Apple Blossom Festival honors eight local athletes

The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Sports Breakfast was canceled this year for the first time since its creation in 1965 because of COVID-19 concerns, but one of the Festival traditions was in full bloom on Thursday in Winchester.

Eight local athletes — all of whom were seniors in the 2019-20 school year — were recognized for their athletic and academic excellence in a small ceremony at Partlow Insurance, which serves as the sponsor for the Sports Breakfast. The athletes would have been honored at the Sports Breakfast on May 2 had the entire Festival not been canceled.

Those honored were high school athletes Payne Bauer (Sherando), Colby Childs (Clarke County), Aaliyah Chunn (Skyline), Makayla Firebaugh (James Wood), Malachi Imoh (Handley), Jordan Jackson (Millbrook) and D.J. Staton (Warren County) as well as Shenandoah University’s Casey Stewart.

At the start of each year’s Sports Breakfast, athletes from the local high schools and Shenandoah University have their achievements read off by the emcee as they make their way to their seats at the front of the Sports Breakfast crowd. Last year’s Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast featured 900 people at Shenandoah University’s James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics and Events Center.

Due to COVID-19 and the need to maintain social distancing, Thursday’s event was a small one that only featured invited guests as well as Festival officials and sponsors, according to a news release from the SABF committee.

“Unfortunately, the Festival was not able to recognize our athletes this year, but we feel it is important to carry on this tradition and give these fine student-athletes the credit they deserve,” said SABF president Tommy Price in the new release.

The following is a look at each athlete:

Payne Bauer, Sherando

Bauer was a three-year varsity football player and baseball player. Bauer was a Winchester Star Honorable Mention Athlete of the Year selection as a junior.

As a linebacker in football, Bauer was twice named First Team Class 4 All-State, twice named the Region 4C Defensive Co-Player of the Year, twice named the Class 4 Northwestern District Defensive Player of the Year, and twice named The Winchester Star Defensive Player of the Year. As a senior Bauer was named The Northern Virginia Daily Defensive Player of the Year and a USA Today Virginia All-State Second Team selection. Bauer was also a Star First Team Selection as a sophomore. Bauer had 309 tackles, 25.5 sacks and 99 tackles for loss in his career.

An outfielder in baseball, Bauer as a junior was named to the First Team for Class 4 state, Region 4C, the Class 4 Northwestern District, The Winchester Star and The Northern Virginia Daily. As a sophomore, Bauer was a First Team pick for the district, Star and NVD and a Second Team region selection.

Bauer participated in DECA and the National Honor Society for Sherando. He will play football on a scholarship for James Madison University of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Colby Childs, Clarke County

Childs earned 11 varsity letters at Clarke County (four each for basketball and baseball, three for football). Childs was a Winchester Star Honorable Mention Athlete of the Year selection as a junior.

In baseball, Childs was a four-year starter who pitched and played shortstop. As a sophomore and junior, Childs was selected to the First Team for Region 2B, the Bull Run District and The Winchester Star.

In football, Childs was a three-year starting quarterback. He set Clarke County school records for passing yards in a game (261 against Luray in 2019), season (1,166 in 2019) and career (2,984) and helped the Eagles to a share of the 2019 district title. As a sophomore, Childs was All-Bull Run First Team and All-Region 2B Second Team Offensive All-Purpose. As a junior, he was all-district Second Team All-Purpose and Second Team Winchester Star. As a senior, he was First Team all-district and all-region and Second Team Winchester Star.

In basketball, Childs was a three-year starting guard and a Third Team Winchester Star All-Area selection as a junior.

Childs has a 3.82 GPA and will play baseball for NCAA Division III Hood College in Frederick, Md.

Makayla Firebaugh, James Wood

Firebaugh was a four-year star in basketball who was a three-time Offensive MVP for the Colonels.

A guard, Firebaugh was twice named to the Class 4 All-State First Team, twice named Region 4C Co-Player of the Year, twice named Class 4 Northwestern District Player of the Year, and twice named The Winchester Star Player of the Year. Firebaugh was selected to the Conference 21 West First Team as a freshman and the Class 4 Northwestern District First Team the past three years. She was also a Second Team region selection as a sophomore. Firebaugh holds James Wood career records for points (2,031) and 3-pointers (189), single-season records for points (612) and scoring average (24.5), and the record for most points in a single game (44).

