Alabama All-Star Sports Week will return to the Capital City after a year off for COVID-19, but the 2021 version has some people shaking their heads.
Thirteen all-star teams will invade Montgomery the week of July 19-22 for the annual event, but only two -- boys’ and girls’ golf -- will spend the night. The remainder of the all-star teams will arrive the day of the event and leave as soon as it concludes, a move that has several area coaches wondering about the sincerity of promoters who spend little time in setting up and promoting the event.
And the venues have changed in some circumstances as well, with Alabama State University following up on its withdrawal from the basketball regionals this past winter by pulling out as the host site for the boys’ and girls’ basketball all-star games as well.
Auburn University Montgomery, which has served as the host site for the boys’ and girls’ cross country sites since that sports’ inclusion in 2017, will no longer serve as the host site for that event, either.
All-Star Sports Week gets under way on Sunday, July 18, as all-star golf teams check into a hotel and practice for the event an hour later at 3 p.m. After a dinner, the all-star teams will return to their respective hotels and will tee off the following morning at Arrowhead Country Club at 10 a.m.
The golf all-star event was added in 2019 and was played at Montgomery Country Club, but moved to Arrowhead this year. The South girls’ golf team includes 10 golfers but none from this area. (Dadeville’s Lily Johnston is the closest). The South boys’ team includes Alabama Christian Academy’s Andrew Whang among its 12 participants.
The only other all-star event on Monday, July 19, is the baseball game, which has been played at Riverwalk Stadium since the event’s return to the Capital City in 2011. Baseball players will check in at the stadium at 9 a.m. the day of the game, go through a morning combine and an afternoon practice before the first pitch of the all-star game at 4 p.m. St. James coach Keith Lucky (North) and retired Trinity coach Ken Whittle (South) will continue to serve as administrative coaches, although their duties will be reduced as the all-star players will only be in the city for nine hours.
Among the South all-stars are pitchers Ben Easterling of Trinity and Isaac Warrick of Alabama Christian Academy, along with Wetumpka pitcher Kyle Morrison and Prattville catcher Slade Wood.
Tennis, which was added to the all-star event along with golf in 2019, will be moving from Montgomery Country Club to Lagoon Park Tennis Complex. The tennis all-star event kicks off the schedule for Tuesday, July 20 as the players check in at 10 a.m., practice 30 minutes later and hold the all-star event at 5 p.m.
Montgomery Academy coach David Bethea and retired Trinity coach Elisa Bowden will serve as the administrative coaches for the event.
Making the girls’ all-star squad is Pike Road’s Sydney Cohen and Prattville Christian Academy’s Caroline Schumpert, while the South boys’ team includes the Montgomery Academy duo of Gaines Freeman and Guy Hughes, along with Pike Road’s Rowland Cobb.
The other Tuesday all-star events, the boys’ and girls’ basketball games, will be moving from Dunn-Oliver Acadome to the Multiplex this year. The girls arrive on Tuesday and go through a 10 a.m. practice, with the North practicing at Park Crossing and the South at Montgomery Academy. The boys’ practice will be at 11 a.m. at the same sites. The girls’ all-star game will be at 5 p.m., with the boys’ game following at approximately 7 p.m.
The girls’ roster includes Montgomery Academy’s Chloe Johnson, Prattville Christian’s Ella Jane Connell and Alexis Andrews of Park Crossing. The boys’ roster includes Catholic guard Matthew Reardon and Autaugaville forward Makenzie Bristow-Matthews.
Former Pike Road coach Robb McGaughey will be the administrative coach for both South squads.
Wednesday, July 21, will be the busiest day for all-star events as softball, boys’ and girls’ soccer and boys’ and girls’ cross country events will be held.
The softball players arrive on Wednesday morning and go through a practice at 10:30 a.m. before playing a doubleheader at Lagoon Park Softball Complex at 4 and 6 p.m. The South all-star squad includes a trio of area pitchers, including Aubrey Allen from Elmore County High, Chloe Baynes of Tallassee High and Caitlin Russell from LAMP as well as Tallassee shortstop Alivia Haynes. Prattville High softball coach Brian Pittman will help coach the South squad.
The girls’ and boys’ soccer games have been played at Emory Folmar Soccer Complex since returning to Montgomery in 2011, but this year marks the first time the teams arrive at 9 a.m., practice an hour later and play games at 5 and 7 p.m.
A record-number six girls made the South all-star squad, including Haley Brightwell of St. James, Kate Green of Prattville, Virginia Meacham of Montgomery Academy, Tori Meldrum of Pike Road and Mary Alice Sasser and Katherine Warren of Trinity. Ken Wright will serve as the administrative coach.
Making the boys’ squad were Will Beringer and Alex Kohn of Montgomery Academy, Josh Hixon of Trinity and Samuel Rogers of Catholic. MA coach Gabi DeQueiroz will serve as one of the South coaches for the game.
The girls’ and boys’ cross country all-star race will be held on Wednesday as well. The sport was added to all-star week in 2017 and was run on Wednesday morning on the AUM cross-country course. This year, it will change both time and location as it moves to Gateway Park, with the girls starting at 5:30 p.m. and the boys starting at 6 p.m.
The South girls squad includes Holtville’s Bella Rhodes and Catholic coach Hollis Johnson. Trinity coach Jeff McIntyre will serve as the administrative coach.
Trinity’s Katherine Warren was initially chosen to the team, but had been named to the girls’ soccer team as well. Her spot on the 10-person cross country roster was taken by Katherine Rush of St. Paul’s Episcopal.
Making the South all-star team for the boys’ cross country event were Tallassee’s Woodrow Dean and Wetumpka’s Cameron Mann.
The final all-star event is the volleyball game, set for Thursday at the Multiplex. The event had been played at Montgomery Academy in the early years of sports week and was at Faulkner when it returned in 2011 before settling in the last few years at AUM. This will mark the second time at the Multiplex after moving there in 2019.
The all-stars will check in to the Multiplex on Thursday, July 22, at 9 a.m. and go through a practice 90 minutes later in preparation for the 4 p.m. game. LAMP’s Grace Hoffman is the lone area participant. The South team is coached by Elmore County’s Kim Moncrief, while Carver’s Virginia Franklin will return as the administrative coach.
The biggest fan attraction of All-Star Sports Week, the annual North-South football game, left Montgomery last fall when the game was moved from July to December. It is now annually played in Mobile.
Alabama All-Star Sports Week was initiated in 1997 as a way to revive the tradition of the annual football and boys’ basketball all-star games while expanding the event to include girls and other sports. The event included baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, football and volleyball, adding boys’ and girls’ soccer in 1998, boys’ and girls’ cross country in 2017 and tennis and golf in 2019.
The event was held in Montgomery at Paterson Field (baseball), Lagoon Park (softball), AUM (boys’ and girls’ basketball) and Cramton Bowl (football) initially, adding Emory Folmar Soccer Complex when soccer was added. It moved to Huntsville in 2005 as downtown renovation eliminated the Montgomery Civic Center -- site of the annual all-star coaching convention -- and returned in 2011 to hold the first sporting event in the newly renovated Cramton Bowl.