Hoskins is female Athlete of the Year
SALISBURY — Madeline Hoskins and Alexandra Drye have been best friends almost since their days in cribs, and the Salisbury graduates had a good time every fall talking about what lay ahead for Hoskins.
What Hoskins did every autumn made the Twelve Labors of Hercules look pretty tame, and it’s the reason she’s the Post’s Rowan County Athlete of the Year even in a county that includes Carson’s Michaela White, West Rowan’s Khaila Hall and another dozen top-notch, multi-sport female athletes.
Quite a few girls were all-county in more than one sport. Hall, only a sophomore, was the county’s best in the long and triple jumps, one of the best sprinters and one of the best basketball players.
White is probably the best volleyball player the county’s ever seen and was the centerpiece for a 3A state runner-up. You also could argue that White was the county’s second-best softball player.
Still, Hoskins is the choice. Hoskins not only played at a high level in two sports, she played both in the same season. She was an individual tennis doubles state champion while also being a key member of Salisbury’s tennis and golf team state champions.
And when you can use the words “state champions,” that separates Hoskins. She won three rings last fall alone and eight in an amazing career.
“When Madeline was a freshman, I didn’t think it was possible to play golf and tennis at the same time because the schedules overlap so much,” Salisbury golf coach Dale Snyder said. “But she proved herself so flexible that she was able to work seamlessly between the two sports. She was especially amazing as a senior because I watched her become a great leader on both teams — at the same time.”
Hoskins and Drye, who played No. 1 on Salisbury’s tennis team, sat down last September and looked over the schedules. Tuesday, Oct. 22, was the date they circled.
Oct. 22 was D-Day because that was the day when Hoskins was going to have to play both tennis and golf at a high level if her teams were going to fulfill their goals.
“That was the date for the golf regional — that’s where you qualify for states — and it was also the date for the third round of the tennis state playoffs,” Hoskins explained. “That’s the date I remember vividly. Alexandra and I started the countdown early toward Oct. 22.”
Hoskins is a perfectly normal looking person. She’s not big and she’s not tall, and she wouldn’t be your first draft pick to run the 100 or bound over a high-jump bar.
What she’s blessed with is tremendous hand-eye coordination.
“My dad always said I’d be good in any sport that involves hitting something,” Hoskins said with a laugh. “Maybe I could’ve been a good softball player, but in the spring I always felt like I needed to concentrate on academics.”
Hoskins is a natural to some extent, but it should be noted that she always worked diligently every summer to make her fall success possible.
“The summer is when I prepared,” Hoskins said. “There’s no time for me to practice in the fall. In the fall, I just competed.”
Going into the 2013-14 school year, Salisbury’s girls had won two straight 1A-2A golf state championships and owned an impressive string of five straight 2A tennis titles.
“It surprised me a little that we kept winning in tennis,” Hoskins said. “We lost really great players, but then we reloaded. Then we lost Coach (Chris) Myers too, and that was heartbreaking. I felt a responsibility as one of the older girls to try to keep everyone motivated while we made the transition to Coach (Scott) Maddox.”
Maddox is best known as the longtime coach of Salisbury’s baseball team.
“I think he went home and watched the Tennis Channel every day and learned everything he could,” Hoskins said. “And he did well. He’s definitely a coach. He prepared us. He pumped us up.”
As the fall unfolded, it was apparent Salisbury had a chance to three-peat in golf and to six-peat, for lack of a better word, in tennis.
Salisbury has two outstanding young golfers. Isabella Rusher and Grace Yatawara are among the state’s best. Three scores count in girls golf, and Snyder knew Hoskins was 2A’s best No. 3 by a lot.
“Madeline improved her golf game so much over the past year,” he said. “ As great as Isabella and Grace are, to be a dominant golf team you have to have depth. Madeline, along with Caroline Parrott and Shelby Holden provided that depth.”
Salisbury tennis also is deep, and the Hornets rolled through the regular season and the first two rounds of the 2A playoffs.
Hoskins leap-frogged back and forth between the sports all fall.
“I had crazy support from everyone,” she said. “Supportive family, supportive teammates, supportive coaches, a supportive school.”
Then the countdown reached Oct. 22, that day when Hoskins’ sports intersected with the third round of the tennis playoffs and the golf regional.
That day arrived with one added hurdle. Salisbury’s third-round tennis opponent would be Brevard. Both were No. 1 seeds, but Salisbury would be on the road because Brevard’s overall record was better. Brevard was three hours away from the Country Club of Salisbury, site of the golf regional.
“We all felt that Brevard was going to be our toughest tennis match all year,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins teed off at the earliest possible time in the 18-hole golf regional — 8 a.m. Her teammates were on the course behind her.
“We communicated with thumbs-ups or thumbs-downs, so they knew how I was doing and I knew how they were doing,” Hoskins said. “I didn’t get warmed up really until about the fourth hole.”
Part of her was thinking tennis, but she completed her golf round before noon and helped Salisbury win the regional and qualify for the state tournament. Then it was time to make the drive to Brevard to join Drye and her other set of teammates.
Salisbury’s tennis team beat Brevard, rolling 6-0.
“I definitely didn’t play my best round of golf that day, but I did play one of my best tennis matches,” Hoskins said. “It was an exhausting day, but it was a rewarding day. When it was over, I felt like I’d accomplish something.”
With Oct. 22 in the books, Hoskins could focus on winning state titles — and she did.
At the 1A-2A golf state championships in Southern Pines on Oct. 29, Hoskins shot 78-83 — 161. She placed sixth individually and the Hornets bulldozed the competition.
“For Madeline to be No. 3 on her team and to finish sixth in the state was an incredible accomplishment,” Snyder said.
Hoskins said one of the spurs for her golf effort was looking up on the third hole and seeing former Salisbury AD and former SHS principal Windsor Eagle on the scene to support the Hornets.
“They were standing there right in the same place where they were every year,” Hoskins said. “They were always unwavering supporters. Seeing them energized me.”
Things also went well in tennis.
Hoskins helped the Hornets survive a struggle with previously unbeaten N.C. Science & Math in the 2A state championship match in Burlington. She’s extra-competitive and rallied from a set down to win her singles match at No. 4.
Between the golf and tennis team state titles, Hoskins and Drye teamed up to win the individual doubles state title.
“Alexandra and I have played on sports teams together since we were 4 years old,” Hoskins said. “We’ve got telepathy on the court. We communicate without speaking. Alexandra is a great server and is so consistent and I’m good at volleying. She always did a great job of setting me up at the net.”
So Hoskins finished her remarkable fall with three state championships.
“It’s mind-boggling to me that someone could win eight state championship in four years,” Maddox said. “You add to that her stellar academic record and how involved she is with extracurricular activities and you wonder if maybe she isn’t wearing a cape under her clothes.”
Hoskins jokes that sometimes she has to Google the words that her classmates use to figure out what in the world they’re talking about, but she was a fine student. She compiled a 3.75 GPA and is headed to UNC with an eye on a business future.
As far as her sports future, she may play club tennis at UNC with two of her former SHS teammates, but that will be it. Still, she doesn’t plan to ever stray far from her golf clubs and tennis racquet.
“When I got started, my dad told me those were good sports for me — lifetime sports,” Hoskins said.
Maddox figures Hoskins’ future husband may be in for a hard time on courses and courts.
“I think he’s going to have a hard time explaining to the kids why he can’t beat Mommy in anything,” Maddox said.