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The Tucson Citizen had profiled the city’s finest high school student-athletes from 1957 through 2008. While other local publications have flirted with an “Athlete of the Week” section every now and then, the tradition of recognizing only the very best continued on the pages of the TucsonCitizen.com site until last year.
In all, some 61 student-athletes received this honor and the tradition will continue on the pages of the AllSportsTucson.com site.
This year, 21 candidates were nominated by their coaches, athletic directors and parents based on academics, athletics, leadership, service to their school and an essay on who influenced them most.
No other publication has taken up the difficult task of celebrating what is right about our schools and our athletes beyond the playing field. Although all of the names listed below were superior athletes in their chosen sport, they were also excellent students in the classroom and excellent role models in our community. It is important to recognize those who can do all three with success.
The difficult task of selecting the winner was placed in the hands of three high school teachers. The 21 applications were trimmed to four and then the winner was selected from that group.
There are several athletes in the Tucson area ranked near the top of their graduating class and a couple have actually reached that difficult spot including Sahuaro catcher Amanda Nicholas.
Nicholas was an All-Southern Arizona First Team selection this year for her abilities on the softball field but, frankly, there are no Major League signing bonuses for female athletes so it was her ability in the classroom that helped set her apart.
Typically, college athletic advisors attempt to dissuade incoming freshmen from taking “difficult” coursework in favor of making time for the weight room, practice, travel and game day activities but that advice will not work with the best and Nicholas is one of the very best.
Nicholas chose to play softball for the University of Nevada, Reno over other major Division I programs so that she could study pre-med to prepare her for her professional career as a doctor.
Nicholas has indicated to me that she is investigating the coursework she signed up for this fall to make sure it has not been “watered down.”
Amanda Nicholas: 2014 AllSportsTucson.com Student-Athlete of the Year
Being alive for a commensurable five years, I was concerned with fighting bed time and sneaking Fruit Roll-Ups into my room; the realm of the athletic world was unbeknown to me. However, following a multitude of trial-and-error, I found my place as an athlete at a very young age. After embarrassing myself as a ballerina at the age of five and face-planting on the floor mats as a cheerleader at the age of six, I finally found my calling as a loud, large and aggressive catcher. With some cheap leather on my left hand and a squishy ball in my right, I was ready to begin this long and indescribable journey to who I am today.
For eleven years, I have been playing softball, and within that lifetime, many people have shaped who I am. There are those who influence me in small ways – like changing my swing or showing me how to throw – and then there are those who live and breathe the sport that has become my life. There are many coaches who I cannot show enough gratitude for, such as the AZtec coaching staff, being my very first ASA coaching staff and drilling me with fundamentals; the Cats coaching staff, credited for honing my skills and helping me get recruited into college; and my high school coaching staff, recognized for pushing me during the off-season and allowing me to explore other positions. These people played a huge role in developing my character as a player and a person.
However, this essay is to address who has influenced me the most in my life. As cliché as this response is, I am proud to say that my parents have influenced me the most in my life. For eleven years, my parents have lived the life of a softball player. They’ve traveled with me to watch me play in out-of-state tournaments; they’ve celebrated and cheered when my team wins; and they’ve been there through the toughest of times, like leaving the team I love. My parents have laughed with me and cried with me. Not only do they push me to do my best during this long endeavor as an athlete, but they influence my drive to be dominant academically. From the beginning, since I was prancing around in tu-tus and cheerleading outfits, my parents have stressed building a strong academic foundation. Their support and leadership has sculpted me into a respectable, talented, and intelligent person. My parents have always been there for me, through thick and thin, and I know they will continue to be there for me as I enter into the world of collegiate athletics.
Other Sahuaro recipients include:
1970: Dave Henry, Sahuaro
1981: Lisa Kay Baker, Sahuaro
1983: Martin Tetreault, Sahuaro
1993: Michelle Vielledent, Sahuaro
1994: Julie Reitan, Sahuaro
2003: Tim Ashcraft, Sahuaro
TUCSON CITIZEN STUDENT-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
1957 D.L. Secrist Jr. Tucson High
1958 Donald Parsons Catalina
1959 Edward Brown Flowing Wells
1960 Terry DeJonghe Salpointe
1961 Robert Svob Catalina
1962 Ray Kosanke Tucson High
1963 Michael Aboud Tucson High
1964 Pat McAndrew Flowing Wells
1965 Charles Begley Sunnyside
1966 Eric Evett Catalina
1967 Ron Curry Tucson High
1968 Jeff Lovin Palo Verde
1969 Bruce Pawlowski Salpointe
1970 Dave Henry Sahuaro
1971 Tom Hagen Salpointe
1972 Bill Baechler Palo Verde
1973 Francisco Gomez Pueblo
1974 Richard Rucker Canyon del Oro
1975 Guillermo Robles Sunnyside
1976 Karen Christensen Rincon
1977 Michael Wing Rincon
1978 Craig Barker Amphitheater
1979 Ralph Gay Sunnyside
1980 Kristine Bush Sabino
1981 Lisa Kay Baker Sahuaro
1982 Vickie Patton Marana
1983 Martin Tetreault Sahuaro
1984 Molly Reiling Salpointe
1985 Timothy Roggeman Salpointe
1986 Jon Volpe Amphitheater
1987 Luis A. Padilla Pueblo
1988 Nicole Stern Catalina
1989 Robert Moen Flowing Wells
1990 Grace O’Neill Salpointe
1991 Angel Phillips Rincon
1992 Zenen Salazar Sunnyside
1993 Michelle Vielledent Sahuaro
1994 Julie Reitan Sahuaro and Brady Bennon Sabino
1995 Kelly Yablonski University High
1996 Joe Aguirre Palo Verde
1997 Andy Viner University High
1998 Scott Beck Canyon del Oro
1999 Glenn Schatz University High
2000 Nicole Voelkel University High
2001 Ai-ris Yonekura Catalina Foothills
2002 Philo Sanchez Sunnyside
2003 Tim Ashcraft Sahuaro
2004 Joe Kay Tucson High
2005 Tiffany Hosten Tucson High and Echo Fallon Catalina Foothills
2006 Michael Smith Sunnyside
2007 Tara Erdmann Flowing Wells
2008 James Eichberger Catalina
2009 Sun Park Cienega
2010 Christine Clark Tucson High
2011 LeeAndra Smith Palo Verde
2012 Rachel Ward (Pusch Ridge) and Robin Landrith (Ironwood Ridge)
2013 Mally McGarity (Marana) and Asha Esprit (University High)
2014 Amanda Nicholas Sahuaro
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com