Eight of Savannah’s top high school athletes will be honored at annual hall of fame event

By By Nathan Dominitz For Prep Sports Report | April 19, 2024

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The Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame each year immortalizes a new class of the city’s most accomplished athletes, coaches and other contributors.

The current generation of high school athletes also are honored in four boys and girls varsity sports.

This year’s honorees, announced this week for the May 6 ceremony at 6 p.m. at the Alee Shrine Temple, include a trio from Calvary Day: Will Hampton (baseball), Jake Merklinger (football) and Abby Walsh (girls soccer).

Also selected are Savannah Country Day’s Stella Oelschig (girls basketball) and Wesley Hooker (boys soccer), Benedictine’s Caleb Jones (boys basketball), Savannah Arts Academy’s Finn Higginbotham (volleyball) and Savannah Christian’s Payton Livingston (softball).

Another Benedictine standout, quarterback Luke Kromenhoek, won the Lawton M. Calhoun Award as the outstanding athlete from Chatham County. An early enrollee at Florida State University this semester, Kromenhoek (6-foot-4, 184 pounds) led the Cadets to the GHSA Class 4A semifinals after helping BC win state titles in 2021 and 2022.

The senior completed 168 of 267 passes (62.9 percent) for 2,578 yards, 184.1 yards per game, 24 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 108 times for 558 yards and seven TDs in 14 games.

Another special honor, the M.A. Spellman Award, is presented to individuals or organizations that have made an important impact through sports in an unconventional but undeniable manner. This year’s winner is the Forest City Gun Club Juniors Team, a national power based in Savannah.

Hampton, a senior, has put up stellar numbers for the Cavaliers baseball squad. Through 22 games, he was hitting .463 with 19 RBIs, two home runs, seven doubles, 18 walks, five hit-by-pitches, a .587 on-base percentage and a .685 slugging percentage. As a pitcher, he sported a 0.91 ERA after allowing six hits and two walks with 24 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings.


Merklinger, an early enrollee at the University of Tennessee, like Kromenhoek was one of the top QB prospects in the country going into his senior season, and like the Cadet, he didn’t disappoint.

Merklinger (6-3, 190 pounds) was 163 of 226 (72.1 percent) for 3,028 yards, 232.9 yards per game, 38 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 150.2 QB rating in 13 games. He also rushed 67 times for 439 yards and 11 TDs.

A four-year starter, Merklinger was 615 of 895 (68.7 percent) for 9,635 yards, 188.9 yards per game, 113 TDs, 24 picks and a 132.6 QB rating in 51 career games.

Walsh, a junior, led the Cavaliers with 31 goals, 13 assists, 75 points, 2.4 goals per game and 5.8 points per game in 13 regular-season games. The Cavaliers fell to Mary Persons 4-3 in double overtime in the GHSA Class 3A state playoffs on Wednesday.



Oelschig, a senior shooting guard, was the Region 3-3A Co-Player of the Year for the Hornets, who won the region title at 15-1 and went 19-7 overall in advancing to the second round of the GHSA Class 3A state playoffs. She scored more than 1,000 points in her career.


Hooker, a senior forward, helped the Hornets win Region 3-3A at 7-0 and are 14-0-1 overall after shutting out Upson-Lee 5-0 in the first round of the GHSA Class 3A state playoffs on Wednesday.

He came into the season as one of the area’s top players after a junior year when he was the region’s offensive player of the year (15 goals, 18 assists in 14 games) for the region champions.


Jones, a 6-3 junior guard, had one of the best seasons of any boys basketball player in the state. He led the Cadets to the GHSA Class 4A semifinals for the second consecutive year and led the team in scoring average (27.8 points per game), field-goal percentage (59 percent), 3-point percentage (52 percent) and steals (2.0) and also averaged 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 25 games.

He was All-Region 3-4A, all-state and had the highest scoring average across all classifications, according to


Higginbotham, a 6-2 senior middle blocker, led SAA with 429 kills, 4.0 kills per set, a .334 hitting percentage, 52 total blocks, 84 aces, and 278 serve receptions. She also collected 194 digs and 37 assists.

The Panthers won the Area 3-2A title and advanced to the GHSA Class 2A state semifinals for the second straight season. The Area Player of the Year and all-state, she also got to play alongside her sister, Torrin, a 6-1 junior outside hitter. Finn has signed to play at Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego.


Livingston, a junior center fielder, was the Region 3-A Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .443 with a .505 on-base percentage, 43 hits, five doubles, two triples, 22 RBIs and 48 runs scored. She was 28-for-28 on stolen-base attempts and went 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA as a pitcher.

The Raiders went 20-10 overall, 11-0 to win the region.


The Class of 2024 Citation Honorees also come from the high school ranks. This honor is for persons or organizations that have made substantial contributions athletics through coaching, promoting or supporting athletics in the area. 

Savannah Christian’s longtime head volleyball coach, Julie Jones, reached a milestone with 800 career victories this season – her 26th – as the Raiders (32-9-3 overall) won the Area 3-3A crown (7-0) and advanced to the GHSA Class 3A quarterfinals. 

Jones is 801-287 for fifth all-time for wins and third among active coaches, according to the Georgia Volleyball Coaches Association.

Benedictine football coach Danny Britt is also a Citation Honoree, as he has guided the Cadets to four state championships (2014, ’16, ’21, ’22) in 14 years (2011-23) after five years at Calvary Day (2001-05) for a combined 178-51 record, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.

The athletes in the Class of 2024 are Donald Chumley (football), Kris Edge (baseball), Frank Kearse (football) and Jason Shiell (baseball).

Chumley was a standout at Groves High School and the University of Georgia (1981-84), selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1985 NFL Draft and played in the CFL for the Calgary Stampeders. 

He became a highly successful coach, bringing the first GHSA state football championship to Savannah Christian in 2011.

Edge also has SCPS ties, as he starred in baseball there and for UGA (1999-2002).

Kearse, a Savannah High School great, was a standout defensive lineman at Alabama A&M, drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2011 and played for Carolina (2011-12), Dallas (2013) and Washington (2014-15).

Shiell was a star pitcher at Windsor Forest High, drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and played professional baseball for 13 years, including three in the major leagues with San Diego (2002), Boston (2003) and Atlanta (2006).

Tickets for the event are $50 per person. A table of eight also can be purchased for $400. For more information on reservations, email Frank Hardeman at or Earl Etheridge at


Photo Credits:  Prep Sports Report archives and School's social media pages


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