Warriors whoop it up at sports awards

The WWCC women's basketball team is well represented as it wins three of the five Blue Mountain Sports Awards Wednesday.

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Wa-Hi's Gary Winston took home Male Athlete of the Year Award for his activities on the football field on basketball court. Winston is a senior.

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Members of the WWCC women's basketball team strike a pose after winning three of five categories at the Blue Mountain Sports Awards. Bobbie Hazeltine, left, also won for Coach of the Year.

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Bobbi Hazeltine and WWCC brought home the trophies at Wednesday's 34th Annual Blue Mountain Youth Recognition Evening. Hazeltine won coach of the year for her work with the WWCC basketball team.

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Kati Isham received the award for Female Athlete of the Year.

WALLA WALLA - The Blue Mountain Sports Awards were all about the Warriors Wednesday night.

The Walla Walla Community College women's basketball team won in every category it had nominations in.

Head coach Bobbi Hazeltine was selected Coach of the Year, Kati Isham was Female Athlete of the Year and the team was selected Team of the Year.

Gary Winston, a Wa-Hi football and basketball player who most recently led the Blue Devils basketball team to a fourth-place finish at the state Class 4A tournament in March, was selected Male Athlete of the Year.

And Christoph Fuchs, a Whitman tennis player, was selected Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The WWCC women's team were NWAACC Eastern Division co-champions and finished with a 28-2 season record, their best in Hazeltine's 11-year career coaching the Warriors.

"I've never had a team that worked as hard as them," Hazeltine said. "This was great for the kids."

Hazeltine and her WWCC team also won the award following the 2000-01 season.

Hazeltine recalled that 2000-01 team's road to the NWAACC crown required victories against defending NWAACC champion Umpqua and top-ranked Highline in its first two tournament games, but stated the championship won in Kennewick two months ago was an even greater achievement.

"The quality of basketball is so much better," said Hazeltine, whose 11-year mark at WWCC is 238-91. "These games were close, tough. I don't mean any disrespect to other teams we've had, but no one put in the time these guys put in.

"I'm extremely proud. I'm going to cherish this moment."

Walla Walla started the season 14-0 and, after a league loss at Yakima Valley, concluded the year with another streak of 14 straight triumphs.

Hazeltine completed her 11th season as WWCC head coach in early March with the program's first NWAACC title since the 2000-01 campaign - her second in Walla Walla - and an overall record of 28-1. The Warriors knocked off Eastern Region regular-season champion Yakima Valley, 75-72, in the NWAACC tournament finale after notching wins over Umpqua, 71-58, Centralia, 64-55, and Lane, 72-69.

"I'm kind of shocked right now because of the quality of the finalists," Hazeltine said as she accepted the award for coach of the year. "I didn't expect it. I was just thrilled to be finalist. This is a feather in everybody's cap."

Isham was selected all-NWAACC Eastern Division first team, Eastern Division MVP and NWAACC Championships MVP.

"A lot of credit goes to everyone on the team," Isham said. "This is a great group of girls. We work hard in practice and after practice, and on the weekends. Everyone worked hard for these awards."

Isham is graduating from WWCC in June and plans to study physical therapy at Boise State University, as well as continue her basketball career.

"I've been blessed with the talent," she said. "I enjoy sharing it. Winning was a huge honor for me, especially considering the quality of the girls I was up against."

But sweep or not, she says the whole team was planning to be there.

"Everyone is always so supportive of everyone else," Isham said. "Even if just one person was nominated, we all would've been here."

Wa-Hi's Winston took the top award for men.

Winston, a senior, was selected all-Big Sky Conference Cascade Division first team in basketball, as well as Big Nine Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and was nominated for the 2010 McDonalds All-America game.

He was selected all-Big Nine Cascade Division first-team wide receiver in football.

Winston has signed with the University of Idaho to play basketball.

"It feels good to be honored," Winston said. "This is my last high-school achievement before graduation. I want to thank my teams and coaches, and especially my family, for all this."

Winston and teammate Michael Weisner were both nominated for the award.

"He's my teammate and friend," Winston said of Weisner. "It's hard to know he couldn't win too."

But, he said his win is for the Blue Devil team and all the players' hard work through the season.

Winston graduates in June and leaves for Idaho a few days later. He has summer training before work starts in earnest in the fall and the season begins in November.

When he starts putting on black and gold, he'll have one familiar face in the stands. Wa-Hi head basketball coach John Golden plans to be there.

"Idaho is a great fit for him," Golden said. "I'm proud of him. I'll definitely be watching him play and I plan to make the trip to see him.

"He's got a great work ethic, he's a great person and I think he's got a bright future in Division I ball."

Winston, who was responsible for 1,000 points throughout the hoops season, hopes to leave behind a strong legacy for the Blue Devils.

"I hope they work hard next year," he said. "What we did last year was out team, and next year it will be a different team. They can't sit back and think it's easy. If they work hard, great things will happen."

Nine Wa-Hi seniors are graduating of that basketball team.

Whitman's Fuchs, selected Scholar-Athlete of the Year, did not attend the event.

A standing-room only crowd attended the Blue Mountain Youth Recognition evening at the Walla Walla Elks Club. The event is in its 34th year. The primary sponsors are Baker Boyer Bank and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

The Walla Walla Exchange Club sponsored the Coach of the Year award, the Kiwanis Club sponsored Female Athlete of the Year, the Rotary Club sponsored Male Athlete of the Year and Baker Boyer Bank sponsored Team of the Year. Tom Baffney, event founder, sponsored Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

J.R. Loe and Randy Grant, both from the Walla Walla YMCA, MC'd the event.

Each area high school was also represented by student who received awards based on scholarship, leadership and citizenship. Austin Heinrich (Dayton), Lexi Zander (DeSales), Meghan Schroeder (Helix), Ashley Doherty (Mac-Hi), Mat Slaybaugh (Pomeroy), Rocio Escalante (Prescott), Emily Huesby (Touchet), Katlyn Stringham (Waitsburg), Philip Somers (Wa-Hi), Elizabeth Field (WWVA) and Laina Fairchild (Weston-McEwen).

Ultimately, the night was about the accomplishments of all the students in the room.

"We're here to recognize students and coaches who excel in sports and academics," said Megan Clubb, who represented Baker Boyer Bank. "They all put hard work into their sport and class work to achieve the level of excellence. You've all done a fantastic job and you're very successful."

Each nominee received a plaque and each individual winner received a small trophy, with a larger trophy heading to their schools' awards cabinets.

Nancy Johnson, who accepted the team award on behalf of the cheering Warrior basketball team, added some philosophy to the evening.

"As a philosophy major, there's a question we talk about a lot," Johnson said. "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? I'm thinking that tonight, with these amazing people who work so hard, the whole community is hearing your sound."

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