Bossier Parish is and always has been blessed with more than its share of outstanding high school athletes.

I say that every year when I write this column about the top athletes of the school year, but I think it bears repeating. There was an abundance of talent in the six parish schools in 2016-17. For me, to be considered one of the top athletes you need to excel in at least two different sports. But there are exceptions.

For instance, take Airline’s Christian Walden. He competed in only wrestling, but he won his third straight state title. No one would dispute that takes tremendous athletic ability. The same can be said for the parish’s other state champs in wrestling and track and field.

The same goes if your focus is mainly on one sport and you earn district MVP honors like basketball players Emily Ward of Benton and KJ Bilbo of Airline.

For the purposes of this exercise, though, excelling in two sports is a must to be considered the best. So let’s look at the female athletes first.

Haughton has two candidates. Ciara White was a first-team All-Parish soccer player. She also was the runner-up in the Division II state tennis tournament.
Savannah O’Neal was a first-team All-District selection in volleyball. She also won the Class 5A state title in the javelin.

Benton also has a couple of contenders. Breanna Bundy was a first-team All-Parish soccer player. She also won the District 1-4A pole vault. Qua Chambers, just a freshman, was a first-team All-Parish basketball selection. She also won the 400 in the District 1-4A meet.

Parkway’s Madelyn Elliott is a strong contender. She was a first-team All-Parish soccer selection and the Defensive MVP on the All-District 1-II team. Elliott was also a first-team All-District 1-5A softball selection.

Plain Dealing has a strong candidate in Teunna Perry. She was a first-team All-Parish basketball selection and won Class 1A state titles in the long and triple jumps.

I think it comes down to O’Neal, Elliott and Perry as to who was the best.
I’m going to give Perry the very slight edge.

When it comes to the parish’s male athletes you have to start at Parkway. Justin Rogers and Terrace Marshall Jr. are both very strong candidates. Rogers, a quarterback, was the Offensive MVP on the All-Parish football team. He also was a first-team All-Parish selection in basketball. In the spring, Rogers ran on Parkway’s 4X100 relay team that finished fourth in the state meet with a school-record time.

Like Rogers, Marshall, a wide receiver, was a first-team All-Parish selection in football. He was a first-team All-Parish and All-District 1-5A selection in basketball. Marshall also ran with Rogers on the 4X100 team and won the District 1-5A high jump.

Airline has a couple of candidates for the top spot. Josh James, a linebacker, was the Defensive MVP on the All-Parish football team and a first-team All-District selection in baseball. Malik Britt was a first-team All-Parish selection in football at receiver. He also swept the 110 and 300 hurdles in the District 1-5A meet.

Benton has three good candidates. John Westmoreland was a first-team All-Parish selection in football at wide receiver. He also won the 110 hurdles in the District 1-4A meet and finished second in the 300. Garrett Hable was a first-team All-Parish selection in football at quarterback and a first-team All-District 1-4A baseball pick. Jordan Myles was a first-team All-Parish selection in football at linebacker and a regional wrestling champion.

Haughton’s Josh Lister was undoubtedly one of the parish’s top athletes. He was a first-team selection in football. Lister also won the 100-meter dash in the Class 5A state meet and anchored Haughton’s winning 4X100 relay team and runner-up 4X200 team.

I think it comes down to Lister, Rogers and Marshall as to who was Bossier Parish’s best.
I have to give the nod to Marshall. Making first-team All-District in football and basketball puts him over the top.

I mentioned just a few of the athletes in this column that made it a another great year in sports in Bossier Parish. Congratulations to the hundreds of others who competed hard and did everything they could to make their teams better.

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com