Questions surround Blue Mountain Sports Awards finalists

The finalists for the 34th Blue Mountain Sports Awards bring up some questions that will be answered at the ceremony May 19.

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WALLA WALLA - The first round of voting is complete and finalists for this year's 34th annual Blue Mountain Sports Awards have been determined.

Winners will be announced during ceremonies scheduled May 19 at the Walla Walla Elks Lodge that are held in conjunction with the Blue Mountain Youth Recognition Evening.

The second vote of a special selection panel will determine who the winners are in each of the five sports awards categories. And several questions still abound.

Can Walla Walla Community College repeat its sweep of Team of the Year and Coach of the Year honors?

Will we see another small-school athlete walk away with either the Male Athlete of the Year or Female Athlete of the Year trophy? Or both?

What are the chances a Weston-McEwen TigerScot earns Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors for a third straight year?

And what are the odds that Wa-Hi holds a block party at the Elks Lodge?

The answers, of course, won't be known until the big night.

A year ago, WWCC's Chad Bodnar was selected Coach of the Year and his men's soccer team, which in the fall of 2008 won the first NWAACC championship in the program's history, was deemed Team of the Year.

Bodnar is back as a finalist again this year. And his women's soccer team, after winning its first NWAACC title last fall, is one of the contenders for Team of the Year accolades.

And even if the Warriors' soccer express doesn't make it to the station on time, WWCC has a second option. Another of the Team of the Year finalists is WWCC's NWAACC championship women's basketball team, and the Warriors' veteran women's hoops coach, Bobbi Hazeltine, is among the Coach of the Year finalists.

A pair of versatile small-school athletes - Pomeroy's Tye Knebel and Dayton's Kelsey Warren - were the recipients of last year's Male Athlete of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year awards, respectively. While they were seniors a year ago and not in consideration for this year's awards, there are a pair of ready replacements waiting in the wings.

Waitsburg-Prescott's James Lehr, who has made his mark in track and field and football, is a finalist for this year's Male Athlete of the Year award, and DeSales three-sport standout Caitlin Duncan is among the Female Athlete of the Year finalists.

And in the Scholar-Athlete of the Year category, Weston-McEwen junior Renee Baumann hopes to replace graduated TigerScot Noel Griggs in the winners' circle. Griggs, who now attends Corban College in Salem, Ore., was voted Female Athlete of the Year in 2008 and then repeated in 2009.

But it's Wa-Hi that stands the best chance to make a big haul on May 19. There is at least one Blue Devil finalist in each of the five categories - and two finalists in three of the five.

Wa-Hi's W&W boys, Gary Winston and Michael Weisner, are paired up in the Male Athlete of the Year category. Both athletes starred in football and basketball for the Blue Devils.

In the Female Athlete of the Year category, Hope Klicker and Jamie Weisner give Wa-Hi a pair of finalists. Klicker is nominated for her exploits in softball while Weisner was a Blue Devils basketball standout.

And contending for Coach of the Year honors are John Golden, who over the winter led Wa-Hi's boys basketball team to a fourth-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament, and Jerry Humphreys, who did the same last spring with Wa-Hi's softball team.

Wa-Hi has one finalist in the Scholar-Athlete of the Year category, senior Vicki Reardon, and the boys basketball team is the Blue Devils' lone finalist for Team of the Year.

Oscar Flores, a soccer standout at Mac-Hi, joins Winston, Weisner and Lehr in the Male Athlete of the Year finalist quartet; Kati Isham, the engine that drove WWCC's women's basketball team to the NWAACC championship, joins Klicker, Weisner and Duncan in the Female Athlete of the Year category; Whitman College's Christoph Fuchs and WWCC's Nancy Johnson join Weston-McEwen's Baumann, Wa-Hi's Reardon and DeSales' Duncan in the Scholar-Athlete finalist list, with Duncan emerging as the only double finalist; and the DeSales baseball team and Mac-Hi's boys soccer team join the two WWCC entries and Wa-Hi's boys basketball team in a five-team field in quest of Team of the Year honors.

