Storylines abound as Blue Mountain Sports Awards approach

A scintillating season in Valley sports has created several interesting storylines heading into this year's Blue Mountain Sports Awards.

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By JIM BUCHAN

of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

There are many interesting story lines to this year's Blue Mountain Sports Awards, which will be presented May 17 at the Walla Walla Elks Lodge.

Here's a sample:

Will the third time be the charm for Wa-Hi's softball team? The Blue Devils have been finalists in the Team of the Year category the last two years but have yet to win the honor.

Will an athlete from Waitsburg High School accept the Male Athlete of the Year trophy for the first time in the 35-year history of the Blue Mountain Sports Awards? Zach Bartlow is one of this year's finalists in that category.

Will a father-son duo share the spotlight for the first time? Zach's father, Jeff Bartlow, is a finalist in the Coach of the Year category, a rare combination of finalists that hasn't occurred since 1986.

Will one brother follow in another's footsteps? Pomeroy's Tory Knebel, another finalist this year in the Male category, is the younger brother of 2009 winner Tye Knebel.

Is there a sweep - or even a near sweep - in the offing? Waitsburg-Prescott has a finalist in all five sports awards categories and Weston-McEwen is represented in four of the five.

And finally, can Wa-Hi's Jerry Humphreys repeat as Coach of the Year? Or is this the year DeSales' Kim Cox claims his all-time record seventh coaching award? They're both among this year's finalists in that category.

The answers to all of these questions, and presumably many more, will be revealed at the Blue Mountain Recognition Evening, which will be held in conjunction with the 36th annual Blue Mountain Sports Awards. The program begins at 7 p.m., is free of charge and is open to the public.

The event is co-sponsored by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and Baker Boyer Bank, and the night will include academic recognition for nominated students from each of the area's 11 high schools as well as the announcement of the five sports awards winners.

Here is a closer look at the finalists in each of the five sports awards categories:

Male Athlete of the Year

ZACH BARTLOW - This all-around senior led Waitsburg-Prescott to the Class 2B-11 state football championship and was honored as the all-state quarterback and Class 2B-11 Player of the Year in the state of Washington. Bartlow was also all-Southeast 2B District in baseball last spring and in basketball as well. No athlete from Waitsburg High has ever won the Male Athlete award, although Prescott's Pat Barker did way back in 1978, the second year of the Blue Mountain Sports Awards.

RYAN BULLOCK - A standout wrestler at Mac-Hi, this senior battled his way to the Oregon Class 4A state championship at 152 pounds. When his season finally came to an end, Bullock boasted an unblemished 33-0 season record.

TORY KNEBEL - Three years after big brother Tye rode his star to Male Athlete of the Year, Tory Knebel has been Mr. Everything for the Pirates over the past year. He was a Class 1B state track and field qualifier in three events as a junior, winning the state championship in the 400-meter relay, placing second in the 1,600 relay and sixth in the individual 100. He was also an all-Southeast 1B-8 League selection at running back and defensive line during a football season in which he led the Pirates to the state semifinals. But he was at his best over the winter on the wrestling mat as he won the Class 1B state title at 170 pounds - his second straight state championship - and finished with a 41-1 season record. The only other siblings to win Blue Mountain awards were Male Athletes of the Year Todd Richard (1979), Brian Richard (1982) and Jason Richard (1994).

DALLAS REICH - Another all-around talent who was all-Special District 6 in baseball last spring and all-Blue Mountain Conference in football in the fall and basketball over the winter, this senior has made an indelible mark on Weston-McEwen athletics. Reich was selected Oregon Class 2A first-team all-state as a defensive back and second-team at quarterback after leading the TigerScots to the state semifinals in football. And he became only the third player in school history to score 1,500 points in his career as he was named all-state in basketball and took the TigerScots to their second straight appearance in the Class 2A state final eight in Pendleton.

AUSTIN REISDORPH - The only non-senior among the five finalists, this junior stud made his mark in track last spring as a freshman as well as football and wrestling during the current school year. Reisdorph qualified for the Class 1B state track finals in four events, winning the 400 relay, placing second in the 1,600 relay, third in the 200 meters and fifth in the 400. He was an all-Southeast 1B-8 selection in football at linebacker and qualified for the Class 1B state wrestling finals where he placed second at 195 pounds with a final 31-5 record.

