Balaam Sherrod, Forest Hills Football/Soccer, senior: Balaam (BAY-lam) Sherrod has a 6-inch scar on the back of his head and neck that is constant reminder of what he has had to overcome in his life.
Sherrod was born with a rare condition called Chiari malformation, a skull malformation that can cause many challenges functioning normally in everyday life.
While he had surgery at age 2 to repair his condition, Sherrod, now 17, still suffers from effects of the condition, as he toe walks, has migraine headaches, and has had his growth limited. He is 5 feet 3 inches tall.
But instead of “focusing on what he can’t do,” Sherrod has spent his life proving “what he can do,” as the Forest Hills’ senior was a four-year member of the Yellow Jackets’ varsity soccer team and a three-varsity player on the school’s football team.
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Sherrod also gets it done in the classroom, where he boasts a 4.6 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society, BETA Club and more.
He was also the Wendy’s High School Heisman nominee for his school, and a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Kahn Community Service award.
“I’ve had plenty of doctors tell me what I couldn’t do,” Sherrod said. “But I’ve always focused on what I can do. ...
“My condition and everything that goes with is like a red badge of courage. I know that I am capable of doing anything. I’ve always been told that I’m too short, too slow or too small. I just use those words as motivation to prove people wrong.”
Sherrod had one of his best year’s this past fall, as he doubles as kicker and center midfielder for the Forest Hills’ football and soccer teams, respectively.
Sherrod was a team captain and an all-conference holding midfielder for the Yellow Jackets’ soccer team (18-6) as they won their first Rocky River conference title (co-champions with Monroe).
Meanwhile, Sherrod made 80 percent of his kicks for the football team, and had three special teams’ tackles.
He did all this while earning straight A’s in the classroom.
“(Balaam) has fought hard to define himself beyond the short kid who walks funny,” said Balaam’s father, Claude Sherrod, who says the tight-knit community in Wingate and surrounding Forest Hills High have been very supportive. “To me, he will always be my hero because he has faced challenges that most young people have no clue (about) or could understand.
“Many people see his condition as just a 6-inch scar on the back of his head and neck. I see it as a monument, a banner to the world that anything can be accomplished.”
Sherrod will continue his academic career in college this summer, where says he wants to major in history.
Sherrod has already been accepted to multiple colleges, but has Appalachian State, Charlotte, East Carolina and Western Carolina at the top of his list, according to his father.
Caroline Coleman, Pine Lake Prep Girls’ Basketball, junior: Pine Lake Prep junior guard, Caroline Coleman, helped keep the Pride’s perfect season going with big games in wins over Southern Piedmont 1A conference (SPC 1A) rivals, Lincoln Charter and Highland Tech, last week.
Coleman had a season-high 25 points with eight rebounds and three steals in the 53-45 win over Lincoln Charter, Jan. 3.
Two nights later, Coleman scored 18 points, in a 45-33 win at Highland Tech. Coleman is first Pine Lake Prep player to score 1,000 points in a career.
The reigning SPC 1A player of the year, averages 19 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists per game.
Patrick Frith and Charlotte Hylinski, Myers Park Swimming, both seniors: The Myers Park senior duo led the Mustangs’ boys’ and girls’ to dominant performances in beating rival, Providence, Jan. 4.
Frith, a Yale University commit, won the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle, as well as leading the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams to victory.
Meanwhile, Hylinski, also a Yale University commit, won the 50 free style and 100 butterfly, leading the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays to victories in the same meet.
Xavier Lenear, Independence Wrestling, senior: The Independence senior is a perfect 29-0 on the mat this season.
Lenear, who wrestles in the 220-pound weight class, has won two of the area’s biggest tournaments in recent weeks, taking the Clash at the Creek and Holy Angels’ titles.
Lenear also won his 100th career match in his Holy Angels’ tournament final win over Hickory Ridge’s Dan Louba, Dec. 30.
Rinnah Green, Butler Girls’ Basketball, junior: Bulldogs’ junior standout had a career high 36 points in the Butler’s (12-5, 3-2) 79-31 victory over Porter Ridge, Jan. 5.