In addition to the presentation of the sports awards, one student from each high school in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin circulation area will be recognized for his or her classroom achievements during the Blue Mountain Youth Recognition Evening. These students are nominated by their schools.

The Union-Bulletin and Baker Boyer Bank are co-sponsors of the event, which begins at 7 p.m., is free of charge and open to the public.

Here is a closer look at the finalists.

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

• Oscar Flores of Mac-Hi earned Greater Oregon League Player of the Year and Oregon Class 4A Player of the Year honors in leading the Pioneers boys soccer team to the GOL title, an undefeated (9-0) regular-season record and a trio of postseason victories before Mac-Hi was finally stopped by La Salle 2-1 in the Class 4A state championship game.

• James Lehr represented Waitsburg-Prescott in the Class B state track and field meet last spring where he was the state shot put champion with a heave of 50 feet, 11.5 inches and won the state discus title with a 162-8 throw. And he was an all-Southeast B-11 League first-team selection at linebacker.

• Michael Weisner earned all-Big Nine Conference Cascade Division first-team honors in leading Wa-Hi to the boys basketball division championship and on to the Class 4A state tournament where the Blue Devils finished fourth. He was nominated for the 2010 McDonalds All-America Game and has accepted a basketball scholarship at the University of Montana.

• Gary Winston earned all-Big Nine Conference Cascade Division first-team honors in both basketball and football at Wa-Hi. He was also the division's Defensive Player of the Year and all-state tournament in basketball after helping the Blue Devils place fourth. He was a McDonalds All-America Game nominee in basketball and has signed to play hoops at the University of Idaho, turning down college football opportunities after being voted to the Cascade Division's first team as a wide receiver.

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

• Caitlin Duncan's best sport is basketball - she's already made a verbal commitment to play at Walla Walla Community College - but she made a clean sweep during the last year at DeSales by earning first-team all-Southeast 2B District honors in softball last spring and volleyball in the fall as well as basketball over the winter. She led the Irish to the Class 2B state basketball tournament and was named to the all-tournament team.

• Kati Isham finished up a spectacular two-year basketball career at WWCC by leading the Warriors to the NWAACC championships in the Tri-Cities. Isham averaged 22 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists per game during the season, was named the NWAACC Eastern Division Most Valuable Player for a second straight year and earned MVP honors during the championship tournament as well. She signed to play at Boise State University in the fall.

• Hope Klicker had an outstanding sophomore season for Wa-Hi's softball team last spring, earning all-Big Nine Conference Cascade Division Offensive Player of the Year honors and was named to the Louisville Slugger all-region team. She hit .555 at regionals and .444 at the Class 4A state tournament as the Blue Devils finished fourth.

• Jamie Weisner, as a sophomore, was voted the Big Nine Conference Cascade Division's Player of the Year in basketball after leading Wa-Hi to a second-place finish in the Big Nine Conference's Cascade Division and a No. 2 seed to the regional tournament. She also excelled last spring in track where she was a regional qualifier in the 300 hurdles.

SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

• Renee Baumann, a Weston-McEwen junior, has compiled a 4.05 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. She has served as the school treasurer and is involved in a variety of community activities. She earned second-team all-state honors in volleyball and was first-team all-league in basketball.

• Caitlin Duncan, a DeSales senior, has compiled a 3.96 grade point average, and is a member of the National Honor Society as well as her school's Knowledge Bowl and Math Teams. She was all-league first-team in softball, volleyball and basketball, and all-state tournament in basketball.

• Christoph Fuchs, a Whitman College senior, has compiled a 3.87 grade point average with a biology major and a chemistry minor. He has been accepted into the Baylor School of Medicine. He combined for a 10-0 Northwest Conference record in tennis doubles last spring, 12-4 overall, to help Whitman to its third straight undefeated regular season and a berth in the NCAA Division III national championships for the third straight year. He earned second-team Academic All-America honors by ESPN The Magazine.

• Nancy Johnson, a WWCC sophomore, has compiled a 3.96 grade point average, has been on the President's Honor Roll for five consecutive quarters and is serving as the student body vice president. Her basketball exploits include first-team all-NWAACC Eastern Division and first-team all NWAACC Championships as she helped the Warriors to the NWAACC title.