Female Athlete of the Year

ALYSON AMBLER - Hoping to follow in the footsteps of teammate Hope Klicker, last year's Female Athlete of the Year, this Wa-Hi senior did it all for the Blue Devils on the softball field during her junior campaign in 2011. She was selected to the all-Big Nine Conference first team as a pitcher as well as the Big Nine's Most Valuable Player and led the Blue Devils to the Class 4A state championship. She compiled a 15-0 won-lost record with a 0.57 earned run average and 171 strikeouts in 98 innings pitched. Playing first base when she didn't pitch, Ambler batted .506 with nine home runs, 36 runs scored 34 runs batted in, and she was named to the Gatorade Underclass All-America team as a first baseman.

BRITTANY DOMINGUEZ - A 6-foot middle blocker out of Weiser, Idaho, this Walla Walla Community College sophomore was selected to the NWAACC all-Eastern Region first team and was named the East's Player of the Year. She led the Warriors into the NWAACC Championships where they finished second, and she was selected to the all-tournament team as well as the NWAACC Coaches' Association All-America team.

MORGAN ENTZE - Weston-McEwen's representative in the Female Athlete of the Year category, this senior excelled in three sports for the TigerScots. She was a Special District 6 first-team selection in softball last spring and earned all-Blue Mountain Conference honors in volleyball and basketball this school year. She was also named to the Oregon Class 2A all-state first team in volleyball.

KRISTIN POTTER - This Waitsburg-Prescott senior qualified for the Class 2B state track and field meet in four events last spring as a junior and was an all-Southeast 2B District first-team basketball selection over the winter. Potter earned her state track tickets in the 100, 200, 400 and 400 relay. She placed seventh in the 400, ninth in the 200, 11th in the 400 and 11th in the relay.

Scholar-Athlete of the Year

ZACH BARTLOW - The only athlete to earn finalist honors in two categories, Bartlow owns a 4.0 grade point average and is Waitsburg-Prescott's ASB president. In addition to his athletic achievements, Bartlow has organized and led a community presentation for healthy youth survey, volunteered serving food at the Christian Aid Center, organized and ran weekend basketball camps for elementary students and leads weekly Young Life group activities.

CONOR HOLTON-BURKE - A tennis standout from Boulder, Colo., this Whitman College senior carries a 3.972 GPA into next week's graduation ceremonies. A National Honor Society Phi Beta Kappa, he wrote his senior thesis on laboratory research into the development of small-molecule cancer-fighting drugs to prevent degradation of tumor-suppressing proteins. He was awarded the Phi Delta Theta Sound Learning Award and will graduate with honors in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. As a tennis player for the Missionaries, he was named the Northwest Conference Player of the Year last spring and has won more than 120 matches in his career. He is a two-time ITA All-American.

KYLE JAMESON - Another 4.0 grade point average student, this Wa-Hi senior is a Washington State Scholar nominee and a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. He is a recipient of the Exchange Club Youth of the Month award, was selected the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Big Nine Conference Male Athlete for the winter of 2012, is a member of the wind ensemble, received the American Legion Marksmanship Award on the Precision Rifle Team and was a senior scholar in football and basketball and all-Big Nine honorable mention at linebacker in football. He has also been a student-coach for the Blue Devil Athletic Development summer program, the 4H president, has completed Boy and Eagle Scout projects, has participated in Red Cross dinners and has a Congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy.

CLAIRE KONEN - This 4.05 GPA DeSales senior has already undertaken five AP courses, including European history, U.S. history, British literature, physics and calculus. She was her school's student of the quarter in biology, chemistry, U.S. history, English and economics, is the recipient of the Duane Tompkins Memorial Scholarship, served as the junior class treasurer and led two retreats. She was captain of the DeSales girls basketball team and was a member of a Wa-Hi tennis doubles team that qualified for the Class 4A state tournament.

MOLLY VON BORSTEL - Although she's just finishing up her sophomore year, von Borstel is already making her mark in the classroom and on the athletic fields and courts at Weston-McEwen. She boasts a 4.0 GPA and is a member of National Honor Society. She is enrolled in all AP classes that are available to her and her artwork has been published in the National Art Publication and Creative News. She was first-team all-Blue Mountain Conference and third-team Oregon Class 2A all-state in volleyball, first-team all-league in basketball and softball and a captain of the TigerScots volleyball and basketball teams.

Coach of the Year

JEFF BARTLOW - The longtime Waitsburg-Prescott football coach and more recent head track coach enjoyed a banner year beginning last spring. Bartlow's boys track team won the Southeast 2B District championship and placed fifth at the state meet. And his football team rolled to a 14-0 overall record and won the Class 2B-11 state championship, the first state grid title in Waitsburg history and the second for Prescott, which won the 8-man crown in 1978. Bartlow was named SEB-11 Coach of the Year, and he and his son Zach are the first father-son finalists since Whitman basketball coach Jim Mastin and his son and star player Dave were up for awards in 1986.

