Dover native Brengle honored as state’s Athlete of the Year

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Dover native Madison Brengle, whose year was highlighted by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and a career-high No. 35 ranking in the world, is the first tennis player to win the award in the DSBA’s 67-year history. (Submitted photo)

NEW CASTLE — The idea was pretty simple, really.

But, for some reason, it really resonated with Madison Brengle.

A friend told the Dover tennis player, before an opening Grand Slam match, everybody is uptight.

“Everybody that you’re going to play is incredibly nervous,” the friend told Brengle. “Shs said it’s not a matter of playing the best tennis you’ve ever played. It’s a battle of getting to ‘normal’ first. Whoever can get themselves down and relaxed and normal first is going to win.”

That mantra, along with the maturation of her game, helped the 25-year-old go from a veteran player who had never won a Grand Slam match to one that’s won eight just since the end of the 2014 season.

On Monday, that breakout season earned Brengle the John J. Brady Award as the Delaware Sportswriters & Broadcasters Association state athlete of the year for 2015.

Brengle, whose year was highlighted by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and a career-high No. 35 ranking in the world, is the first tennis player to win the award in the DSBA’s 67-year history.

It was a good year for downstaters overall as Cape Henlopen High’s Kate Austin was named the state’s Coach of the Year, the Smyrna football squad was named the Team of the Year and Cape football player/wrestler Julian Medina won the Buddy Hurlock Unsung Hero Award.

Brengle couldn’t be at Monday’s DSBA awards banquet. The 10th-year pro was halfway around the world winning a first-round match at the WTA’s Dubai Duty Free Championships.

But Brengle’s mother, Gabby, said Madison was thrilled to find out she won the award.

“She was really happy — what an honor,” said Gabby. “It was a long process but a fun one. Every step has been interesting along the way.

“I’m proud of her any time. Just to go out there all by herself like that — especially with those big crowds. Oh my gosh, I could never do that. It’s kind of amazing she can do it.”

Another big moment for Brengle last year came when she knocked off fourth-ranked Petra Kvitova in April in Stuttgart, Germany. The key to her season was Brengle being ranked in the top 100 in the world going into the year.

That ranking earned her automatic spots in Grand Slam events as well as some other tourneys she hadn’t played in before.

“It felt a little bit different,” said Brengle. “I’ve been on tour a long time. People know who you are. But it was a new experience for me getting to some of these events.

“If you’re in that range between like 100 to 200, you’re not sure where you’re going because you don’t know what you’re getting in. … It’s so much more straightforward. That took a lot of the stress out of it for me.”

Smyrna High’s football team also had a breakout season in 2015.

After going only 2-8 two seasons ago, the Eagles won their first football state championship with a 32-26 win over Salesianum in the Division I state finals. Smyrna finished 12-1 and impressed a lot of people with their high-scoring, fast-paced style.

What coach Mike Judy liked about the DSBA award was that it encompassed everyone in the program.

“This is an ‘us’ thing,” said the Dover High and Wesley College grad. “This is 14 dedicated coaches, this is a program of 80 to 90 kids who dedicate themselves every day and guys whose names went unseen throughout the year who had a huge part of this. That’s a school, trophy-case trophy.”

Cape’s Austin won the Tubby Raymond Award for coaching after leading the Vikings to their fifth straight state title. Formerly Kate Windett, the Caesar Rodney High grad owns a record 77-1-1 with the four crowns in her four seasons as head coach.

“I really have to dedicate this award to the team that I’ve had the past four years and the players that I’ve worked with,” said Austin. “I would not be standing here if it weren’t for the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of girls I’ve coached during that time.”

Cape Henlopen’s Medina was able to succeed on the football field and wrestling mat despite being diagnosed with autism as a youngster.

Vikings’ coach Bill Collick said Medina didn’t even speak when he was around six years old.

“I think his mother was very concerned at one point whether he would fit it in,” said Collick. “(But) our kids loved him. He’s one of the guys, he really is. It’s special to see his growth.”

Notes

There were two winners of the Herm Reitzes Award for service — Bob King and Howard Laws. Both men have been involved with youth running programs in New Castle County. … The athlete of the year award has now gone to athletes in 16 different sports. … In 1991, former Ursuline basketball player Van Whiting was the first female winner of the John J. Brady Award. Since then, the award has gone to a female athlete 12 times, including eight times since 2007.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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