Another year brings more recognition for Owen's top athlete

Brian Bartlett takes home the hardware again

Fred McCormick

Owen High School senior Brian Bartlett may or may not have a trophy case in his home, but wherever he keeps the Owen High School Athlete of the Year award he earned last year, he's going to need to make plenty of space for this year’s haul.

Bartlett picked up 10 awards in the cafeteria on May 18, as Owen recognized its top student-athletes from the 2016-17 school year.

Bartlett earned the athlete of the year award, which recognizes the school’s top athlete, in 2016 after a strong junior year on the Warhorse basketball and baseball teams.

His senior campaigns were arguably better.

Brian Bartlett finishes his high school athletic career in style, picking up a total of 10 awards at Owen's athletic awards ceremony on May 18.

The basketball team went 23-6 in the 2016-17 season and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. It was the best season for the program in "many, many years," according to head coach Chuck Robinson.

Bartlett, who played guard for the Warhorses in 2015-16, switched to the forward position. He averaged nearly 17 points a game as a senior and was one of three Owen players to score his 1,000th career point. Those same three players, Bartlett, Mathew Brown and Ben Craig, were the top three scorers in the Western Highlands Conference.

Robinson gave the trio Most Valuable Player awards at the ceremony.

"Brian Bartlett was also named MVP of the Blue-White All-Star Game, which is an accomplishment itself," Robinson said. "Brian was also sixth in state in double-doubles and 13th in the state in rebounding."

On the baseball diamond Bartlett was one of only eight players in the region to bat over .500 for the 2017 season, posting a .509 average. He was also dominant on the mound where he struck out 50 batters in 35.1 innings of work while posting a 1.98 ERA. His performance on the baseball field earned him the conference player of the year and pitcher of the year awards.

"At the end of the season (conference) coaches get together and nominate athletes from their teams," Owen athletic director and head baseball coach Anthony Lee said at the awards ceremony. "His stats stood above everyone else's in the conference, he inspired fear at the plate and when on the mound."

His overall performance in cross country, which he ran in the fall, baseball and basketball, helped him earned the WHC Male Athlete of the Year award.

"He was the MVP of his basketball team, his baseball team, all-conference in both of those (sports), MVP of the Blue-White All-Star Game, the accomplishments just go on," Lee said.

"I've worked hard the last four years to compete in all three sports I've competed in," Bartlett said after the ceremony. "After the basketball season we had it really helped boost my confidence, and my coaches have also helped my confidence by always having my back, and that's helped make me better."

Sophomore Chesney Gardner was named Owen’s female athlete of the year for the second straight year. Gardner played volleyball for the Warlassies in the spring.

Owen sophomore Chesney Gardner takes home her second consecutive Female Athlete of the Year award in the school's cafeteria on May 18.

She was the Warlassies basketball team’s leading scorer for the second straight season with just over 15 points per game. She led the team in rebounding with 9.5 per game while averaging 1.4 steals and blocks per contest as well.

During the spring sports season she pulled double duty, playing in 17 games for the Warlassies softball team, mostly at the shortstop position, while competing in field events for the school’s track and field team.

She drove in 10 runs while batting .293 in her first season of high school softball and earned an all-conference nod. But she was a record-breaker in the discus circle, where her 108-foot-9-inch throw at the Buncombe County track meet in March broke the school record she set as a freshman.

Gardner was set to compete for a 2-A state championship in the event on May 19.

"She was all-conference in four varsity sports and MVP of her team in three of them," Lee said. "She is going to be competing to bring a state championship to Owen tomorrow."

Owen alumnus and longtime Warlassies basketball coach Tim Raines, who recently announced he would be retiring at the end of the school year, addressed his players for the final time during the ceremony.

Tim Raines, who graduated from Owen High School, fights back tears as he thanks the administration and athletes before his upcoming retirement after 24 years of coaching and teaching at the school.

"We don't always think of coach (Kenny) Ford as being a philosopher," Raines said. "But when I started coaching here he told me something that really stuck with me. He said 'coach Raines, if you can do everything you can for these kids, you ought to be able to go home at night and lay down and sleep.' I sleep like a baby and I want to thank everybody, it's been a great ride."

Roger Brown, president of the Owen Booster Club presented Raines, who has coached the school's golf team for the past three seasons, a year membership to the Black Mountain Golf Course.

The Warhorse tennis team brought the only conference championship to Owen High School in the 2016-17 school year.

The school also recognized the Warhorse tennis team, the only team to win a conference championship in the 2016-17 school year. They were 8-0 against WHC foes.

"We wanted to recognize what a great season they had," said Robinson, the head coach of the team.

Robinson also presented Owen senior Micah Davis with a $1,000 scholarship from the Black Mountain Tennis Association.

"He's meant a lot to me and a lot to this team," Robinson said of Davis, who was also a stand-out player as a member of the Warhorse soccer team.