With the abrupt end to the athletic season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s time to determine who was the top athlete in the Arizona athletic department for 2019-20.
One thing to keep in mind is that because of the pandemic, many of the winter and spring sport athletes didn’t get to finish their seasons, leaving their stats incomplete. Here are the top 10 athletes from the 2019-20 athletic season:
No. 10 Jordan Geist
Without question, Jordan Geist is one of the best athletes on campus and has taken the track and field world by storm. During his time at Arizona, he has racked up awards winning in both outdoor and indoor events in the shot put.
However, the reason why he is low on the list is because of the spring sports cancelation. If it wasn’t for that, I’m sure he would be high on this list.
No. 9 Khalil Tate
In terms of pure athleticism, Khalil Tate is right up there with anyone in the country with his ability to scramble and create plays in the mist of chaos. The senior quarterback gathered 2,367 total yards in his final season while collecting 17 total touchdowns.
Even though this is about evaluating individual athletes, team success is a factor in determining this list. With a disappointing 4-8 finish to the 2019-20 season, although the team had to overcome countless injures, Tate makes the list based on his athleticism alone.
No. 8 Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza
Even with a shortened season, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza put up impressive numbers while playing two different positions for her team. In the 25 games she played, she put up an eye-popping number with a batting average of .373 while hitting seven home runs with 26 RBIs.
It makes you wonder what would have been. Her numbers were on pace to set career-highs making for her best statistical season at Arizona.
Given the ability to play two positions — center field and first base — is one of the many reasons why Palomino-Cardoza makes this list.
No. 7 Austin Wells
Heading into the 2020 season, Austin Wells was on the preseason watchlist for the Golden Spikes Award. The award goes to the best amateur baseball player in the country. After a monster freshman campaign, it is no surprise that he was on the preseason list.
With a shortened season, we’ll never know what could have been in store for Wells’ sophomore season. Still, in a limited amount of time, he was able to put together an impressive number, a batting average of .375 with 21 hits and gathering 14 RBIs in just 15 games.
No. 6 Jill Aguilera
Arizona soccer finished one of its best seasons in school history ending with a record of 12-7-1 while going an impressive 8-2 at home. As part of a dynamic duo, Jill Aguilera had her best season in an Arizona uniform, scoring a career-high nine goals.
No. 5 J.J. Taylor
Even with an injury-riddled season, J.J. Taylor was able to be a consistent offensive weapon when stepping onto the field. When given a chance to be in the backfield, he racked up 1,458 all-purpose yards and crossed the goal-line five times.
Who knows what kind of numbers Taylor would have been able to put up if he was able to stay healthy and on the field.
No. 4 Jada Talley
As the second part of Arizona’s dynamic duo, Jada Talley was a force playing in all 20 games and logging 1,353 minutes on the pitch. During that time, she set a career-high scoring 10 goals and gathered eight assists totaling a team-high 28 points.
Her best game came in an upset win over then No. 10 UCLA, where Talley scored two goals in a 3-0 shutout of the Bruins. After the season, Talley received conference honors making first-team all-conference.
No. 3 Jessie Harper
When the season started, Jessie Harper sat at 66 home runs for her collegiate career, meaning she needed 29 homers to tie the NCAA record of 95 set by Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain.
Although the season has come to an end, Harper was still able to put up impressive numbers. In just 25 games, she collected 10 home runs with 29 RBIs and had an impressive .395 batting average.
Now, she sits at 76 home runs for 12th all-time in NCAA history, tied with former Arizona legend Jenny Dalton. If Harper comes back for another season, she will most likely shatter the NCAA home run record.
No. 2 Zeke Nnaji
In Zeke Nnaji’s freshman season, he made an immediate impact, becoming a consistent force on an NCAA tournament-caliber team. Like most sports Arizona men’s basketball didn’t get the chance to finish its season, leaving us only to wonder what would have happened in the most critical time of the season, “March Madness?”
All of this aside, Nnaji dominated the Pac-12 conference, winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. During the season, he averaged 16.1 points and 8.6 rebound and finished with 14 double-doubles.
No. 1 Aari McDonald
The most recognizable face on campus is Arizona women’s basketball star point guard Aari McDonald. She helped lead a historic season for the women’s basketball program that finished No. 12 in the country.
During the season, McDonald led the team in points (20.5(, assists (3.6), and was second in rebounds (5.6), establishing herself as one of the most dominating players in a loaded Pac-12 conference.
However, the most impressive part of McDonald’s game is her defense, and the ability to completely lock down anyone she is guarding. Finishing the season with 68 steals, McDonald was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
The ability to change the game in various ways with her combination of speed, shooting and playmaking skills is what makes McDonald the top athlete in Arizona athletics.
There are many great athletes on Arizona’s campus, so many that it’s hard to narrow a list to just 10 athletes. No matter who you think was missed or underappreciated, one thing is certain, the future is bright for Arizona athletics with young, tremendous talent.