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Top Female Athlete

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Connersville senior Marley Smith swings through a serve during a scrimmage against Cambridge City Lincoln on Aug. 8, 2018. Smith says that volleyball was her favorite sport during her years as a Lady Spartan.
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Connersville’s Marley Smith proudly displays her trophy, after being selected the Connersville High School female Athlete of the Year, at the CHS sports awards ceremony inside the Robert E. Wise Center for Performing Arts on June 5. Smith participated in volleyball, basketball and track and field during her senior year.
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Connersville’s Marley Smith, left, drives against a Mount Vernon (Fortville) defender in the 2018-19 IHSAA sectional tournament on Jan. 29.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Three girls stood on the Robert E. Wise Center for Performing Arts stage, waiting to hear who would be named the 2018-19 Connersville High School female Athlete of the Year.

One of them was senior Marley Smith.

A volleyball, basketball and track and field player for the Lady Spartans through her final high school year, she had no idea if her name would be called.

After all, as a junior she was in the same position, but watched as Jessica Beckman received the award.

Now, one year later, she was once again standing next to Beckman, the fellow senior one of the three finalists.

“Jessica is just a terrific athlete, and she really deserved to win it,” Smith said of her fellow classmate.

Also on stage with the duo was Paige Dunaway, a freshman.

“I thought it was impressive that Paige was one of the finalists as a freshman,” Smith said. “She was amazing in her first year at the school.”

When the announcement came, it was Smith’s name that echoed throughout the auditorium.

“At first, I could not move,” she said of her reaction. “I then looked around and didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to go up and get the trophy or not.

“Once I started moving to get it, I remember that I was trying hard not to smile or laugh.”

The award was the culmination of a very busy year for the daughter of Joe and Trish Smith.

Smith opened the 2018-19 school year playing for the volleyball team, a sport she had played in her three previous years at CHS.

By the end of the fall, Smith was tops on the team with 203 kills. She also led the team with 66 aces, and tied with Allison Woytik and Emily Hodson in sets, playing in a team-best 108 of them.

For her efforts, Smith was named the Most Valuable Player for the volleyball squad.

Smith then took her talent to the basketball court for a fourth straight year. There she led the Spartan girls with an average of 12.7 points per game. Her seven rebounds and 3.7 assists per game were also best among her teammates.

Once more, she was honored with the Most Valuable Player plaque for her work.

In the spring, the 18-year-old put on her track shoes, and suited up for the Spartan track and field team.

A distance runner for the squad, Smith qualified for the regional in the 1600 and the 4x400 relay. At the regional in Shelbyville, she wound up ninth in the 1600, and helped the relay unit to a 12th-place finish.

That wound up being more than enough of a resume to get her nominated and selected, via a vote of the entire CHS coaching staff, as the best female athlete in 2018-19.

“It’s such a great honor to be selected,” she said. “There is so much work that goes into (being a multi-sport athlete), and it makes me happy to see that all that work was recognized.”

After putting so much effort into those three sports, the question is, which was her favorite?

“I’d have to say that volleyball was my favorite,” she said. “When I was younger, somewhere around eight years old, I was hanging around with my mom at the gym and there was a lot of volleyball being played.

“I remember walking up to her one day and asking her when I would get to play volleyball. She told me that I could play, once I was able to serve the ball over the net.

“I grabbed a ball, went to the court, and within an hour, I was back to tell her that I could do it. I have been playing volleyball ever since.”

It’s that level of determination that wound up paying off for her in 2018-19.

For Smith, winning the award has also given her a learning moment.

“After I had won the award, I had the mom of one of my male track teammates come up and tell me that her son was very proud of me, and that what I have accomplished really inspires him,” Smith said. “It was then that I realized that it’s not just younger kids who look up to you, that it can be the teammate standing next to you, someone who is the same age, who looks up to you as an athlete.”