The Baltimore Banner honored high school athletes from the region during its inaugural high school sports banquet Wednesday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

The event, held in collaboration with McCormick’s Unsung Heroes, brought together athletes and coaches from the area who have demonstrated prowess in their sports and balanced it with strong academic achievement.

McCormick awarded scholarships to Georgiana Benckini of Notre Dame Preparatory School ($40,000), Carter Herbert of Perry Hall High School ($40,000), Imani Groce of Western School of Technology and Environmental Science ($5,000), Brianna Bridgemohan of Forest Park High School ($7,500), Emmanuel Awogbesan of Milford Mill Academy ($5,000) and Adam Ossakow of Hereford High School ($7,500).

The Banner announced its inaugural class of high school honorees at the banquet. The Banner’s team of high school reporters and editors worked with area coaches to identify the honorees and select athletes of the year, coaches of the year and other superlatives. Here are the 2022-23 winners and their stories:

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Baltimore Banner Male Athlete of the Year: Malik Washington, Archbishop Spalding

Archbishop Spalding’s Malik Washington is an elite two-sport superstar. The 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Offensive Player of the Year in football and a second-team all-metro selection in basketball, Washington has few peers as an all-around athlete in the Baltimore area. Last fall, as a junior, Washington completed 221 of 370 passes for 2,979 yards and 29 touchdowns, leading the Cavaliers to their first MIAA A Conference championship. He completed 39 of 58 passes for 457 yards and five touchdowns in Spalding’s two playoff victories. He followed that by averaging 17 points per game for the basketball team. He just missed a double-double season average with his nine rebounds per game, and he shot 59% from the field and 70% from the free throw line.

Baltimore Banner Female Athlete of the Year: Ayla Galloway, Fallston

Fallston’s Ayla Galloway is an ultra-competitive individual who is just as eager to win a board game as she is in the athletic arena. A three-sport varsity standout — soccer, basketball and lacrosse — she was instrumental in helping the Cougars win the Class 2A girls soccer state championship, reach the 2A West Regional final in basketball and finish as the runner-up in the 1A lacrosse state tournament. On the soccer pitch, Galloway, a junior, scored 11 goals and dished out seven assists in 19 games. She was a second-team All-Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference selection. She averaged 16.2 points and 14.67 rebounds in basketball while being named Harford County Player of the Year. Finally, she has been dominant on the lacrosse field, scoring 62 goals, delivering four assists, winning 55 draw controls, stopping 16 ground balls and forcing 16 turnovers through regional play. She has committed to Mercer University for lacrosse.

Baltimore Banner Male Sports Coach of the Year: Richie Zinkand, Calvert Hall

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When you go undefeated and win a national championship, as Calvert Hall’s Richie Zinkand did, it gets extra attention. Zinkand led the Cardinals to their second straight MIAA A Conference championship in what is widely regarded as one of the best high school soccer conferences in the nation. It was the third of his 11-year tenure as head coach. Calvert Hall had loads of talent, for sure, with eight potential NCAA Division I players, but it took a steady hand to manage so many skilled athletes into a cohesive unit. The result was a 24-0-1 record and being named co-national champions, along with St. Benedict’s (New Jersey). In addition to the MIAA championship, the highlight of the season was a 4-2 victory in Ohio against Midwest power St. Ignatius. The Cardinals overcame an early 2-0 deficit. Zinkand was also named the 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.

Baltimore Banner Female Sports Coach of the Year: Kendall Peace-Able, Poly

Kendall Peace-Able guided two Poly teams she once played for — basketball and volleyball — to Baltimore City championships and deep runs in Class 3A state tournaments. She has built both programs into perennial contenders over 20 years, a rare feat in an era with fewer and fewer multisport coaches. The Engineers won their fourth city basketball title in five seasons and reached the state final for the sixth time. Although Howard ended their bid for a second straight state championship, the Engineers finished 25-3 with the No. 4 ranking. Peace-Able said Poly is not “a volleyball school,” but the Engineers won their 11th straight Baltimore City championship and their 14th since she took over. They went on to win the regional championship, advance to the state quarterfinals and finish 14-4.

Baltimore Banner Most Inspirational Male Athlete: Justin Signor, Franklin

Franklin wrestler Justin Signor lost his father and biggest supporter, Joel, to colon cancer in February. Before his father died, despite recovering from ACL surgery and a severe shoulder injury, Signor promised him he would return to the mat in time for the Baltimore County Wrestling Tournament and win a title. Doctors had told Signor he probably would have to miss his entire senior year because of the injuries, but he appeared in just enough late-season matches to be eligible for the tournament and then kept the promise he had made to his father. After finishing fourth the prior year, the Franklin senior defeated several higher-seeded wrestlers before pinning Milford Mill’s Ethan Royster in the 160-pound final.

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Baltimore Banner Most Inspirational Female Athlete: Lila Becker, Marriotts Ridge

An inspiration to her entire team, Marriotts Ridge golfer Lila Becker draws much of her personal strength from the encouraging words her late mother, Kerry, preached to her before she lost a lengthy battle with breast cancer: “calm and collected.” Becker keeps a photo of her parents tucked in her pull cart whenever she is competing. Becker put away her clubs for a bit after her mother’s death, but as the fall golf season approached, she knew what her mother would have wanted her to do. With great courage, Becker remained calm and collected in shooting a personal-best nine-hole match score of 27 in the final week of the regular season for the undefeated Mustangs. She placed third in the Howard County championships.

Baltimore Banner Male Comeback Athlete of the Year: Ra-is Booth, Poly

In the first game of the 2022 football season, Poly linebacker Ra-is Booth suffered a devastating ACL injury, which not only wiped out the remainder of his football season but also his winter sports season on the swimming team. He was not expected back for lacrosse season, either, but he found a way to take the field, scoring 12 goals and handing out nine assists from his attack position and leading the Engineers to the Baltimore City title. He finished his high school career as a three-year letter winner in football, swimming and lacrosse. His lacrosse teams won three championships, missing out only in 2021 when the season was canceled because of COVID-19. As a junior, he won the 100-meter backstroke and was a member of Poly’s winning 200 medley relay at the Baltimore City Swimming Championships. One of three siblings to attend Poly, Booth will attend Virginia State University this fall.

Baltimore Banner Female Comeback Athlete of the Year: Payton Schenning, Mercy

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After an outstanding freshman season on the soccer pitch for Mercy High School, Payton Schenning missed her next two years with the Magic before returning for her senior season to score 25 goals and lead Mercy to its first IAAM A Conference soccer championship. COVID-19 shutdowns cost Schenning her sophomore campaign, and a knee injury kept her out as a junior. She made everyone on the team better in earning The Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors. The UMBC-bound Schenning helped the Magic finish as the No. 1 team in the final Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Top 15. She was selected as our Baltimore City Fall Sports Female Athlete of the Year.

Gary Adornato is the founder and original publisher of Varsity Sports Network, a high school sports news network that became part of The Baltimore Banner in August 2022. 

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