Six unforgettable accomplishments in 2017

With all the fervor and activity that usually consumes us during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays, it’s always a great time to take a few minutes to sit back and reflect on all that has happened during the previous year.

Covering sports in Zachary is a great privilege, and there are so many stellar athletes, coaches and teams that deserve recognition. As we prepare for what 2018 will bring, here are a half-dozen accomplishments in particular that really seemed to jump out as we look back on 2017:

1) Broncos corral second state championship in three years

Zachary’s football team signaled a clear statement with a dominating run through the Class 5A playoffs this year en route to its second state championship in three years. The fourth-seeded Broncos finished off Hahnville, 34-14, in the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic in the Superdome, with power, speed and a machinelike precision that has become the team’s trademark.

Sophomore quarterback Keilon Brown earned Zachary’s Most Outstanding Player honors, rushing for 189 yards on 15 attempts and completing five passes for 55 more yards. Zachary finished the year 13-2 overall.

2) ZHS’ O’Connor named Girls Athlete of the Year

Janie O’Connor graduated from Zachary High School last May, but not before she received perhaps the biggest honor of her high school career when she was named The Advocate’s Girls Athlete of the Year for 2016-17.

She was presented her award at the annual Athlete of the Year/Star of Stars banquet. Now a freshman at the University of Kentucky, O'Connor was also named the track and field Star of Stars for the third straight season. O’Connor helped guide the Lady Broncos to runner-up finishes in Division I in the indoor and outdoor seasons.

3) Burrell second in 400 at Junior Olympics

Zachary sophomore runner Sean Burrell enjoyed a remarkable summer competing in several meets across the country, including the 51st USATF’s Hershey National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Lawrence, Kansas.

Burrell finished second overall nationally in the 400-meter run and ninth in the 200-meter dash. In his specialty race, Burrell was first in the 400-meter prelims, finishing in 47.69 seconds. He ran 47.76 seconds in the final, finishing second.

Burrell also finished first in the 400 in 46.29 at the state Division I outdoor meet in May, a time that ranked fourth nationally.

4) Zachary’s Dunford making a splash in record books

Northwestern Middle swimmer Abby Dunford continues to make waves in competitive swimming pools. She selected Louisiana’s 12-and-under Female Swimmer of the Year, and she had a number of stellar accomplishments this past year, including state records for 9-10-year-olds in the 500 Freestyle and the 200 Individual Medley. She also earned seven first-place awards at the Louisiana Long Course state meet as she was the high point winner at the Louisiana Long Course championships. She also achieved three Texas sectional cuts.

She won an unprecedented seven state individual titles for girls ages 11-12. She qualified for Senior Speedo Sectional times in multiple events, and Louisiana Swimming took her to the Southern Sectional All-Star Zone meet where she made a championship final event in the highly competitive 11-12 girls category.

5) Broncos baseball advances to state tourney

The goal when the season started for the Zachary baseball team was to earn a trip to Sulphur and play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA baseball tournament Class 5A state semifinals for the first time since 2013.

The Broncos did just that before falling to top-seeded West Monroe, 4-1. They finished the season 29-11 in their first season under coach Jacob Fisher, who was named District 4-5A coach of the year. Utility player Anthony Fidanza was named the league’s most valuable player.

6) Mother-daughter duo wins national water ski gold medals

The mother-daughter duo of Anne Bennett and Danyelle Bennett-Critchley, who both live and train at Bennett’s Water Ski and Wakeboard School in Zachary, won gold medals at the national Water Ski Championships in San Marcos, Texas,  last summer.

Anne competed in the women’s 5 age division and won the national title in the tricks category. Combining with her jump and slalom scores, she finished fourth overall at the competition. Danyelle won the open women’s division in slalom.

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