On Sunday night, the azcentral.com Sports Awards will honor the best and brightest in the high school community.
The red carpet will be rolled out at ASU Gammage. The athletes will wear their Sunday best. It’s a night to celebrate, a night to recognize and a night to remember. And what memories this high school sports season has provided.
A Phoenix Desert Vista girls cross country team that may have been the best team in state history. A Phoenix Shadow Mountain boys basketball team that went undefeated on its way to a state championship. A Tempe High football player named My-King Johnson who took the courageous step of telling the world he is gay and thus, when he becomes an Arizona Wildcat this fall, will become the first active openly gay scholarship player in major-college football history.
How about the state championship won by the Gilbert boys soccer team? Last year, Gilbert gave up two goals in the final nine minutes of the state title game to lose to Chandler Hamilton. This year, one goal scored by Danny Baca with just over six minutes left, was enough. Devastation became celebration.
The Chandler High football team was hammered by Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 52-7, in the first month of the season. Ten weeks later, the Wolves were state champions. The Valley Sanders girls basketball team won its second straight state title, led by do-everything sophomore point guard Valiyah Yazzie.
Who can forget, too, that moment after the 6A state championship boys basketball game, when Tempe Corona del Sol coach Neil MacDonald put his arm around the neck of Basha big man Gabe McGlothan and told McGlothan how much he admired him. What was it MacDonald said? Oh yeah: “You’re the kind of player coaches love to coach.”
Great individual performances? So many to choose from. All Rio Rico’s Allie Schadler did was win her fourth state cross country title while breaking the course record by two seconds. Scottsdale Chaparral’s Taylor Ruck led the school’s girls swim team to a state championship, and Chaparral set three relay records in the process. We could go on and on but we’d leave somebody out and that would be a shame.
Some of the best stories were not about who won or lost. Mesa Mountain View naming its football field after legendary coach Jesse Parker. Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor golfer Amy Bockerstette, who has Down Syndrome, earning a spot in the state tournament and being invited to play in the 2017 LPGA Bank of Hope Founders Cup Pro-Am as part of the tournament’s partnership with Special Olympics Arizona.
Comebacks? How about Scottsdale Saguaro’s Jamie Baker, swimming this season after spending the last few years battling stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
All that’s left to do is to say congratulations. To the champions. To those who competed but fell short. To the coaches and athletes, parents and fans. Your participation and passion for high school sports is both remarkable and appreciated.
Tickets are still available at sportsawards.azcentral.com. And just before the show begins on Sunday, be sure to follow us on social media to learn the identities of our male and female Athlete of the Year finalists. Then come back to azcentral.com as we announce all of the winners.
So thank you. You made this season, like all high school seasons, special.