look at each athlete:
Payne Bauer, Sherando
Bauer was a three-year varsity football player and baseball player. He was a Winchester Star Honorable Mention Athlete of the Year selection as a junior.
As a linebacker in football, Bauer was twice named First Team Class 4 All-State, twice named the Region 4C Defensive Co-Player of the Year, twice named the Class 4 Northwestern District Defensive Player of the Year, and twice named The Winchester Star Defensive Player of the Year. As a senior Bauer was named The Northern Virginia Daily Defensive Player of the Year and a USA Today Virginia All-State Second Team selection. Bauer was also a Star First Team Selection as a sophomore. Bauer had 309 tackles, 25.5 sacks and 99 tackles for loss in his career.
An outfielder in baseball, Bauer as a junior was named to the First Team for Class 4 state, Region 4C, the Class 4 Northwestern District, The Winchester Star and The Northern Virginia Daily. As a sophomore, Bauer was a First Team pick for the district, Star and NVD and a Second Team region selection.
Bauer participated in DECA and the National Honor Society for Sherando. He will play football on a scholarship for James Madison University of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Casey Stewart, Shenandoah
A graduate of Warren County High School, Stewart had a record-setting career as a wide receiver for the Hornets football team. His 34 receiving touchdowns are a school record.
As a senior, Stewart led the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with 1,191 receiving yards. He had 13 TD catches and a career-high 70 catches. He was named Second Team All-ODAC. He was a finalist for the Armed Services Merit Award for the second straight year, a finalist for the Lanier Award given to the top NCAA DII/DIII or NAIA player in Virginia, earned Second Team All-ECAC honors and named Second Team All-State by the VaSID.
As a junior, Stewart earned First Team All-ODAC honors after catching 54 passes for 859 yards and setting a school single-season record with 15 touchdown receptions. He was also a VaSID First Team All-State selection.
Aaliyah Chunn, Skyline
Chunn competed in volleyball, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field for the Hawks. As a senior, she was The Northern Virginia Daily Female Athlete of the Year.
In volleyball, as a senior Chunn was named the Player of the Year for Region 3B. the Class 3 Northwestern District of the Year and The Northern Virginia Daily.
In indoor track, the school record-holder in the high jump at 5 feet, 2 inches earned Class 3 All-State and all-Region honors as a junior and earned all-region and all-district honors as a senior in the high jump.
In outdoor track, as a freshman, Chunn was all-district and all-region in the high jump. She was all-district, all-region and all-state in the high jump as both a sophomore and junior.
Chunn will compete in volleyball and track & field at NCAA Division III Shenandoah University and will study kinesiology.
D.J. Staton, Warren County
Staton starred in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track for the Wildcats, earning Class 3 all-state honors twice in cross country and once in track and All-Region 3B honors three times in cross country and twice in track. Staton has been honored on The Northern Virginia Daily’s all-area teams for both cross country and track.
Staton, who has a 2.77 GPA, will compete in both sports at NCAA Division I South Carolina-Upstate on a cross country and track scholarship.