By Lee Davis
Journal Sports Writer
By any measure, the 2010-11 academic year was a memorable one for Over the Mountain high schools.
State championships, near misses and high drama were all parts of the scene for the seasons just past, and more athletes stood out than ever before – and by area standards, that’s saying a lot.
That’s a badge of honor, but it also poses its share of challenges. One of the most difficult choices was picking the 2010-11 Girl Athletes of the Year.
So for the first time in the history of the award, two outstanding athletes were chosen for the honor.
The exclusive Over the Mountain Journal panel of sports journalists, parents and former athletes chose Hoover softball pitching sensation Marcy Harper and Mountain Brook track and field ace Marie Demedicis as Girl Athletes of the Year.
Harper, a right-hander, enshrined her name as one of the greatest pitchers in the Lady Bucs’ illustrious softball history during her junior season. As one of the few veterans on a young team dominated by freshmen and sophomores, Harper compiled a 36-12 record with an ERA of .78. She tossed 16 shutouts, along with two no-hitters, and struck out a whopping 493 batters.
“I don’t really have a favorite pitch,” said Harper. “I try to work hard on all of them.”
What made Harper’s 2011 efforts even more impressive is that she is not a one-trick pony. Her bat is just as potent as her arm. Harper hit a robust .378 with 11 home runs and 69 RBIs.
And like all great champions, the soft-spoken Harper was at her best when the stakes were highest. In the state tournament at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park, she took an underdog Hoover team within a game of the 6A championship.
Harper opened the event with a shutout win over Prattville, striking out 13 while allowing only two walks. She followed that effort by pitching a two-hitter with 12 whiffs in a 9-0 rout of Baker. Harper also hit a three-run homer in the win over the Lady Hornets.
She did all of this while nursing a painful injury to the index finger of her pitching hand.
Hoover softball coach Jim Brown puts it succinctly: “Marcy Harper is a competitor.”
In June, Harper was named the Over the Mountain Softball Player of the Year.
Having already committed to Auburn University, Harper enters her senior season as one of the most honored pitchers in Alabama softball annals. For her career, she has a 98-24 record and an ERA of 1.08. Harper has 998 strikeouts, while allowing a mere 135 walks – nearly a nine to one ratio. Offensively, she has hit .327 for her career, with 23 home runs.
“This is quite an honor,” said Harper, after learning she had been named Girl Athlete of the Year. “It’s not something I had ever thought about winning before. Receiving this honor is just going to make me work all that much harder next year to live up to it.”
Harper’s award continues a Hoover softball tradition. Her close friend and teammate Madison Dickey won the 2009-10 Girl Athlete of the Year award.
Marie Demedicis has a problem that any athlete would love to have: where to put all the state championship trophies her Mountain Brook teams have won even before she first stepped on the Bethune Drive campus.
Of course, Demedicis is one of the latest standouts for what may be the most successful program in the history of Alabama high school athletics. Demedicis has been a part of nine Class 6A state championship teams.
“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” said Demedicis. “I was proud to be a part of the great tradition of track at Mountain Brook, and being named Girl Athlete of the Year was a great way to end my senior year.”
The Samford University-bound senior was never better than in the 2011 state outdoor meet. Demedicis was state champion in the 6A 800 meter run and anchored the winning team in the 4X800 meter relay.
But perhaps her greatest moment came in the 4X400 meter relay, as Mountain Brook went head-to-head against defending champ Hoover with the state title on the line. In the anchor position, Demedicis outran the Lady Bucs’ Joy Maniece-Marbury to give Mountain Brook the victory – and the 6A championship.
Being in the winner’s circle is nothing new to Demedicis. In her junior year of 2010, she won the state championship in the 800 meter run and anchored event-winning tandems in the 4X800 meter and the 4X400 meter relays.
Demedicis has been a factor in Alabama track and field since being part of two state championship relay-winning teams as a varsity-eligible eighth grader in 2007. The next year, her 4X800 meter relay team won the prestigious Nike Indoor National Championships.
Marie Demedicis’s resume is impressive. And now she, just like Marcy Harper, can add Over the Mountain Girl Athlete of the Year to her list of accomplishments.