• Vicki Reardon, a Wa-Hi senior, has compiled a 3.911 grade point average, is a member of the National Honor Society, the Wa-Hi Honor Roll and the President's Honor Roll at WWCC for three quarters. She graduates from WWCC in June with an Associates Degree with honors. She was the all-Big Nine Conference Cascade Division honorable mention catcher last spring and was also all-league honorable mention in basketball.

TEAM OF THE YEAR

• DeSales' baseball team logged a 23-5 overall record, won the Southeast 2B District championship, placed second at district and first at regionals to earn a return to the state semifinals, The Irish defeated Napavine 4-2 in the semifinals but lost to Northwest Christian 11-10 in eight innings in the championship game, coming up just short in their bid for an unprecedented 17th state baseball championship.

• Mac-Hi's boys soccer team finished with a 12-1 record. After winning the Greater Oregon League championship, the Pioneers claimed three straight postseason victories before losing to La Salle 2-1 in the Oregon Class 4A state championship game.

• Wa-Hi's boys basketball team won the Big Nine Conference Cascade Division championship and finished the regular season with a 17-3 mark. The Blue Devils finished third at district and earned a Class 4A state tourney bid by winning two of three games at regionals. The Blue Devils opened state play with a 55-49 victory over Lincoln, lost to Wilson 52-44 and rebounded to beat Eastlake 67-49 and Decatur 48-38 for a 25-6 overall record and a fourth-place state finish.

• WWCC's women's basketball team began the season on a 14-game winning streak and finished it the same way to claim the program's second NWAACC Championships trophy. The team's only blemish was a mid-season Eastern Division loss to Yakima that the Warriors avenged later in the year to earn a share of the East title. The Warriors beat Umpqua 71-58 in the first round of the NWAACC tournament, beat Centralia 64-55 in the quarterfinals, beat Lane 72-69 in the semis and then, in a showdown between Eastern Division rivals, beat Yakima 75-72 in the championship game for a 28-1 final record.

• WWCC's women's soccer team logged a 21-1 record overall in winning the NWAACC championship for the first time in school history. The Warriors won their seventh straight Eastern Division title with a 15-0 record and finished the regular season 18-1. The beat Shoreline 4-0 in the quarterfinals, Chemeketa 4-1 in the semifinals and Eastern Division rival Columbia Basin 1-0 in the NWAACC championship game.

COACH OF THE YEAR

• Chad Bodnar brought home Walla Walla Community College's first women's NWAACC soccer championship trophy last fall just 12 months after guiding the Warrior men's team to its first NWAACC title. While his women's 2009 squad logged a near-perfect 21-1 record, his 2009 men's team was nearly as strong, winning the Eastern Division title for the fifth time in six years and defeating Highline 1-0 in the quarterfinals and Chemeketa 1-0 in the semis before losing to Bellevue 2-1 in the championship game for a 14-4-1 final mark. Bodnar was named NWAACC Women's Coach of the Year.

• John Golden led Wa-Hi to the Class 4A boys state basketball tournament for a second straight year, and this time the Blue Devils brought home a trophy. The Blue Devils won the Big Nine's Cascade Division title, took third at district and third at regionals. At state, they won three of four games to finish fourth with a final record of 25-6.

• Bobbi Hazeltine's WWCC women's basketball team posted the best record in school history, 28-1, and won the second women's NWAACC championship in school history. She was selected Eastern Division Coach of the Year. Hazeltine was also on the bench for the Warriors' first championship in 2001 when they finished 22-9, and WWCC hasn't missed placing at the tournament since.

• Jerry Humphreys is the only coach on this list whose team isn't, but last spring's Wa-Hi softball team was outstanding nonetheless. The Blue Devils won the Big Nine Conference's Cascade Division title and went on to add district and regional crowns and qualify for the Class 4A state tournament. The Blue Devils then finished fourth at state with a final 29-3 record. He was selected the Big Nine Cascade Division Coach of the Year.

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