published Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Vonn Bell, Brooke Copeland are overall top prep athletes of year (with video)

Best of Preps male athlete of the year Vonn Bell receives his award at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Best of Preps male athlete of the year Vonn Bell receives his award at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Huge crowd attends Best of Preps banquet with Chipper Jones
A sold out crowd of more than 1,500 athletes, parents and coaches attended the annual Best of Preps banquet presented by the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Monday. Former Atlanta Braves all-star Chipper Jones was the featured speaker at the event, which highlights the best athletes and coaches from all 14 high school sports.

  • photo
    Best of Preps female athlete of the year Brooke Copeland receives her award for Steven Hargis.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chipper Jones entertained a sold-out crowd as the featured speaker of the Best of Preps banquet Monday at the Chattanooga Convention Center, but the former Atlanta Braves star took a back seat in travel miles to one of the evening's main award winners.

Vonn Bell, the Ridgeland High School star football player, made the trip Monday from Columbus, Ohio, where the Ohio State freshman already is enrolled in classes. After mechanical issues forced a nearly three-hour delay in his flight, Bell arrived just in time to receive his Male Athlete of the Year award. Though a bit dazed from the long day, he was appreciative of the award.

"This is a great night to see all these great athletes here and to know that all the hard work was worth it," said Bell, who earlier won the E.B. "Red" Etter Award as the area's top football player. "It's been a long day; I had my first quiz today and the workouts are kicking my tail, but it's all worth it. Ohio State is treating me good, but it's nice to get to come home and see my family and all these nice smiling faces."

Honored as the overall top female athlete was Bradley Central two-sport star Brooke Copeland, who was perhaps the most surprised person in the huge banquet hall when her name was announced.

"It's an incredible feeling because I had no idea I was winning this award," said Copeland, the junior basketball and volleyball standout. "Meeting Chipper was great also. My grandpa is a really huge fan of Chipper's, so I'm going to get a hat signed for him."

Dalton boys' soccer coach Matt Cheaves was the Coach of the Year winner after leading the Catamounts to an undefeated state championship season and a top ranking in one national poll. The veteran coach, on vacation with his family, was represented by assistant coach Jim Wickes, who sang the praises of Cheaves and the Dalton athletes.

"Matt gives us a lot of credit, but coaching is a craft and we as assistant coaches get to learn every day from a great coach," Wickes said. "I think it speaks a lot about the boys and the talent level in northwest Georgia, where we had three of the top four [Class AAAA] teams in the state this year. The boys do the work that it takes to be a good team, and they always play hard for us."

Contact Lindsey Young at or at 423-757-6296.

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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