The Class of 2013 winners were chosen by Herald staff writers and editors based on first-hand observations and information from coaches and athletic directors.
Amy-Eloise Neale is always running.
Whether it’s at the Washington state track and field championships, an international championship in Poland or to her next class at Glacier Peak High School, Neale is usually at the front of the pack.
In the past four years she has won seven state track and field titles, three state cross country individual championships and led the Grizzlies to three team titles as well. Recently she competed for Great Britain in the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country junior championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland and finished 21st overall, helping the British team to a third-place finish as the junior women’s team collected the first medal in its history.
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And if that wasn’t enough, the 2012 Gatorade Washington Girls Track Athlete of the Year maintained a 4.0 grade point average while doing it, making her the valedictorian for her class at Glacier Peak.
Neale, who will continue her illustrious running career at the University of Washington, holds three Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association state records in track and field. Not surprisingly, it’s the three distance events: the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Her incredible career, which is rivaled only by her academic record, earned Neale the Class of 2013 Girl Athlete of the Year award. Herald writer David Krueger recently caught up with Neale, something not a lot of people have been able to do, to discuss the past four years and what’s next:
What was the top moment of your high school career? Or, I guess, the last four years?
My top moments running with my high school were probably at state cross country state this past year and state track this past year, because my team did really well. Overall, it would probably be when I ran in the cross country championships in Poland. It was really exciting and the team did really well.
Is it tough flying across the world and then having to run a race every time you land?
I struggled for a couple weeks this track season switching back to track from cross country. And the travel had an effect on me. I was exhausted from all of it. But it was a lot of fun.
Are you sick of running yet?
No. Obviously there are days when you don’t feel like going to practice. But I haven’t had one of those in a long time and you just know you’re going to regret it if you don’t go. Honestly, it keeps me sane getting to run through problems and it relieves tension or stress. It helps me manage everything else.
With all your running, how did you have time to keep a 4.0 GPA and be valedictorian?
In all honesty, I don’t have time. Academics have always been really important to me. My parents have always stressed academics are going to last longer than your running. You never know if you’ll get injured or when your career will end. I just really tried to budget my time well. I actually have no idea how I did it, but I’m excited to start next year (in college) not being completely stressed out about grades.
What will you miss most about high school?
Definitely the people. I’m glad to be done with the actual school aspect of it, but there’s definitely some people that I’m going to miss and some really great teachers that have been really supportive over the last four years. Luckily, one of my best friends is going with me to Washington.
What are your future plans?
The European championship trials. I (left Wednesday) morning and those are in England on Sunday and if I qualify for that I go on to the European Championship in Italy in July. Then the next few years at U-Dub I’ll just figure it out as it goes. Hopefully run some steeple(chase). I’ve been doing that this season and having a lot of fun. I’ll just take it as it comes.
When can we expect to see you in the Olympics? Is 2016 too soon? Is that a goal you have?
It’s unlikely in 2016. The big dream is to get to the Olympics one day. So I definitely wouldn’t count it out. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, necessarily. You never know when it’s going to happen. Maybe one day I’ll be there. I just have to focus on now and what I can do and hopefully I stay injury free and we’ll just kind of see what happens.
THE FINAL FOUR NOMINEES
For the athletes of the year, the top five vote-getters in the fan vote were combined with a staff pick and pared down to a top four before a winner was chosen. Besides Amy-Eloise Neale, the three athletes below were in the final four of the Class of 2013 Girl Athlete of the Year:
Ariel Jensen, Lakewood
Jensen overcame a rare blood disease idiopathic aplastic anemia to compete in three different sports throughout her high school career: cross country, track and soccer. Aided by a friend, Charnie Dondrea, Jensen organized a bone marrow drive that got 47 people to sign up for the bone marrow transplant list. In the summer of 2012, Jensen attended the Summer Olympics in London with the help of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Ronnie Ladines, Arlington
Of course it’s impressive that Ladines came back from injury to lead Arlington to a state championship and was named The Herald’s Softball Player of the Year. But what’s even more impressive arguably is that Ladines contributed greatly to the Eagles girls soccer and girls basketball teams this year despite never having played on the varsity teams before her senior seasons. She did it all while carrying a 3.913 grade point average while taking Advanced Placement classes like calculus and physics. She’s headed to Kent State on a softball scholarship.
Sarah Jenkins, Cascade
Throughout here high school career, Jenkins played four different sports but it was on the soccer field that she made her mark. After leading the Bruins to a Wesco 4A South and district championship and state appearance, she was selected as a first-team midfielder on the The Herald’s All-Area team. She was voted Most Valuable Player and Most Inspirational on the girls tennis team as a senior in the spring. In the classroom, Jenkins maintained a 3.98 GPA while taking a number of college-level courses. She also volunteered at soccer camps as a coach and referee. She’s headed to Northwest Nazarene University to continue her soccer career.
Fan voting final results