KEYSER - For the past four years Golden Tornado athletics have benefited from the hard work and leadership skills displayed by Kayla Willison, Toni Emerson Stickley, and Madison Anderson, the final three nominees for the 2018 Katharine Church Award.

Physical and mental toughness combined with a non-stop commitment to excellence breeds success in athletics, something each nominee has displayed while competing for Keyser. Kayla Willison defines the term well-rounded athlete as she has competed in cheerleading, basketball, and many Track & Field events. Kayla’s desire to be a nominee for the Katharine Church award started at a young age and she talked about what it means to be a finalist, “It’s an honor for me and my family and it proves how much my family has impacted me. My mom (Nina) always told me to go and get it, partially because she always wanted it when she was in high school, but she only did a minimal amount of sports.” Fueled by the guidance of her mother, Kayla has been motivated to participate in sports year round.

Another versatile athlete playing three sports for Keyser is Madison Anderson.
Madi is an extremely talented individual with the ability to smash a volleyball, shoot hoops, or toss a softball. Madi talked about what the Katharine Church award means to her, “Its such an honor to be spoken in the same breath as Katharine Church. To be nominated with some of my best friends is pretty awesome.”

The third nominee for the 2018 class is Toni Emerson Stickley. Emmy is an elite athlete who competed in gymnastics as a youth to build her athletic skill-set. During the fall and winter seasons Emmy stays focused on her craft as a cheerleader leading the Keyser Krazies student section with shouts of support for the black and gold. Emmy’s cheerleading / gymnastic skills have translated into success on the track. Emmy has competed in the West Virginia Track & Field state championships three times, and this spring you can find Emmy jumping over hurdles, passing the baton in relays, or touching the sky in pole vault.Emmy explained why the Katharine Church award means so much to her, “Its an honor to be nominated for this award just because my family knew Katharine Church. In fact my dad mowed her lawn and Katharine was good friends with my grandma. Then when they (Keyser Rotary Club / KHS) decided to make an award to match the Ed Kelley award my other grandma was also on that committee to set the guidelines for the award. So just to hear about it growing up and hear personal stories like that make it so much more meaningful to me.”

In the fall of 2017, Kayla and Emmy participated in competitive cheerleading and this season was a special one for the Golden Tornado. Chelsea Ross, a cheer coach at Keyser, talked about Emmy and Kayla’s impact on the team, “In the beginning of the season, when we saw Emmy and Kayla’s leadership abilities and drive we knew they exhibited the characteristics for the Katharine Church award! Because of their leadership our cheerleading squad was able to win a PVC championship and compete at the state tournament for the first time in many years. We are so proud of both of their commitment to our program and early morning practices, while keeping excellent grades throughout the year.”

As Kayla and Emmy were busy flipping and kicking in the fall, Madi Anderson strapped on kneepads to play volleyball for the Golden Tornado. Madi was named team captain and with her elite defensive skills she played the position of libero, identified on the court by the player who wears a contrasting jersey color. As the season shifted from fall into winter the sports season transitioned as well.

In the winter, Kayla and Madi laced up their sneakers and hit the hardwood to play basketball for the Lady Tornado. Madi thrived with the basketball in her hands and Keyser head coach Josh Blowe commented on her impact to his team, “Madi brought a tremendous amount of leadership to our team this year. On and off the court she was a gear asset for our team. She was the coach on the court that every head coach covets. Leadership is hard to find but Madi has displayed the qualities in every sport for the last few years.” Keyser had a terrific season highlighted by a pair of incredible upsets at home knocking off West Virginia AA state champion North Marion and Maryland state champion Southern Garrett. Home court advantage has been beneficial for the Golden Tornado especially when playing against top competition.

Perhaps Emmy Stickley and her cheerleading team are responsible for creating an intense environment for opposing teams that help Keyser gain an edge over their opponent. During basketball games Emmy and her cheerleading squad led black and gold fans in cheers and chants motivating fans in the stands to shout their support for Keyser.

In the spring you catch Madi Anderson throwing underhand from the mound or flashing the leather playing shortstop for the Lady Tornado softball team. The Keyser softball program has always held a special place in Madi’s heart especially since the Golden Tornado play their home games at Ron Mathias Family and Friends Field, which was named in honor of her late grandfather. Coach Craig Rotruck commented on Madi’s leadership, “Madison Anderson is a strong two way leader, off the field in/out of school she is a leader, on the field she is a leader by example. She stays after games and practices, she is now hitting over .500 and instead of being satisfied, she practices even more. Her teammates see that and follow her lead. She is setting the standard for Keyser High School Softball.” Lady Tornado assistant coach Richard Thompson continued the praise of Madi’s leadership, “Madi is the type of leader that not only is a vocal leader but leads louder by the example she sets. Whether she’s 4-4 or 0-4 you can rest assure that she will be hitting several buckets of balls after the game, always looking to get better.”

While Madi is focused on swinging the big stick, Kayla and Emmy stay busy dominating track & field events as they run, jump, throw, and vault their way into the winners circle. Keyser Track & Field coach Dan Dawson commented, “Both Kayla and Emmy are dedicated athletes that aren’t afraid to put in the work necessary to be successful. Both are team captains for us and both have won medals at the state meet. Kayla captured the State Championship in the shot put as a freshman. They are very deserving of this honor.” Kayla and Emmy are the only seniors on the track team this season therefore being a leader is an absolute must for the team to be successful. Emmy mentioned how the pair sets the example for younger athletes, “This year we have had to take a lot of girls under our wing and show them what to do, how its done, and then what is expected of you at meets.”

The 2018 class of Katharine Church nominees boasts three young women who have achieved athletic royalty during their time at Keyser High School, and not surprisingly, their hard work on the playing field has led to success in the classroom as well. All three seniors will continue their education at the next level as Kayla Willison will attend Fairmont State University to join the criminal justice program. Madi Anderson will attend Potomac State College to major in chemistry and play softball for the Catamounts. Emmy Stickley will take her talents to Morgantown next fall to major in BioChem at WVU. Emmy has the goal of one day becoming an ObGyn. All three nominees have built a resume overflowing with athletic accomplishments and they all deserve praise and recognition for their outstanding achievements in pursuit of the 2018 Katharine Church Award.