With an abundance of talent and so many qualifying seniors, the decision to determine which two athletes will receive the Waldron Male and Female Athlete of the Year award is not taken lightly. With the spring sports season cut short and the school year being continued from home, it came to no surprise that the end of the year sports banquet would be halted as well. But that doesn’t mean that the two recipients of this award should be left to celebrate quietly. So without further ado, the Waldron Bulldog Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards, go to seniors Bayleigh Lipham and Payton Brown.
Bayleigh Lipham has never understood the meaning of the word can’t. For Bayleigh, its never been a question of who’s going to let her. It’s a question of who’s going to stop her. She has never been one to shy away from a task too big or a problem too hard. During her high school career, Bayleigh participated in track, cheer, softball, and volleyball. And for the next step on the path of life, Bayleigh plans to attend UAFS where she will study Imaging Science and eventually open her own 4D clinic.
Track Coach, Angie Bailey, had this to say about her departing senior who has been doing track since the seventh grade. “This young lady is such a class act! Bayleigh gives so much of herself in all that she does. She’s all in, all the time. Not only did Bayleigh run hurdles, but she also threw discus. Since I always had to share her with softball, discus kind of went by the wayside. When Bayleigh runs hurdles she’s so technical. Of course, that’s thanks to her dad Chris Lipham. The sky’s the limit with this one! I am so proud to say I got to coach her. I’m sure going to miss her!”
Over the last four years, Bayleighs love and passion for softball has shone brightly on and off the field. She finishes her softball career with 43 games played, 39 hits, 24 runs, and 147 putouts. “We will be sadly losing her leadership and level-headedness,” stated Softball Coach, Bailey Moore. “She was always calm (at least on the outside) in a tough situation. She always had encouraging words for her teammates and a pick me up when the team needed it. Not to mention, her effectiveness behind the plate! She came in as a catcher and adopted the first base position. This was her first year as a full-time catcher and what a year to finally get back to it!”
“Bayleigh, you have given me and your team so much over the past four years. More than I could have asked for. I have watched you grow so much as a player and as a young lady. Your determination on and off of the field has been an inspiration to all of those around you. I hope every coach has the opportunity that I had in getting to coach a player with the respect, drive, and attitude that you have shown. I know that all of these characteristics are going to take you far in life and I cannot wait to watch you on your journey! I know you will achieve all of your goals in life and I will forever be proud of you!”
In her final goodbye, Bayleigh leaves her Bulldog family with this. “High school went by way too fast, just like everyone said it would. I truly hope that you all cherish the memories we have made in the past seasons and the couple of softball games we got to play this season. Because no matter how bad we want to, you don’t get a second chance. My team was and will always be my family, every single one of them, old and new. I hope I left an impression on them and taught them a couple of lessons along the way through how I acted in and out of athletics. Our team lived and breathed softball and the competitiveness of it. The game in a way shaped us to be who we are. With all my love, #12 out!”
In the world of high school sports, the name Payton Brown is known far and wide especially on the basketball court. From day one, Payton has had sports talent coursing through his veins. His father, Jason Brown, was also a basketball genus so it comes to no surprise that Payton would follow in his father’s footsteps. Payton has spent his high school career participating in track, where he ran hurdles and threw shot and even got a ticket to State for the 300 hurdles his freshman year, baseball, and basketball.
Playing a total of 48 baseball games, Payton also acquired 66 strikeouts as pitcher and earned one home-run. Baseball Coach, Mark Brigance, delivers his thoughts on this Bulldog senior. “Payton is a terrific baseball player. His best attribute to the team was playing catcher. Once he threw out a runner in the first game of the season and that was the end of people trying to run on us. Coaches are gonna talk and they knew before we played them not to run on him. Payton really helped at the pitcher position too. He’s a great kid who’s going to go far in life.”
Payton has committed to being a Lion at UAFS where he is excited to further his academic and basketball careers. And recently, Payton was also selected to be part of the 2020 AAA Basketball All-Star West team along with his basketball coach, Joshua Brown. Although the games were canceled due to Covid-19, the AAA still wanted to honor the players and coaches selected. Payton has been All-State and All-Conference in basketball for three seasons along with leading the state in scoring for three years as well.
Basketball career averages for Payton include: 6.6 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game, 2.4 steals per game, 50% FG%, 87% FT%, scored 2775 career total points, averaged 31.2 points per game for his career, ArBCA top 5 teams in 3A Basketball, Arkansas High School record book, will be #5 on Arkansas High School All-Time scoring list, scored 60 points in a game which will be #10 in most points scored in a game, #7 for most points scored in a season his junior year, and #4 for points per game for a season. “Payton has been the definition of hard work,” expressed Coach Brown. “He has put in countless hours in the gym and his hard work has paid off. We are going to miss him in orange and black but look forward to what the future holds for him!”
Payton leaves his friends, family, and Bulldog community with this final farewell. “Ever since I was a little kid, I couldn’t wait to put on an orange and black jersey after watching my older brother play. I’ve had a blessed career here and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It went by almost too fast and I still can’t believe I will never put on a uniform for this town ever again. But I dreamed of bringing a basketball reputation to this town along with bringing huge crowds to our gym to watch us and be proud, and that’s exactly what happened. From my sophomore year to my last game as a senior, every home game the community had our backs from massive crowds turning out and a student section bringing that extra energy. So for that, I thank you. I say to future Bulldogs coming in, carry the tradition and the winning ways. Don’t let anyone stop you from believing or achieving your goals and dreams because anything is possible. This was a great ride with many memories made that won’t be forgotten and many life long friends made. It’s an honor and a blessing to receive this award. God gets all the glory for blessing me throughout my life. Now it’s on to the next chapter. #PB10 out!”
Sports photos courtesy of Sandy Tull