The Tucson Citizen profiled the city’s finest high school student-athletes from 1957 through 2008. While other local publications flirted with an “Athlete of the Week” section every now and then, the tradition of recognizing only the very best was continued only on the pages of the TucsonCitizen.com website.
We have continued this tradition at AllSportsTucson.com.
Each candidate was judged on academics, athletics, leadership, service to their school and on a one-page essay on who influenced them most in their life.
Palo Verde senior Jacqueline Igulu earned Student Athlete of the Year honors along with a $250 scholarship and Ironwood Ridge senior Tara Garcia earned an Outstanding Service honor along with a $100 scholarship.
Jacqueline Igulu in her own words:
Who has influenced me the most? That’s a good question, but not hard to answer. I could go on and on about the different people who have helped shape my life now but there’s one person in particular that really made a big impact. Jim Mentz, my high school soccer coach.
Coming from an African culture, you won’t see a lot of women playing the sport of soccer or anything really. I started playing when I was 10 years old. I didn’t start on an official team until I reached middle school where I tried out for a spot and I made it, but I didn’t have the skills, only the speed. I was pushed by my brothers to join a club team; to polish up my skills and so I did. Club was very beneficial, but it seemed as I was still missing something; I haven’t reached my potential yet. My skills were a lot more polished from where I began and I was ready to leave these middle school games to enter the intensity of high school soccer.
It wasn’t going to be easy to make the varsity team; it’s never a given spot but earned. I had three older brothers who all played at Palo Verde and I had big shoes to fill coming in as a freshman. Everyone already knew the name Igulu and hearing another one arriving brought excitement, but on the other hand brought fear to me. I wanted to be just like my brothers; to accomplish the things that they have, but I did want to make a name for myself also. Meeting Coach Mentz for the first time was intimidating. He is very loud, energetic, passionate, crazy, but overall, he really cares about his girls. He saw me as his own daughter and took me under his wings. Mentz has been coaching Palo Verde girls’ soccer for over 20 years and he’s lived through defeat and victory; something I was missing.
13, 33 ,62, 55, 163, All state player of the year, All-Region First Team, Region Player of the Year, these accomplishments that Mentz transformed me into. From starting off as a freshman only putting away 13 goals; to my sophomore year increasing to 33 goals; to junior year becoming an All-State record holder standing at 62 goals; to finishing off my senior year at 55 goals being eight goals away to beat my own record, and now adding it all together 163 goals to be the new record holder for most goals in girls’ soccer at Palo Verde High School. Being honored All-State Player of the Year was unimaginable. I’ve never been given such a big recognition and that was the moment that I knew I’ve made a name for myself; that it was the beginning of my soccer career.
Mentz showed me life through soccer. He constantly taught me lessons all from this one sport. He helped me become a leader; a fighter and overall a hard worker. For the first time ever, in all my years of playing soccer, I have seen a championship match and by my side was Mentz pushing me to never give up; to stand tall when all seems at lost; to keep my head high no matter what the result may be. He has given me so much knowledge, growth and maturity playing for him for four years. All the positivity and motivation that he gave me when all seemed to be the end is why I’m continuing to succeed.
I came from a timid little freshman who hadn’t experienced the aggressiveness, passion, intensity, speed and skills that I witnessed playing in high school and Mentz built me to be physically, emotionally and mentally strong. Now, I’ve been offered a soccer scholarship to Benedictine University; an opportunity that many players aren’t given the chance to do but I was given that opportunity. I’m leaving a legacy behind and it’s heartbreaking but I wouldn’t be able to leave such an impact without Mentz. I will forever be thankful and honored for playing for such an incredible coach who turned me to the player I am and will be.
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
TUCSONCITIZEN.COM STUDENT-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
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)
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.COM STUDENT-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
2014 Amanda Nicholas Sahuaro
2015 Laura McGeary Flowing Wells and Courtney Brown Flowing Wells
2016 Cheyenne Pitts Mountain View
2017 Jacqueline Igulu Palo Verde
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he 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 AZPreps365.com. Andy was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com