CHAD BODNER - Walla Walla Community College's men's and women's soccer coach took his women's team to a 22-0-1 record and a third consecutive NWAACC championship. Both of his teams won the Eastern Region championship and he was voted East Coach of the Year. Bodner has been a Blue Mountain Coach of the Year finalist in each of the last four years, and he won Coach of the Year honors in 2009 in recognition of his men's team's NWAACC title.

KIM COX - DeSales' longtime successful baseball coach won his first Class B state championship in 1989. In the years since, he has been a Coach of the Year finalist more times than not for both baseball and football coaching success, and he has won the award no fewer than six times, most recently in 1998. In the past year he was inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame, and his 2011 Irish baseball team won league, district and regional championships before its bid for a 17th Class B state title was thwarted in the state semifinals. DeSales finished with a 19-6 record.

JOSE GARCIA - Mac-Hi's boys soccer coach is a finalist in the Coach of the Year category for the fifth time overall but for the first time since 2009. Garcia won back-to-back Coach of the Year awards in 2006-07 when his Pioneers were in the midst of winning three consecutive Oregon state soccer crowns and a pair of Blue Mountain trophies. Garcia's most recent Mac-Hi team claimed another Greater Oregon League title and a pair of postseason wins before losing to Philomath 1-0 in the Class 4A state semifinals to finish with a 13-3-0 record.

JERRY HUMPHREYS - Wa-Hi's veteran softball coach will be on the dais for a third consecutive year and in position to become just the third coach in history to win Blue Mountain Coach of the Year awards in consecutive years. His Blue Devils have improved in each of the last three years, and last spring Wa-Hi brought home the school's first state softball championship and a 27-1 final record.

Team of the Year

WA-HI SOFTBALL - The Blue Devils suffered their only loss of the season to Richland during the regular season and tied the Bombers for the Big Nine Conference title. They then defeated Wenatchee 5-1 and Richland 10-1 to claim the district title and topped the same two teams again in regionals, 11-1 over Wenatchee and 7-4 over Richland, to claim the region's No. 1 seed to the Class 4A state tourney. At state, Wa-Hi swept away Jefferson 10-0, Eastlake 5-0, Marysville-Pilchuck 1-0 and Skyview 1-0 for the first state softball title in the school's history and a 27-1 final record.

WAITSBURG-PRESCOTT SOCCER - In only its second year of existence, the W-P co-ed soccer club brought home a state Class B championship. After winning the district title and registering a 5-1 victory over Northwest Christian in a state play-in game, W-P defeated St. George's 2-1 in overtime, toppled Moses Lake Christian 6-1 and Providence Classical Christian 1-0 to capture the state title.

WAITSBURG-PRESCOTT FOOTBALL - It was a wire-to-wire race for W-P last fall. The team won the Southeast 2B-11 League championship and took an undefeated record into the postseason. After beating Kettle Falls 54-21 in the first round, W-P followed up with a 48-7 romp past Brewster in the second round, a 42-7 thumping of Ritzville-Sprague in the quarterfinals and a satisfying 35-7 win over Colfax, the team that ended W-P's season the previous two year, in the state semifinals. In the Gridiron Classic in Tacoma, it was all Waitsburg-Prescott in a 33-7 conquest of Morton-White Pass for the school's unprecedented 14-0 final record.

WALLA WALLA COMMUNITY COLLEGE WOMEN'S SOCCER - The Warriors dominated from the start, winning their ninth consecutive Eastern Region championship and earning a home-field berth in the NWAACC quarterfinals. After dispatching Clark 6-0, the Warriors moved on to Tukwila where they downed Everett 3-1 in the semifinals and Peninsula 1-0 in the championship game. WWCC finished with a 22-0-1 record.

WESTON-MCEWEN FOOTBALL - The TigerScots' climb from mediocrity to respectability to dominance in the Blue Mountain Conference became clear on the night of Oct. 28 when they humbled perennial league power Heppner 38-8 in Athena. The following Friday night W-M defeated Enterprise 37-0, the team's sixth shutout of the season, to claim the BMC title and a 9-0 record going into the postseason. The TigerScots tamed Knappa 48-14 in the first round and topped Kennedy 20-6 in the quarterfinals before losing to Scio 46-8 in the Oregon Class 2A state semis. They finished with a 12-1 record.

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