LUMBERTON — The Fayetteville SwampDogs General Manager Jeremy Aagard let the room full of the area’s top student-athletes and their families know that life is all about making the most of the experiences that you encounter — good or bad.
Aagard, who has been with the SwampDogs for 11 years and has spent 13 years working baseball, not only talked about his experiences working in sports but also the lessons learned in his career spanning over a decade. The message was aimed to the seven of the 10 monthly winners in attendance for the Mountaire Farms scholar-athlete banquet hosted at The Robesonian office on Thursday night.
“If you want the fruit, you have to go out on the limb,” Aagard said. “You can’t stay hugging the tree.”
The banquet honored the 10 student-athletes who won the monthly honors and the $1,000 scholarship — including West Bladen’s Alanna Ludlum — as well as recognized the two student-athletes who were named male and female Scholar Athlete of the Year. Lumberton’s Dominic Dent and Red Springs’ Sha’nia Leach earned the individual top honors and the additional $2,500 scholarships.
Excelling in the classroom and athletics has been a family tradition for the Dent household. Dominic followed his older brother Alec and his older sister Julia as monthly award winners and now he follows in his brother’s footstep being named the male scholar athlete of the year. Alec won the award in 2015.
“It’s a very big honor and I’m just glad that my community service and sports were able to reflect the award,” Dent said. “My parents have definitely pushed me academically and on and off the sports field every single day of my life. Regardless of what it is, they push me for it.”
Dent will go to school at Florida Gulf Coast University — where his father, Eric, is a professor — and study business, finance and management.
“I won’t be living on campus the first year so through all the scholarships and whatnot, I’m going for free the first year,” Dent said.
On top of graduating summa cum laude, Dent particpated in tennis, swimming and cross country, which he was a standout at each sport, and volunteered throughout many different clubs and organizations.
He was named team MVP for tennis and swimming. All three sports he qualified for regionals, and was one of the team leaders with his performances.
Playing in the No. 1 spot in tennis singles and doubles, Dent finished third in the Southeastern Conference tournament, helped the team qualify for regionals and went 8-5 in singles play. He made the swimming regionals in Greensboro where he was a part of the relay medley team. In the pool he also broke a nine-year Lumberton High School record in the 100-meter breast stroke.
When her name was announced, Leach was in disbelief, but her work in the classroom and athletics proved she was worthy of the award.
“It was exciting and it was another great achievement I’ve received,” Leach said. “Everybody had such great stats, I just feel honored to be among one of them.”
Leach signed to play basketball at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh after a four-sport career at Red Springs and graduated summa cum laude. Playing basketball, track and field, volleyball and cross country, was a source of energy in every team she played in, and also brought it to the classroom.
“It’s going to give me a little bit more confidence as far as college and sports,” Leach said. “I’m excited for what I’m going to get to do at St. Augustine’s. Hopefully I can continue what I’ve done with academics and sports.
She was named the Three Rivers Conference track and field Athlete of the Year and was a state qualifier in that sport. Leach was a two-time all-Robeson County performer in basketball, where she totaled 746 points in her career, 460 steals, 474 rebounds and 395 assists and helped the Lady Red Devils win the Three Rivers Conference basketball tournament.
“It definitely makes it worth all the work,” Leach said. “In the end, somebody always sees what you do.”
Monthly winners recognized were: Ludlum; Purnell Swett’s Cal Hunt; Scotland’s Daniel Johnson and Shane Dubbs; Lumberton’s Jasmine McBride; South Robeson’s Harmony Oxendine; Red Springs’ Kelsey Locklear and St. Pauls’ Cole Humphrey.
The banquet is a collaboration between Mountaire Farms, the Bladen Journal, The Laurinburg Exchange and The Robesonian to honor the top student-athletes across Robeson, Bladen and Scotland counties. Student-athletes are nominated and the sports editors of the hree newspapers select monthly winners who receive a $1,000 scholarship to the school of their choice, and the overall winners are announced at the yearly banquet.