Green, a 5-foot-8 guard, made six three-pointers in the game, while also contributing eight assists and six steals.
Green averages 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals per contest.
Zeb Graham, Nation Ford Basketball, sophomore: Nation Ford sophomore point guard, Zeb Graham, had proven to be a catalyst for the Falcons this season, averaging 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals per game.
Graham, 6-foot, had one of his biggest games of the season at Indian Land, with a near triple-double with 30 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in the 73-67, Nation Ford (10-3) win.
Graham had 18 of his 30 points in third quarter.
Noah Taylor, Porter Ridge Basketball, senior: Porter Ridge senior guard, Noah Taylor, poured in 33 points in a tough, 95-91 overtime loss to Forest Hills, Jan. 4.
Taylor, a three-year starter, also became the school’s all-time leading, boys’ scorer in the same game.
The 5-foot-10 guard, is averaging 19 points, four assists, eight rebounds and a steal per game.
Kennedie Gaither, Parkwood Girls’ Basketball, freshman: The 5-foot-8, Parkwood freshman guard had one of the best weeks of her young, Rebel career averaging 17.5 points, six rebounds, three assists and 6.5 steals per game in wins over Indian Land and West Stanly.
Gaither had nine points, six rebounds and six steals in the Jan. 4, 54-35 win, over Indian Land.
Then, she came back the next night with a career-high 26 points as well as six rebounds, four assists and seven steals in the Rebels’ (9-5, 1-0) 63-46 victory over West Stanly.
Sarah Bechtel, Weddington Indoor Track, sophomore: The Weddington sophomore is in the midst of a record-breaking season for the Warriors’ girls’ indoor track team.
Bechtel ran the fastest 1600 meter run in the state this season on Dec. 13 with 5:13.89.
She also set a school record in the 1000-meter run with a 3:04.9, Dec. 21, the state’s No. 4 time this winter.
The Warriors’ sophomore set another school record, Jan. 4, with another school-record 11:23 in the 3200-meter run.
Hunter Tyson, Piedmont Basketball, junior: The 6-foot-7 Piedmont junior forward has played a big role in helping the Panthers become one of the most improved teams in the state this season.
Piedmont went 2-21 a year ago, and is 11-5 overall, and 2-0 in the Southern Carolinas’ Conference (SCC).
Tyson is averaging 26 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists per game this season.
Tyson had two more, big games last week in critical, SCC wins over rivals, Marvin Ridge and Sun Valley. He had 27 points in the 61-32 win over Marvin Ridge, Jan. 3, and came back with 26 points two nights later in the victory against Sun Valley.
Tyson is a major, Division I basketball recruit with multiple offers, including Clemson and University of Tennessee, as well as interest from schools like Connecticut, Michigan and Pittsburgh, according to Piedmont coach Jay Fitts.
Jermany Mapp, York Prep Basketball, freshman: The Patriots’ freshman leads her team in points (14.1), rebounds (7.0), assists (2.8), steals (3.8) and blocks (1.1) per game this season.
The 5-foot-10 guard/forward, who has ten doubles-doubles this season, had two big games last week with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 51-37 loss to Asheville Christian, Jan. 3.
She followed it up the next night with 23 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals in York Prep’s (8-11) 60-25 win over McBee.
Amanda Cherry, Sun Valley Girls’ Basketball, junior: The Sun Valley junior also had a historical performance last week, scoring her 1,000-career points in a 65-61 win over Anson, Jan. 3.
The 5-foot-9 guard poured in 29 points with eight assists, five rebounds and two blocks in the Anson victory.
Cherry came back two nights later with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in a critical, Southern Carolinas’ conference, 54-51 win at Piedmont, to stay atop the league standings.
Cherry averages 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and one block per game.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
HELP US FIND THE ATHLETES
This season’s finest highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through Jan. 9. In most cases, the athletes featured will come from sports that don’t get a lot of recognition. However, the goal is to recognize excellence. If you want to suggest someone to be included in This Season’s Finest column, send email to Jay Edwards at email@example.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.