Strawberry Crest High School swimmer Saige Starford and Newsome High School cross-country star Reese Anderson were honored at the Hillsborough County Fall Sports Awards ceremony on January 24. (Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County.)

Two area athletes were honored at the Hillsborough County Fall Sports Awards ceremony on January 24.

Strawberry Crest High School swimmer Saige Starford received the Henry Hicks Memorial Award for Outstanding Swimmer – Girls. She was nominated by her coach, Courtney Donhaiser.

“It means a lot to me that I won this award. I feel honored and blessed,” said Starford. “I love this sport and I don’t need recognition, but it feels nice for all of my hard work to be noticed. I know there are so many impressive swimmers in this county that I have competed against over the years. It is an honor to even be able to be amongst them, but to win this award feels unbelievable.”

Starford has been a team captain for three years and is the swim and dive team MVP for scoring the most points during the season. She is the current school record holder for the 50 and 100 free, was awarded the Schwarzkopf Leadership Award from West Point Society, is a member of the IB Honor Council, is an IB ambassador and has a 6.1 weighted GPA and a 3.8 unweighted GPA. She plans to attend West Point.

“I love watching her work with her teammates,” said Donhaiser. “She really takes her time and is patient. She makes them feel more confident in the water, which makes them love swimming more. She brings so much joy and unity to the team. I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to be her coach and be part of her life.”

Newsome High School cross-country star Reese Anderson received the Dr. Ben Walker Cross Country Award – Girls.

Anderson placed third at the FHSAA State Finals, was the 2023 Hillsborough County champion, was her team’s number one runner and is a top runner in the state. She has a 4.5 weighted GPA and a 3.9 unweighted GPA. She plans to attend the University of Central Florida.

Cross-country head coach Orlando Greene commented that Anderson is extraordinary and is impressed by her diligence and work ethic. He said she contributed positively to team dynamics, worked effectively within the group and contributed to a positive, supportive and caring team environment. 

“She enjoys competition, shows grit and determination and enjoys the battle of competition, especially during the last sections of the race,” said Greene. “She consistently had personal record performances throughout the season and was actively recruited by some of the top universities in the state and Southeast USA.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to receive an award like this without the support of my family and my coaches,” said Starford. “They have been so supportive to me through my entire high school swim career. I also would like to give a shoutout to all of my teammates that make swimming even more enjoyable.”

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.