By Mike London
LANDIS — South Rowan rising senior Mackenzie Chabala has built a reputation as an athlete who leaves it all on the floor, but she’s never ignored an opponent whom she bowled over.
“Mackenzie goes really hard, but she’s always going to be the first one to pick up an opponent who’s gotten knocked down,” said Alex Allen, who coaches Chabala in basketball and soccer. “She’s someone who is always picking people up — and I mean that figuratively and literally.”
Chabala combines being the ultimate competitor with offering the utmost respect to opponent, refs, teammates and coaches.
That’s what the J.T. Bost Sportsmanship Award is all about. Chabala is a solid three-sport athlete, but the Bost Award transcends points per game. It’s about intangible things such as character and attitude and being team-first.
Chabala is the third annual female honoree for an award that is given in honor of Bost, a well-respected official, referee and umpire in a multitude of sports who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2018. The award is sponsored by West Cabarrus High teacher Andrew Poston, who was an umpiring colleague of Bost’s. The first two winners were Carson’s Taylor Conrad and West Rowan’s KK Dowling. They were graduating seniors, so Chabala is the youngest to win the award as well as the first Raider.
“You think about Mackenzie and you think about adjectives like coachable and hard-working,” South AD Angie Chrismon said. She’s a motivator, a leader. Very tough girl, but always respectful.”
She’s the fourth of a cluster of four sisters who have played sports for South. The others were Caitlin (Class of 2016), Abigail (2019) and Paige (2021).
“I always felt it was a big benefit for me to be the youngest,” Mackenzie said. “I always had older sisters who I could go to the YMCA to play with. Sisters who were good athletes gave me a reason to push myself harder.”
Chabala’s school year starts with cross country. She’s not great at it, just pretty good, but it keeps her in shape for basketball, her main sport, as well as for soccer. She was a necessary element for South’s cross country team. She was normally the fifth runner for the Raiders, and five score.
She wasn’t going to be able to run near the front of the pack with teammate Bethany Rymer, but her contributions went well beyond her modest times.
“Mackenzie led our pre-game chants and she was a great prayer warrior who cared about teammates and their families,” South cross country coach Rebekah Julian said. “Her impact on our team was greater than she knows. The upperclassmen can make such a difference in the lives of the young runners who look up to them, and she was always a positive.”
Chabala headed to the basketball gym after cross country season. She’s maybe 5-foot-8, but she had to play inside for the Raiders, who went 10-14.
She averaged nearly a double-double — 10.7 points and 9.4 rebounds. Shem added 2.4 steals per game.
“I’ve seen her struggle and I’ve seen her succeed and I’ve watched her support her teammates whether she’s playing or injured,” Allen said. “The great thing about Mackenzie is that regardless of how well she’s doing on a given night or what the scoreboard says, her attitude is always the same. She’s always working as hard as she can, always pushing her teammates.”
Besides leading the Raiders in rebounds, Chabala led in taking charges. She took 21 as a junior, boosting her career total to 38. She keeps track. It’s a stat she’s proud of.
“I know it sounds funny, but one of my favorite things is being flattened,” Chabala said. “When you take a charge, it lifts up your team. It changes momentum. It can be worth more than scoring.”
She credits coaches Allen and Sarrah Holman with the work they’ve done with her.
Chabala should score more as a senior. She’ll be South’s No. 1 option.
She hopes to continue to compete at the college level. She plays in a small forward role on her travel team, working on her perimeter skills.
“I do a lot of drills and extra work beyond the AAU games,” Chabala said. “I want to get better and I’m willing to put in the effort.”
Chabala’s final basketball game as a junior was quite an outing. She totaled 24 points and eight rebounds in South’s playoff loss at North Buncombe.
A week after that setback, South soccer was on the field.
Chabala got off to a nice start and scored three goals early in the season, but then she went down with a knee injury.
“The fourth or fifth match, I sprained the MCL in my right knee,” Chabala said. “I still did what I could. I went to every game and every practice and tried to help my teammates.”
She was concerned that the knee would wreck that all-important AAU basketball season between her junior and senior years, but she made a quick recovery and has been able to compete. She pronounced herself good as new after about six weeks of rehab.
She’s staying busy this summer, taking Rowan-Cabarrus Community College classes, volunteering with her church and serving as a lifeguard at Landis Pool.
And if a friend or teammate needs help, she’ll be the first one there. That’s who she is. The third J.T. Bost Award couldn’t have found a better home.
“Getting an award for character, I was ecstatic when I heard about it,” Chabala said. “With all the great athletes in this county, it’s an incredible honor.”