PRINCETON -- When it comes to naming an athlete of the year, the choice is usually an arduous one to make.

Very rarely is there a slam-dunk choice.

But such was the case this past year.

Princeton Community High School's Zach Dove stood head and shoulders above the field as the Tigers standout on the gridiron, hardwood and track made him the clear-cut favorite in being named the 2018-19 Daily Clarion Male Athlete of the Year.

"This is just an honor," Dove said. "There was a lot of great athletes this year so this is just an amazing feeling and something I was not really thinking about."

Dove finished his high school career with a bang.

The University of Evansville-bound track and field athlete picked up all-conference honors in football, basketball and also track.

And just for good measure, in his last prep athletic event, Dove worked his way onto the podium at the track and field state finals with a third-place finish in the discus.

"That was the goal since freshman year," Dove said of his all-state finish on the track. "Coach Niederhaus told me after freshman year that by my senior year I would be on the podium. I believed him and made sure to put in the extra work in the weight room and in practices. I never would have thought I would have finished third, but my goal was top five."

It was a record-setting season for Dove in his throwing events.

Already having the school record in the discus, Dove rebroke his own record several times on his way to a PR of 170 feet, 2 inches in his final throw at the state meet.

He would go on to beat his PR by nine feet in an all-star meet a week later.

Dove also broke the school standard in the shot put with a best heave of 55-10. He qualified for the state finals in the event -- for the second straight year -- but failed to qualify for the finals.

"I had goals coming into my senior year to get the record in both events, I was able to accomplish that and it ended up being a very special year," he said.

Dove started his senior season as a two-way starter on the Tigers football team. It was the first time in his career he was a starter on both sides of the ball.

The starting defensive tackle and fullback/tight end also achieved a career-long goal in his final season on the gridiron.

"I always wanted to earn all-conference in football," Dove stated. "So finally being able to accomplish that my senior year was a great feeling. I finished a couple votes short my junior year but I worked hard to make it happen my senior year."

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On the offensive side of the ball, Dove caught 15 passes for 184 yards with one touchdown.

Defensively, he finished with 49 total tackles, including tying for the team lead with seven quarterback sacks and second on the team with nine tackles for a loss.

"I really liked playing defense because I got to hit people," Dove said with a chuckle. "But really just being out there with your brothers the whole time was awesome.

"I will never forget making those memories and forming bonds with my teammates which cannot be broken."

But his true love came on the basketball court.

The Tigers starting forward averaged 15.0 points per game and pulled down 7.4 rebounds per contest as he started all 27 games.

"I love basketball the most," he stated. "Our senior group have been playing together for a really long time and we all became like a family."

On Jan. 8, Dove eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau for his career in part of a 21-point performance.

"That was another goal I had coming into the season and it was a relief to get there," he said of the milestone. "I just wanted to hurry up and get there so I could focus on the rest of the season and winning a sectional."

A couple months later, Dove was able to celebrate with his teammates and coach Ryan Haywood as the Tigers captured their first sectional title in 10 years.

"We went 2-21 my freshman year and that was really tough," Dove recalled. "But coach Haywood told us that he believed in all of us and it was awesome to be able to prove him right with a sectional championship and making it to the regional final as a senior."

Dove mentioned being an all-conference selection and winning a sectional title on the hardwood was enjoyable, but winning it for the coach who believed in them since day one made it even more special.

"He always had confidence in us and was always pushing us to keep our spirits alive to be good one day," Dove said of Haywood. "We were a close group and coach always told us he considered us as sons, so winning the sectional was really special."

He finished his career with 1,222 points and in a three-way tie for fifth all-time with Travis Trice and fellow senior Stephan Wilkerson.

"That was just crazy," Dove said of finishing with the exact same number of career points as his teammate. "Stephan and I have played together since the third or fourth grade so that was kind of awesome too."

Although basketball was his favorite sport, he will continue his academic and athletic career on the track at the University of Evansville.

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