East Surry High School senior Blake Marion received the Wilburn Clary Medal scholarship during the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s annual meeting on Thursday at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
Marion, who shared the annual honor with West Forsyth senior Ashley Smith, received a one-time $2,000 scholarship and a commemorative plaque. Marion and Smith were chosen from a highly competitive field of applicants. The awards were announced by the athletic association on April 15.
The Clary Medal is made possible by the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation and annually recognizes an outstanding male and female varsity student athlete participating in varsity competition in at least two NCHSAA-sanctioned teams. The award is based on the individual’s excellence in athletic participation, extra-curricular activities and community service. Each recipient of this medal exhibits a desire to excel in all areas of life – athletics, education, sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, honesty and integrity.
Marion participated in football and baseball during his time at East Surry. He closed his career at the school in football as the school’s all-time leading wide receiver in receptions and touchdowns. During his senior season, he was named the All-Northwest Conference Specialist of the Year and was the Cardinals’ Most Valuable Player. East Surry went on to a record-setting 13-1 season and won the conference title outright.
Marion signed with Wingate University to play football on Feb. 3. After completing college, he hopes to return to his home of Pilot Mountain as a nurse in a critical care unit, a desire that stems from two friends’ involvement in an accident that placed him in the waiting rooms and halls of Wake Forest University Medical Center.
“I witnessed a variety of emotions from sadness to joy,” he said. “The staff at Wake Forest impressed me with not only their knowledge, but also their sincere compassion for others. I decided that I wanted to be apart of this power atmosphere which could change people’s lives on a daily basis.”
One of Marion’s football coaches, Steven Whitt, described Blake’s positive attitude as the thing that sets him apart. “His integrity and desire to do things the right way is second to none.” Whitt continued saying, “Blake realizes there are no short cuts in life or athletics and this was evident by his work ethic and time he spent perfecting his craft as an athlete and student.”
During the 2015 season, he caught 62 passes for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns, while collecting 70 tackles and six interceptions as a linebacker. He was named all-conference both as a wide receiver and as a linebacker.
Marion carries a weighted GPA well over 4.0 and is in the top 25 of his graduating class heading into the final semester of his high school career. He was also awarded one of Wingate University’s Trustee Scholarships.
Smith participated in swimming and cross country for all four of her years at West Forsyth. As a senior, she led the cross country squad as team captain, making All-Conference, qualifying for the 4A State meet. She was named NCHSAA 4A All-Region as well as to the Footlocker All South Team. In swimming, she qualified for the NCHSAA 4A Swim Championships. She will hold a total of 16 varsity letters by graduation, and is in the top 10 of her class.
Wilburn Clary’s athletic career involved coaching, officiating and administration. He coached several sports at the Methodist Children’s Home for almost 30 years, was an outstanding official on the high school and collegiate level, and served as the executive secretary of the Western North Carolina High School Activities Association from 1949-1977 until it merged with the NCHSAA. Mr. Clary was the first collegiate football official to be inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.