Meet Our 2019 SportsKid of the Year Finalists

Counterclockwise from top right: Ben Van Hook; Winslow Townson; Fred Vuich; Daymon Gardner; Kevin D. Liles

Since 2007, SI Kids has selected an annual SportsKid of the Year. As individual performers and teammates, these five phenomenal finalists stood out for their athletic excellence—and their determination to achieve more. Check back the week before Thanksgiving to to find out who will be the 2019 SportsKid of the Year!

Bo Bassett
Wrestling
Forest Hills, Pennsylvania

Fred Vuich

Bo wasn’t even one week old when he began sporting wrestling gear, a onesie emblazoned with the name of his future club, Young Guns. He was a water boy for his dad, the wrestling coach at a nearby high school, then took up the sport at seven. He idolized older Young Guns athletes such as Spencer Lee, currently a junior at Iowa and a two-time NCAA titlist.

Now 13-year-old Bo is a three-time champion at USA Wrestling Nationals (2019 14-U 83-pound freestyle and Greco-Roman, and ’18 novice 74-pound freestyle). For the last four years, he’s swept titles in his division in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman in the most competitive wrestling state in the country. He learned so much from Lee and others and takes every opportunity to set a similar example. “They’d always be really nice and positive,” says Bo, who’s sometimes asked for autographs. “I want to have that same effect on the kids who are little now.”

Jody Strittmatter, the co-owner of Young Guns, says Bo’s consistency makes him stand out. “Wrestling is his passion,” says Strittmatter. “He just completely committed at a young age.” 

Olivia Hammac
Auto Racing
Cape Canaveral, Florida

Ben Van Hook

There’s something about driving a go-kart 60 miles per hour down a road course that just makes 12-year-old Olivia happy. “It’s really fun because you get to be free,” she says. At 10, while driving with the Sports Car Club of America, she earned the Hawaii SCCA Most Improved Driver award. Her dad, Bill, is her mechanic, and since moving to Florida, she has continued to get better. In September, Olivia became the first female driver to win a Formula Junior Kart national championship at SCCA Solo Autocross Nationals. She won the B division, for eight- to 12-year-olds, one year after coming in second.

In solo autocross, drivers maneuver around cones and race against the clock. Olivia has also begun wheel-to-wheel racing (against other drivers) and has competed in BMX, rifle, karate, and archery. “In solo, the best drivers are going through the corners with the car sliding a little bit,” says Terry Tabor, the SCCA solo chairman for Central Florida. “Most of the other kids, they get uncomfortable. . . . She is fearless.”

Aiden Opore
Track & Field
Suwanee, Georgia

Kevin D. Liles

When Aiden broke the national eight-and-under 200-meter record at the 2018 USATF National Junior Olympics, his coach at the Jackrabbit Track Club, Andre Al-Ghani, saw the race unfold from the stands across the field. “Aiden was happy and excited, but he’s not one who jumps up and down,” says Al-Ghani. “He doesn’t pump his chest out; he’s a very humble kid. I know he’s saying to himself, Job well done; I still want more.”

And Aiden did do more at the 2019 AAU Junior Olympics, winning the nine-year-old 200 meters and the long jump and taking second in the 100. (He had won the 100 at the USATF meet in ’18.) His goal is to make the Olympics and break Usain Bolt’s record in the 200, and to “become the fastest running back in the world.” This fall, he scored 12 touchdowns in eight games for the Peachtree Ridge 9-U Lions. His main focus before track season begins, though, is improving his speed out of the blocks, which he practices in a hallway at home. Says Al-Ghani, who thinks Aiden could also excel in the 400, “He’s one of the special ones.”

Reece Roussel
Baseball
Destrehan, Louisiana

Daymon Gardner

Before his fourth trip to the plate against Hawaii in the Little League World Series U.S. championship game—and fourth attempt at breaking the tournament record for hits—Eastbank’s Reece spoke to assistant coach Kevin Johnson. “I normally tell the kids to focus, one-pitch-at-a-time type of thing,” says Johnson. “I don’t have to have that conversation with Reece. I was just keeping him loose. I didn’t bring up the record. He knew it was there.”

Reece drove the ball to center for a two-run single, the record-setting 15th hit of the tournament. “Inside, I was going crazy. It created a bond between everyone on the team, and I couldn’t have beaten the record without the rest of my team,” says Reece, now 13, who also plays football, basketball, and swims the butterfly and freestyle. (He won the 50-meter free for St. Charles Borromeo at the 2019 Catholic Schools Metro League Championships.)

Eastbank, the team representing the Southwest, beat Hawaii 9–5 and defeated Curaçao the next day to win the LLWS. Says Reece, who finished with 17 hits, “Once we got that last out, I mean, shoot. It was the best feeling ever.”

Ally Sentnor
Soccer
Hanson, Massachusetts

Jeffery A. Salter

Young Ally was so dominant in soccer that her father, Rich, who was also her coach, told his right-footed daughter that she could no longer play with her dominant foot. “She would go out in the yard and shoot for hours with her left foot until it became as good as her right foot,” recalls Rich. “That’s her in a nutshell.”  

For the last decade, she has continued to practice—and to improve. As an eighth-grader, she helped Thayer Academy’s varsity to its first New England Preparatory School Conference Class B championship. Now a 15-year-old sophomore, she has scored 16 goals in 21 international appearances with the U.S. national team program—including two with the U-18 team this past February. She has committed to play for North Carolina in the fall of 2022.

Ally, who is 5' 3", embraces the challenges that come with playing against bigger and older athletes. “She’s come up against some 5' 11", 6-foot center backs, and she’s been undaunted in taking them on,” says Tracey Kevins, the coach of the U-17 national team.

Adds Liz Lima, the owner and director of Ally’s club, South Shore Select, “She can execute technically and at a speed that I’ve never seen anyone else do.”

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