Moss-Oliver winners express surprise, humility over recognition

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 5:31pm

For Anna Mitchell, this was a mid-April treat as she nears graduation.

The Christ Presbyterian Academy senior won the prestigious Moss-Oliver award for girls at a Wednesday luncheon at Swett’s Restaurant. The boys winner was M.L. King senior Auston Gardenhire.

Named for J.D. Moss and William Henry Oliver, Nashville administrators in the 1960s, the award goes a female and male basketball player in the Nashville area on the basis of basketball ability, academics, sportsmanship and community service.

The event was sponsored by the Nashville City Civitan Club. A $500 scholarship award goes toward the college choice of each winner.

“It’s been such a special year,’’ Mitchell said. “We went to the state in volleyball (in October) and the state in basketball (in March), although it was disappointing we didn’t go further. My senior year has been challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. It has been such a blessing.”

Asked about winning the award, she said, “when I heard my name called, I said ‘I don’t deserve this.’ The credentials for the other finalists blew me away. But I’m thankful for the recognition it gives our school.”

Mitchell set a school career scoring record with 1,490 points and was named all-district and all-region in both volleyball and basketball and region MVP.

She has a 3.64 GPA, 25 ACT, is a member of national honor society and national art honor society. She is a class officer, FCA member, head of the Missions Committee and involved in numerous community services.

Her coach and AD Mike Ellson had a succinct statement about his school’s winner: “She takes greater joy in her teammates scoring a basket than she does herself. She is the consummate team player.”

Mitchell, a 5-foot-11 post player who wants to continue playing basketball in college, has been offered a full scholarship to Martin Methodist in Pulaski, Tenn. Other schools like Trevecca Nazarene have shown interest, and she is keeping her options open.

For Gardenhire, it’s capping an excellent senior year, much like Mitchell.

“I was surprised I won,’’ the 5-foot-9 guard. “I really thought the CPA guy (Matt Zelenik) would win it. The other two finalists had such great resumes.”

Asked about the highlights of the season, he said, “Going to sub-state (before losing to eventual AA state finalist Marshall County) was big, although I wish we had gotten further. It was special for me to make all-district and all-region.”

Gardenhire was a three-year starter and had an 89.1 average, an ACT of 23 and 4.0 GPA in Washington School of World Studies.

He is a member of National Society of Black Engineers and the yearbook staff and has worked in numerous youth groups and community services.

“The first word I would use for Auston is ‘character,’” MLK Coach James (Doc) Shelton said. “His parents have done a great job in raising him. He’s a great young man.

“He’s a great kid to work with, and he’s outstanding on the court and academically as well. He’s one of the really special persons I’ve had a chance to work with.”

Gardenhire is headed to UT-Chattanooga and is considering walking on to play football.

Dale Denney served as emcee and made the presentations.

Other finalists included:


Julia Johnston, DCA: Three-year starter and captain the past two years for her Wildcat team which made the DII state tournament last month. Also played volleyball. Weighted GPA of 4.21, was homecoming queen, FCA member, senior president and student ambassador for the school. Plans to attend Tennessee.

Courtney Searcy, Antioch:
Four-year player for the Bears, all-region and all-city as a senior. Had a 3.3 GPA, ACT of 23, student council officer, senior class historian, FCA member. Plans to attend Lipscomb, where she hopes to possibly walk on in basketball.


Dezmond Johnson, Overton: Three-year basketball starter, captain, all-district and all-region tournament his junior and senior seasons, scored 1,000 points for Bobcats. Also had a 3.40 GPA, was honor student. Named Mr. Johnny Overton by senior class. Has signed full scholarship at Duke to play football.

Matt Zelenik, CPA: Gave the school a second finalist besides Mitchell. Three-year starter, captain his senior year, also played football. Had GPA of 3.40, national honor society, ACT of 28, member of FCA, theatre and homecoming committees. Will attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas.