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Posts Tagged ‘Athlete of the Year’

Payton Aparicio, coming to a Hall o’ Fame near you. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Maybe it was fate.

Payton Aparicio springs from a family rich in sports success, from her parents and grandparents to aunts and uncles and cousins galore.

From the Stuurmans trunk in the middle, to the Bepler and Aparicio branches folding around the base, the ol’ family tree is one of the strongest you will find in Coupeville athletics.

But, as talented as her relatives are, I’m going to go out on my own limb here and say Payton is the best the family has produced.

A soaring star in both volleyball and tennis, who could have been a basketball sensation as well if she hadn’t given up the sport after middle school, Ms. Aparicio is an extremely easy pick for induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

So, where that’s where we’re placing her today, as we swing open the doors and welcome her into our lil’ digital institution.

After this, you’ll find her at the top of the blog under the Legends tab, sharing space with dad Mitch.

Payton was somewhat deceptive as an athlete.

I know she worked hard, in practices and games, but she has a rare quality of making every action look effortless.

She was the very definition of smooth, regardless of the sport, almost catching you by surprise when you realized how much of an impact she was having.

And that impact was major.

When Aparicio was named Coupeville High School’s Female Athlete of the Year shortly before graduation last spring, it was a lifetime achievement prize in many ways.

Her senior athletic year had been beyond-solid, but when coaches voted, I am confident they were also looking back at the previous three years.

Remembering her precision, her power, and, this is huge, the manner in which she always carried herself.

Aparicio displayed a quiet confidence, rarely (if ever) appearing shaken by the magnitude of the moment.

Who knows if her brain was yelling madly and bouncing off the walls when she went to serve for a match. If so, she never let us see anything other than a serene, locked-in, spirit.

On the volleyball court, Aparicio could soar to the roof and smash with the best of them, while also being nimble enough to scrape dig after dig off the floor.

Her serving was impeccable, deadly and consistent, and she graduated with the school record for most aces in a single match.

From a freshman who blasted a ball into the rafters at South Whidbey, and got the ball to rest on a beam and never come back down (it may still be up there), to a senior who was team MVP on the first Coupeville squad to go to state in more than a decade, Aparicio was a quiet killer.

Her laser focus, mad skills, and assassin-like demeanor translated beautifully to the tennis court, as well.

From the moment they first stepped on the CHS court as freshmen, she and Sage Renninger were the #1 Wolf doubles duo, and they never, ever let anyone come close to taking their title.

Peppering foe after foe, they mixed precision shot-making with raw power, like when Aparicio pegged a rival with a match-winning shot, inflicting physical and emotional pain with one superbly-placed smash.

The duo ended their tennis, and high school careers, with a 4th place finish at the state tourney, winning three of four matches in the Eastern Washington heat.

Their only loss was a tough three-set affair against a private school duo who went on to win a second-straight title, and no one in the tourney came closer to upending the champs than Aparicio and Renninger.

The 4th place finish was the second-best in CHS tennis history, behind just Mindy Horr and Taniel Lamb’s 2nd place showing in 2005, and it’s fitting all four of those standout netters now share space in the Hall o’ Fame.

When I look back on Payton’s prep sports career, I see talent, I see commitment, I see accomplishment, I see a young woman who always put team first.

What do I see? I see one of the best to ever wear a Wolf uniform, that’s what I see.

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   Coupeville High School Athlete of the Year winners (clockwise from left) Hunter Smith, Katrina McGranahan and Valen Trujillo. (John Fisken photos)

Many competed, and three rose to the top.

Coupeville High School coaches honored a trio Tuesday night, naming juniors Hunter Smith and Katrina McGranahan and senior Valen Trujillo as CHS Athlete of the Year winners.

It’s the first time any of them have received the school’s highest athletic honor.

All three will see their photos go up in the hallway of the CHS gym, joining previous winners such as Corey Cross, Sherry (Bonacci) Roberts, Brad Sherman and Makana Stone.

A look at what earned them the award, in alphabetic order:

McGranahan — She started and ended the year as an MVP.

In the fall, she teamed with Trujillo to lead the CHS volleyball squad to its first league title since 2002.

The Wolves went 8-1 in Olympic League play and made a run at the program single-season record for wins (13), finishing 11-6 after two down-to-the-wire losses at districts.

Among the state leaders in kills and service aces, McGranahan was tabbed as league MVP, then took the winter “off” to get ready for her #1 sport, softball.

The spring was the season of the Kat, as she used her electric pitching arm and ferocious bat to lead the Wolves to a 19-5 record (second-best in program history) and within an out of advancing to state.

Throwing every pitch at districts, she hurled 33 innings in less than 26 hours as Coupeville split four games, two of which went to extra innings.

McGranahan, who led the Wolves in almost every offensive category and went 18-5 in the pitcher’s circle, shared Olympic League MVP honors with Shanya Nisbet of Chimacum.

Smith — A First-Team All-Conference pick in all three of his sports (football, basketball, baseball), with football coaches honoring him on both sides of the ball.

He opened the year by setting new CHS single-season records for receiving yards (916) and touchdowns (11) and sits on the threshold of owning Coupeville’s career records in both those categories, as well as interceptions.

As a defensive back who teams rarely dared to test, he recorded 49 tackles and three picks.

During the winter, Smith led the Wolf boys basketball team in scoring, dropping 332 points in 20 games, including 29 in a playoff loss to Bellevue Christian.

When the spring came, he worked both as a pitcher and infielder, while holding down lead-off duty in the lineup for a CHS squad which finished second in league play behind Klahowya.

In a quirky side note, Smith beat the odds, twice named a WIAA Athlete of the Week winner, despite the award’s rules stating an athlete can only receive it once a school year.

Trujillo — The anchor to two league-title winning teams, as she helped pace the volleyball and girls tennis teams to triumphant seasons.

On the court, she exits as the school record holder for digs in a game, season and career.

A three-year starter, the Wolf libero was a constant tumbling ball of fire, racking up more floor burns than any player in the league.

Needless to say, she was a First-Team All-Conference player three years running.

When spring rolled around, she returned to the court for another season as Coupeville’s #1 singles player and went on to win a second-straight individual league title.

She followed that up by placing third at districts, winning the final three matches of her prep career.

Led by her play, and her quiet but very effective leadership (Trujillo never left a match until all of her teammates had finished playing), the Wolves won their third consecutive regular season team title, remaining unbeaten in Olympic League action.

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Makana Stone signs to play college basketball. (John Fisken photos)

Makana Stone signs to play college basketball. (Sylvia Hurlburt photo)

Wiley Hesselgrave spins towards the basket, a second away from another bucket.

   Wiley Hesselgrave spins towards the basket, a second away from another bucket. (John Fisken photos)

The dynamic duo during their junior year.

The dynamic duo during their junior year.

Makana and Wiley.

Wiley and Makana.

For the entire run of Coupeville Sports, from Aug. 16, 2012, when they were days away from entering CHS as freshmen, until today, when they are days away from graduation, Miss Stone and Mr. Hesselgrave have been the absolute gold standard.

Stars from day one, their exploits have been stellar, and their character, even more so.

The news the duo was tabbed as the 2015-2016 CHS Athlete of the Year winners Thursday was hardly a surprise.

But it is perfectly appropriate.

Stone, a transcendent basketball and track athlete, was honored for the second consecutive year, allowing her to join a relatively short list of Wolves, male or female, who earned the award more than once.

Hesselgrave, a true four-year letter-man on the gridiron and the leading scorer two years running for the Wolf boys’ basketball squad, received the top award for the first time.

While there were several other athletes who were certainly in the conversation, rarely has the award felt more like a slam dunk.

Unlike some other years, when the winners (or non-winners) could be, and were, heavily debated, Stone and Hesselgrave are perfect fits for the honor.

I’ve known Wiley a far less time than Makana — a young woman who I’ve known virtually since birth — and we never had a sit-down interview during his time as a Wolf.

That’s on me.

I’m not the most social person, and I really don’t like butting too far into the athlete’s personal lives. Especially when they seem content having it remain that way.

Wiley always seemed like a really self-contained guy. He showed up, put the work in day after day, then went home.

Rarely on social media, and not one to goof around for the cameraman, he never sought out the spotlight, but he always deserved it.

Whether he knows it or not, I have huge respect for Hesselgrave, and how he conducted himself.

From the freshman who snatched a touchdown pass in a playoff game way down in Blaine to the relentless senior who dropped his head and hurtled time and again into the pack — in both his sports — Wiley left it all on the field.

As he heads off to the next stage in his life, on his way to being a successful businessman, I wish him nothing but the best.

It was a true pleasure to watch you play for the past four seasons, Mr. Hesselgrave.

With Makana, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — she is, without a doubt, the most impressive athlete I have covered in 26 years of writing about high school sports.

She was amazing in soccer, back when she used to play. She is phenomenal in basketball. She is other-worldly on the track oval.

We could list all the awards she’s rightfully won. The league MVP’s. The All-State games.

Or, we could dissect the extraordinary plays she made, plays which I’ve never seen any Coupeville athlete, male or female, pull off.

But, in the end, what has always set Makana apart, at the exact same time it has drawn everyone closer, is her bliss.

She is that true rarity, a stubborn, committed, break-you-in-half winner who brings out the best in her teammates and, even when they’re being thrashed, her foes.

On her Senior Night during basketball season, the entire Klahowya team, without telling their coach in advance, ran over to Stone to hug her goodbye, to wish her the best moments before she decimated them.

It was the most touching moment I have witnessed in high school sports.

As this duo, who have given me so much to write about, prepare to depart CHS, I know there are other athletes eager to move up and take their places.

There will be great performances to come, from great performers.

Some will emulate Makana and Wiley’s skills, others their class and grace.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get some who will combine it all, like this duo did.

But, if we take what Magic Johnson said about Larry Bird on the night of his retirement and tweak the words slightly, we capture my feelings at this moment.

“You only told me one lie. You said there will be another Makana, another Wiley. There will never, ever be another Makana, another Wiley.”

Thank you both, for four years worth of memories.

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Makana Stone (JOhn Fisken photos)

Makana Stone, the most awesome winner of Coupeville High School’s 2014-2015 Female Athlete of the Year award. (John Fisken photos)

Josh Bayne (left) and Aaron Curtin share their school's highest honor for a male athlete.

Josh Bayne (left) and Aaron Curtin share their school’s highest honor for a male athlete.

Clockwise, from top left, are Aaron Trumbull, Hailey Hammer and Marisa Etzell.

Clockwise, from top left, are Aaron Trumbull, Hailey Hammer and Marisa Etzell.

For the past three years, Makana Stone has been the single most exciting athlete at Coupeville High School.

There is no argument about this. No debate.

You know it to be true. I know it to be true. Anyone with two eyes and half a brain knows it to be true.

Wednesday night it finally became official, as the Wolf junior was selected as the school’s 2014-2015 Female Athlete of the Year.

Now she, and seniors Aaron Curtin and Josh Bayne, who shared Male Athlete of the Year honors, will see their smiling faces go up on the wall of honor that leads in to the CHS gym.

Coupeville coaches and administrators made the right call this year, and it takes a bit of the sting away from two years ago, when Stone was flat-out robbed as a freshman.

From the first moment she stepped foot onto the high school campus, she sparkled, first in soccer, then basketball, before producing the greatest regular season track and field accomplishment in school history.

Stone won her first 28 high school races, something no one — not Kyle or Tyler King, not Jon Chittim or Amy Mouw or Natasha Bamberger or any of the other Wolf greats — has ever done at CHS.

That her photo was not already on the gym wall, that she was passed over at the time because of a misguided belief by some that her age should deny her the honor — was, is, and will always be, a travesty.

But this season, no one could refuse a young woman whose athletic prowess is unmatched, but who also shines as the very epitome of what we all would like Wolf athletes to be.

Makana has remained the same selfless, gentle, quietly classy, easy-rolling friend to all that she was as a little girl, and no success has ever changed the sweetness of her spirit.

As a junior, she left soccer behind for the moment to focus on basketball, and proceeded to tear up the new 1A Olympic League like a beast.

A slam-dunk league MVP, she sparked Coupeville to a 9-0 league season in which the Wolves won every game by double digits and captured the program’s first championship banner since 2002.

There was the game where she scored 22 consecutive points.

The blocked shots that were like volleyball spikes into the third row of seats.

The rebounds. The passes. The way she led by example, but always showed respect and love to the six-pack of seniors on her squad.

The moments when she took control of the game, fully realizing she, and she alone, could dictate the flow in a way no one else on the court could.

One play, or series of plays, cemented her status as one of the all-time Wolf greats.

Rising high above the pack, Stone snagged a rebound with one arm, then landed and fired the ball, baseball-style, dropping it into the waiting hands of teammate Kacie Kiel, who was far out on the break.

A defender, frantically trying to get back, veered into Kiel’s path, causing her to stumble as she went in for the break-away layup and put the ball just a smidge too hard off the glass.

At which point, Stone, who had taken off like a rocket after making the pass from the OTHER END OF THE FLOOR, shot past everyone, grabbed the rebound and laid the ball up for a bucket that left the jaws of everyone in the crowd banging off the bleachers.

Most … electrifying … player … to maybe EVER wear a CHS uniform in any sport.

And she’s not done yet.

While they may not have been the sheer force of nature that Stone is, Curtin and Bayne had stellar years as well.

Curtin advanced to state for a second consecutive year in tennis, returned to basketball and helped lead the Wolves, then was named All-Conference as a baseball hurler for a season in which he tossed a no-hitter.

Bayne was All-Conference in baseball, as well, but laid down his best work in the fall.

He was the first-ever football MVP in the 1A Olympic League and was named All-State on both sides of the ball.

Bayne received two other honors Wednesday, sharing the United States Marine Athlete Award and the WIAA Cliff Gillies Student Award with three-sport (volleyball, basketball, softball) star Hailey Hammer.

Marisa Etzell (soccer, track) and Aaron Trumbull (basketball, baseball) were named winners of the Army Reserve National Honor Scholar/Athlete Award.

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Breeanna Messner

Breeanna Messner

Nick Streubel

Nick Streubel

Nick Streubel and Breeanna Messner have a lot in common.

They’re both Coupeville High School seniors who play three sports (four for Messner, if you count cheer, which I do no matter what the school says).

They’re both smart, hard-working, outgoing, quiet team leaders who get more accomplished with a few words than a lot of over-the-top screaming.

Through tough times and great success, they both remain on an even keel and are the very epitome of what you hope a student/athlete will be.

And now, regardless of the passage of time, they will always share wall space in the hallway of the CHS gym after being honored as the 2013-2014 Athlete of the Year winners.

Messner was a team captain in volleyball, basketball and softball, sports she played all four years as a Wolf.

She missed the awards night to be with her softball team in Richland, where CHS will play in the state tournament for the first time in 12 seasons starting Friday.

Streubel was a First-Team All-State player as a football lineman (the only player from the 1A/2A Cascade Conference to be honored), anchored the boys’ basketball team at center and threw shot put and discus for the Wolf track squad.

By winning the school’s highest athletic honor, they join a list of Wolf greats that includes names such as Megan Smith, Ashley Ellsworth-Bagby, Brad Sherman and Jennie Cross.

The awards, handed out Thursday night, were the big ones, but several other Wolf athletes took home other honors.

Senior Ben Etzell (tennis, baseball) and junior Madeline Strasburg (volleyball, basketball, softball) were honored by the Marine Corps with their Distinguished Athlete Award.

Seniors Brett Arnold (football, soccer) and Amanda Fabrizi (volleyball, basketball) received The United States Army Reserve Scholar/Athlete Award.

Messner and fellow senior Jake Tumblin (football, baseball) brought home the Cliff Gillies Award, which is named in honor of the former head of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

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