NR sweeps winter honors
Published 12:38 pm Saturday, April 9, 2016
Brandeé Johnson and Malcolm Dawson pushed themselves to remarkable new heights in their respective sports as Nansemond River High School seniors this past winter.
Her efforts in indoor track and field and his efforts on the wrestling mat have translated into them becoming the Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald female and male Winter Athletes of the Year.
The two were given their awards during a presentation ceremony at Duke Automotive on Tuesday.
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“All of us at Duke are very proud of Brandeé and Malcolm for their incredible achievements,” Duke Automotive vice president Eley Duke said. “What a year the Warriors have had with these two incredible young people giving their best in their sports.”
“It’s always great to see how well Suffolk is represented by the young women and men who are picked as Athlete of the Year.” editor Res Spears said. “As is often the case, these two are not only fine athletes but also fine young people, and we’re glad to give them due recognition for their achievements.”
This was the second consecutive year Johnson has received the female Winter Athlete of the Year award, and her approach to each season helps explain what made a repeat possible.
“Every year has to be a progression with the training and a progression with your times and the effort that you give,” she said. “To know that I did it my last year, and I’m leaving out on a good note — it’s just really good.”
Starting with the 2015-16 school year, Nansemond River moved from Group 4A to 5A, pitting it against larger schools with more possible track and wrestling standouts, but neither Johnson nor Dawson was deterred from great success.
At the Group 5A indoor track and field state championships, Johnson won four individual state championships in a single day, including three within 20 minutes. The previous day, she had competed in a fifth individual event, taking second but still recording a personal record in the process.
Her performances generated 48 of her team’s 115 points, helping propel the Lady Warriors to their second consecutive indoor team state title but their first in 5A.
By herself, she tied Deep Run High School in points for third place out of 30 teams that scored at the meet.
“Brandeé has really shown our community what tremendous ability she has in track with helping Nansemond River with a national title, herself winning four individual state championships and two regional championships,” Eley Duke said.
On the second weekend in March, Johnson helped Nansemond River claim a national title in the girls’ 4×200-meter relay at the New Balance Nationals Indoor event in New York.
Johnson also won two individual regional championships this year, helping the Lady Warriors win their second consecutive indoor team regional title.
She has narrowed down her considerable college track options to Louisiana State University and the University of Florida.
Nansemond River wrestling coach Tripp Seed said that Dawson, a wrestler in the 113-pound weight class, navigated the most difficult schedule of his high school career during the 2015-16 campaign.
Despite the challenges, Dawson lost only three matches all season. He advanced all the way to the 113-pound final in the 5A state championship tournament. Though he lost by pin, he was highly competitive in the match and even held the lead in points for much of its duration.
Dawson finished the season with a record of 40-3.
“What an incredible record,” Eley Duke said. “I have heard his coaches are very impressed with his work ethic to accomplish this.”
Seed said Dawson had one of the best work ethics out of any wrestler he has coached. He also wrestled a style that the coaching staff pushes for the team to use, making him an ideal leader on the team.
Looking back on his senior season, Dawson said, “I’d say I did pretty good. Again, I am disappointed I ended up coming short of my state championship, but overall, it was pretty good.”
He helped his team win the PenSouth Conference tournament championship by winning the conference title in his weight class. He also took third in his weight class at the regional tournament.
Dawson said the loss in the state final “just makes me want to work harder,” serving as fuel as he plans to wrestle for Liberty University.
“They really want me there, and I think they’re giving me a little bit of scholarship money,” he said.