Firebaugh is a two-year member of the National Honor Society and was also part of DECA and Varsity Club. Firebaugh will play basketball on a scholarship for NCAA Division I Rider University in New Jersey, where she plans on majoring in forensic science.

Malachi Imoh, Handley

Imoh played varsity football all four years at Handley, spent two years on the track & and field team and played soccer as a freshman.

Imoh was The Winchester Star and Class 4 Northwestern District Football Offensive Player of the Year as a senior after converting from running back to quarterback. Imoh set single-season school records for rushing yards (2,003), points (178) and rushing touchdowns (29) and also passed for 1.336 yards and 12 TDs. He was Second Team All-Region 4C. As a junior, he was a Second Team region and Star selection and a First Team district pick. As a sophomore, he was Honorable Mention all-district.

In outdoor track, as a junior Imoh won district and region championships in the 100 meters, the 200 and the 4x100 and placed second in all three events at the Class 4 state meet to earn Winchester Star First Team honors. In indoor track as a senior, Imoh placed third in Class 4 in the 55.

During Imoh’s sophomore and junior years at Handley, he attended the Mountain Vista Governor’s School and focused on biology. He is a member of the National Honor Society and scored a 1410 on his SAT exam. Imoh will play football for the College of William & Mary of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision on a scholarship.

Jordan Jackson, Millbrook

In football, Jackson was a three-year starter as a wide receiver and defensive back and was a Class 4 All-Northwestern District selection all three years. As a senior, he was selected to the Region 4C, district and Winchester Star First Team as a wide receiver and set a school single-season record with 1,043 yards receiving. As a defensive back, he was Second Team Winchester Star and Honorable Mention for the district. Jackson was also an all-district Honorable Mention punt returner. As a junior, Jackson was a Second Team selection for the district and The Star on offense and defense and a Second Team District punt returner. As a sophomore, Jackson was a Second Team pick for the district and The Star on offense.

In basketball, Jackson was a four-year starting point guard who received award recognition all four years. As a senior, he was First Team Winchester Star and Second Team all-district. As a junior, he was a Second Team pick for the region and Star and First Team all-district. As a sophomore, he was a Star Third Team selection. As a freshman, Jackson was a Second Team pick for Conference 21 West and The Star.

Jackson has a 3.4 GPA and will play football for NCAA Division II Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., on a scholarship.

Casey Stewart, Shenandoah

A graduate of Warren County High School, Stewart had a record-setting career as a wide receiver for the Hornets football team. His 34 receiving touchdowns are a school record.

As a senior, Stewart led the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with 1,191 receiving yards. He had 13 TD catches and a career-high 70 catches. He was named Second Team All-ODAC. He was a finalist for the Armed Services Merit Award for the second straight year, a finalist for the Lanier Award given to the top NCAA DII/DIII or NAIA player in Virginia, earned Second Team All-ECAC honors and named Second Team All-State by the VaSID.

As a junior, Stewart earned First Team All-ODAC honors after catching 54 passes for 859 yards and setting a school single-season record with 15 touchdown receptions. He was also a VaSID First Team All-State selection.

Aaliyah Chunn, Skyline

Chunn competed in volleyball, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field for the Hawks. As a senior, she was The Northern Virginia Daily Female Athlete of the Year.

In volleyball, as a senior Chunn was named the Player of the Year for Region 3B. the Class 3 Northwestern District of the Year and The Northern Virginia Daily.

In indoor track, the school record-holder in the high jump at 5 feet, 2 inches earned Class 3 All-State and all-Region honors as a junior and earned all-region and all-district honors as a senior in the high jump.

In outdoor track, as a freshman, Chunn was all-district and all-region in the high jump. She was all-district, all-region and all-state in the high jump as both a sophomore and junior.

Chunn will compete in volleyball and track & field at NCAA Division III Shenandoah University and will study kinesiology.

D.J. Staton, Warren County

Staton starred in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track for the Wildcats, earning Class 3 all-state honors twice in cross country and once in track and All-Region 3B honors three times in cross country and twice in track. Staton has been honored on The Northern Virginia Daily’s all-area teams for both cross country and track.

Staton, who has a 2.77 GPA, will compete in both sports at NCAA Division I South Carolina-Upstate on a cross country and track scholarship.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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