Bryant Jordan Hayden Holton

Submitted / The Herald Hayden Holton had a small watch party with coaches and friends Monday night.

“Perseverance was his only option.”

Those were the first words said by Scott Myers of the Bryant-Jordan Foundation as he announced the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Achievement Award during the Bryant-Jordan Banquet which was streamed on WOTM-TV on Monday night. After that first sentence, it was pretty clear who Myers was talking about.

Elmore County’s Hayden Holton had already earned the Class 4A Region 3 Achievement Award but he added the Class 4A Achievement Award and was awarded the Blankenship Achievement Award for the state.

“I’m just super proud of him after everything he has gone through,” ECHS principal Wes Rogers said. “It symbolizes what kind of person Hayden is. How resilient he is and showed how could move forward. We get more credit than we deserve for inspiring him because he inspired us more. He will always be remembered here.”

Rogers said he was hoping Holton could experience the entire banquet to help him understand the magnitude of the award but that did not take away from the moment.

Holton was joined by Rogers and a small group of coaches and friends Monday night to watch the announcement together. Holton was hoping to share the stage with so many other student-athletes with tremendous stories, including Pleasant Valley’s Karmyn Sparks who was announced as a co-winner of the state achievement award, but he was happy to be surrounded by the people who helped get him there.

“It was still pretty awesome,” Holton said. “Even off the stage, it’s still a really big deal and a big honor. They called my name and everybody clapped. It was really cool. I hope they saw how much I appreciated them. I think I showed them as a player but having them here tonight meant a lot to me.”

After both of his parents died, Holton took to the sports world to find comfort and his coaches and teammates provided that to become his family. He played baseball, basketball, football and soccer during his high school career.

“I think having them there meant a lot to him,” Rogers said. “Sports and spending time with these coaches were his coping mechanism. He spent so much time with them even off the practice field. It was the extra time he spent working besides that 3:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon that helped create those relationships.”

Holton will be joining the Navy this summer but he has future plans to go to medical school and he said the scholarship awards will certainly be helpful down the road. Between the three awards, Holton received $10,500 in scholarship money.

Wetumpka’s Isaac Stubbs also received an extra award Monday night. After being named as one of the region winners, Stubbs heard his name called again during the broadcast as he was named the Class 6A Scholar Class winner of an extra $3,500 in scholarship money.

“It felt super good,” Stubbs said. “I was with my mom and dad and siblings in the living room. It was a little unique. I expected to be in a suit and eating dinner with my principal so the setting was different but it was awesome.”

Stubbs said he was looking forward to the banquet for a chance to meet so many other people in the state who have worked so hard, whether it be the achievement winners or the scholar athletes.

“I didn’t exactly know what to expect,” Stubbs said. “When you’re in a competition with people of that caliber, you know that whoever wins will have earned it. All of these people are so deserving. Even the little bits we got hear tonight were so inspiring. Being on the stage with them would’ve been awesome but I’m happy I got to spend it here.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.