2009 Athletes of the Year: West Rowan's K.P. Parks, South Rowan's Taylor May
This was destined to be the most entertaining one-on-one battle of the school year.
A playful matchup between the two Salisbury Post Rowan County Athletes of the Year: Taylor May of South Rowan and K.P. Parks of West Rowan.
The photo shoot for the Athletes of the Year always signals the end of prep sports in the county. We tell them to dress casually and be as silly as possible. The boy tries the girl’s sports and the girl tries the boy’s sports. We even let them arm wrestle.
This year, it looked like a mismatch.
May stands in at six feet. Parks is 5-foot-8.
A sport they both played was basketball. As the two best athletes in the county headed into the South gym for a little hoops action, Parks sized up his competition.
“That’s a big, tall girl,” he said of May. “I watched her play basketball. She’s got nice skills.”
“Think she can take you?” Parks was asked.
“She probably could,” he laughed. “She’d probably turn around and drop-step on me.”
“Think you can take him?” May was asked.
“I’d mostly be backing him down,” she said with a confident smile that only an Athlete of the Year can wear.
Parks tried guarding May, who held the ball high over her head, looking down on North Carolina’s top returning football player with disdain.
And she did drop-step on him, hitting a few layups.
Parks chuckled through it all. He knew Post photographer Jon Lakey would also click some pics when they hit the football field.
An interested spectator was South’s three-sport star B.J. Grant. Like Parks, he’s a rising senior. And he wasn’t so sure May wouldn’t win the battle on the football field, too.
“She’s pretty strong,” mused Grant. “She’s a beast.”
The day was all in good fun. Parks laughed. May laughed. This was a matchup of no stress and no pressure.
But the fact is, May wouldn’t have been intimidated by Parks whether he was 5-8 or 6-8. She has been playing sports since the age of four and she competed against the boys until she was 12.
“I’ve always been a little tomboy,” she said with a grin.
When May’s not grinning, she’s making others smile.
“Once you get to know her, she’s one of the funniest people you’ll meet,” noted South coach Bryan Withers. “We give her a hard time about everything we can. You gotta get her before she gets you. She’s going to give you a hard time.”
Withers laughed at a story about May driving a yellow Cadillac the size of the Love Boat to school on occasion.
“That’s my cousin’s,” she reported.
She’d rather drive the black Jeep she calls, “Ol’ Ruby the Rubicon,” once owned by her boyfriend, John Welch.
“I love it, it’s fun,” she said. “I love the open stuff.”
May got open enough this past winter to become a 1,000-point scorer in basketball, reaching the mark in her very last game as a Raider.
But she’s much more than a hoops star. She’s versatile.
In her senior year, May was all-conference in volleyball, basketball and track. She was the county player of the year in volleyball. Catawba will be her next stop.
May said she was told early in the year she was a top candidate for the Athlete of the Year award, adding, “You don’t want to expect it. I was glad to find out.”
May winning the award is no surprise to Withers. And he expects the same success after high school.
“She’s going to excel in whatever she does,” he said.
Accolades are nothing new to Parks, who played football and a half-season of basketball.
When the running back was named to the MaxPreps All-American team after finishing his junior season with a career 7,121 yards and 99 touchdowns, he was a shoo-in. He accomplished more in one sport than most did in three.
Who can forget his MVP performance in West Rowan’s 35-7 state championship win over West Craven? Three touchdowns, 219 yard rushing.
After his postseason “football tour” of national camps and college visits, he joined the basketball team and helped it to 26 wins. He was BMOC. It would’ve been easy to flaunt his fame.
But yet, there he was, clowning around with May, showing there is no big head atop those sturdy shoulders.
“I try to stay humble,” Parks said with a shrug. “It’s in my family. God can take anything away from me at any time.”
May was certainly impressed.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about him,” she said.
Parks has already committed to Virginia so the goal for his senior year is to have fun and play everything.
“I’m going to try baseball,” he announced.
Does baseball coach David Wright know?
“I told him,” he said.
But football is No. 1.
“I’m ready to get it going again,” he said.
Who will May pass the torch to next year?
It could be another South Rowan Raider in Kayla Morrow, who should be a leader in multiple sports. Or maybe North Rowan sophomore Teaunna Cuthbertson, a budding basketball star and electrifying track performer. East Rowan’s Olivia Rankin came into her own in several sports this season.
Parks is back for his senior year but even he acknowledges there are many athletes challenging him as he tries to repeat.
One of the favorites is Parks’ West teammate, Jon Crucitti, a three-sport star.
Salisbury’s John Knox and Romar Morris could easily be all-county in three sports. Both will be juniors.
And South will have Blake Houston and Grant, both three-sport stars in Landis.
“You just mentioned a bunch of good athletes,” Grant nodded.
“They’re all athletic guys,” Parks said. “I know John, Romar, all of those boys from the other schools. They’re pretty good fellas. It’ll be competitive.”
One thing’s for sure. Whoever the boy is, there will be one positive for him at next year’s Athlete of the Year photo shoot.
He won’t have to worry about Taylor May drop-stepping on him.