Top Honors: Whitley, Wilson are The Republic Male and Female Athletes of the Year

Columbus North tennis player Kathryn Wilson is the 2024 The Republic Female Athlete of the Year. She is pictured Wednesday in the studio at The Republic.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

During their time at Columbus North High School, Aidan Whitley and Kathryn Wilson played their sports at the highest level.

Whitley was an All-State and All-Central (US) Region player in soccer after leading the Bull Dogs to a second consecutive final four appearance. Wilson was a two-time state singles champion in tennis.

For their accomplishments, Whitley and Wilson are The Republic Male and Female Athletes of the Year. The award is open to Bartholomew County graduating seniors.

Columbus North soccer player Aidan Whitley is The Republic Male Athlete of the Year. He is pictured Oct. 24, 2023, at the BCSC Soccer Complex in Columbus, Ind. He was unable to appear with his award this week, but will do so at a later date.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Whitley was a second-team All-State selection as a junior, when he helped lead North to a state runner-up finish in Class 3A.

“I’d like to say we had success, but in my eyes and my teammates’ eyes, we wanted to win state,” Whitley said. “Looking back at it, it was fantastic that we turned the team around. I’m very proud. I think we were very successful, but we wanted more.”

Whitley helped turn around a program that had success in the early 2010s under coach Andy Glover, but then had its only two losing seasons in program history when he stepped away for two years. Glover returned Whitley’s freshman year, and returned the program to previous levels.

“Coach Glover coached North for many years and was successful,” Whitley said. “Then, my goal coming in as a freshman, I knew we needed to get this team back to where it was. My goal was not only to be successful for myself, but to make sure the kids coming in after me had a good culture and had success.”

Wilson, meanwhile, became the Bull Dogs’ second state singles champion and first since 2008 when she went 30-0 won the title as a junior. Then, she went 28-1 and defended her crown this spring.

“I think there was (pressure), but I also knew what I could accomplish, and I think I handled all that pressure pretty well,” Wilson said. “I think that’s something that I worked really hard for, and that not very many people get to accomplish. I’m just thankful that I was able to do that and that I had a support system to help me along the way.”

Both Whitley and Wilson were successful in other sports during their time at North. Wilson played basketball her first three years and was the Bull Dogs’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder as a junior before giving up that sport.

“I definitely missed playing basketball, but I knew that if I wanted to be where I am today, I knew that it was time to give it up,” Wilson said. “I don’t know how much longer my body would have been able to continue playing two sports, especially at the level I play tennis. So I knew it was time.”

Whitley played volleyball in the spring all four years. Boys volleyball has not been an IHSAA-sanctioned sport, but has been an Emerging Sport the past two years and will be a fully-sanctioned varsity sport next year.

“My freshman year, after high school season for soccer ended, we had a handful of practices in the winter, and one of the kids on my soccer team, Colvin Iorio, played volleyball and was trying to recruit kids,” Whitley said. “So me and Nathan Imlay and Colvin’s brother, we went to the open gyms, and I had a lot of fun, even though I was horrible my freshman year. Kurt Nusterer, Luke Enneking, Colvin, they were just fun to be around.”

Along with continuing to play club soccer, Whitley played club volleyball for The Academy one year and for HAVOC last year.

“It was more something I could lean back on because soccer has been super competitive, but as we went on and I realized we could be competitive, I was almost in my soccer mindset for volleyball,” Whitley said.

Whitley will continue his soccer career at DePauw. He plans to major in finance and leaves for practice on Aug. 14.

“I’m definitely excited,” Whitley said. “I don’t know if ready is the right term because you are never completely ready, but I am very excited. We recruited a big class with a lot of talent, so nothing is guaranteed. But I’m going to go in there and work my hardest and try to get some minutes my freshman year.”

Wilson is headed to Purdue and has been practicing with her future teammates the past two weeks. The Boilermakers have five freshmen and a transfer coming in and only lost two players, so competition will be tough for a spot in the lineup.

“I want to play singles up there my freshman year, so I’m just going to try really hard, but not think too much,” Wilson said. “I’ve already been up there for about two weeks, and I’ve met a lot of the girls. They’re all super nice, and we have good chemistry, so I think that will definitely help us once the season starts.”

Wilson, whose sister Ashlie will be a junior on the Purdue team, plans to major in supply chain operations management.

“I’m excited for school to start,” Kathryn Wilson said. “Right now, I’m just up there playing tennis and not having to do school, so that’s nice. But I’m excited for all the other students to get on campus and for it to actually feel like a college town.”

The Republic Athletes of the Year (open to Bartholomew County seniors):

Male

2016: Rhett Myers, Columbus East

2017: Mitchell Burton, Columbus North

2018: Brigham Kleinhenz, Columbus North

2019: Trenton Kelley, Columbus North

2020: Eric Stiles, Columbus East

2021: Blake Huffman, Columbus North

2022: Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff and Tucker Smith, Columbus North

2023: Cooper Horn, Columbus North

2024: Aidan Whitley, Columbus North

Female

2016: Katrina May, Columbus North

2017: Cortney VanLiew, Columbus East

2018: Adi Minor, Columbus East

2019: Megna Chari, Columbus East

2020: Olivia Morlok, Columbus North

2021: Mackenzie Barnett, Columbus North

2022: Emily Moore, Columbus North

2023: Maddi Rutan, Columbus North

2024: Kathryn Wilson, Columbus North