Stellar honorees have demonstrated resilience, humility and work ethic – USA TODAY

Douglas Clark USA TODAY Ventures Events  |  USA TODAY

The USA TODAY High School Sports Awards is the nation’s largest high school sports recognition program, celebrating the best in high school sports in cities and states nationwide. 

Accolades will be bestowed upon dozens of elite student-athletes in a myriad of sports during the July 31, 2022, national show broadcast via the USA TODAY High School Sports Awards website, YouTube and the USA TODAY channel available on most smart televisions and devices. 

During the national show viewers will be introduced to stellar performers who have demonstrated resilience, determination, humility, competitiveness and work ethic in great measure – representing their families, schools and communities. 

Here’s a look at a few of the high achievers who will be recognized during the national show:

Angelina Perez 

The Lakeland Regional High School (NJ) cross country dynamo capped a dazzling senior season by capturing the 2021 New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Meet of Champions gold medal. And she came within less than five seconds of earning top honors at the Eastbay National championships in San Diego in December. The University of Florida-bound Perez, is a nominee for All-USA TODAY HSSA Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

“I feel like this sport changed me in the best way possible and gave me opportunities I never would have had,” she said. “It helped me to grow confidence-wise and just overall, as a person.”

Riley Hough 

Hartland High School (MI) cross country standout Riley Hough completed his senior campaign by securing a second consecutive individual Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 cross country crown. And he is the first runner to record a sub-15 minute time twice at Michigan International Speedway – the state championships venue. 

The Michigan State University-bound Hough, a nominee for All-USA TODAY HSSA Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, is big on preparation and pursuing challenges. 

“I love being able to test myself,” he said. “I like to push myself to the limit – determine if there is something I can improve on and work to get to that point.”

Kieryn Knox 

West Orange High School (NJ) senior Kieryn Knox has rolled seven perfect games, which requires 12 consecutive strikes to arrive at a score of 300. He finished his final year with the Mountaineers by claiming the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Boys Bowling Individual Finals title.

Knox will continue his scholastic and athletic pursuits at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta, Georgia, garnered First Team All-State honors for his feats on the lanes and is among the nominees for All-USA TODAY High School Sports Awards Boys Bowler of the Year. He topped a field of 100 bowlers to emerge as the state champion. 

“I would like to remembered as someone who put in the hard work,” he said. “It wasn’t easy to get here and between the help I had from my coaches and others, I was able to help my team be successful.”

Ryleigh Heck 

When the Eastern Regional High School (NJ) field hockey team’s state championships streak was halted at 21-straight via the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Vikings were undeterred. Led by All-America midfielder / forward Heck, the squad proceeded to return to championship form in 2021.

Stellar play and resolve is why Heck, who garnered National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America first team honors and helped Eastern Regional High School to a 25-2 record, is among the nominees for All-USA TODAY HSSA Field Hockey Player of the Year. 

The University of North Carolina-bound Heck is resolute in touting a result derived from a unit working as one. 

“We all have the same goal,” she said with regard to the Vikings. “It’s all about working hard and winning with my teammates. The focus is getting the team goals done. It’s about the team and focusing on what we want to do as a team to succeed.”

Walter Nolen III

It has often been stated there are a countless life lessons to be garnered from the sport of football. For Powell High School (TN) defensive tackle Walter Nolen III, the prime takeaway from the game is perseverance. 

“The game has taught me to never give up on anything,” Nolen, an All-USA TODAY HSSA Defensive Football Player of the Year nominee, said. “It’s important to keep working and stay humble. The goal is to get better as a team every day.”

Nolen amassed 85 total tackles (74 solo) to pair with 31 tackles for loss and 14 sacks en route to helping the Panthers to the 2021 Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Class 5A state championship. After accumulating dozens of college scholarship offers, he selected Texas A&M University as the locale by which he will continue his scholastic and athletic pursuits.