By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — Picking two student-athletes out of the eleven nominated for the Dwayne Lane’s Athlete of the Year award at Thursday’s Everett School District Athletic Awards Night was a challenge to say the least.
There were a combined 83 varsity letters earned between the 11 different athletes from Cascade, Everett and Jackson High Schools — and numerous other accolades to mention.
At the end of the evening, Cascade’s Sarah Jenkins was named the girl Athlete of the year and Jackson’s Conner Hayes won for the boys.
The Dwayne Lane’s Athlete of the Year, formerly known as the Walsh-Platt award, recognizes student-athletes who not only find success in athletics, but also in the classroom and the community.
Hayes earned seven varsity letters in his high-school career, all of them coming in either cross country or track. The senior has a 3.54 GPA and will run at Seattle University after graduation.
“It’s a very surreal feeling to win this award,” he said. “I remember coming here as an underclassman and looking up on the stage and seeing my role models getting nominated for this award and I could only hope that I could do half of what they did and have an impact on the younger kids around them and try to set an example as a hard-working athlete and as an upstanding individual with the right morals. It feels so great to just be recognized.”
According to Hayes, he might not have even ran in high school if it weren’t for the influence of Jackson cross country and track coach Eric Hruschka.
“He saw me coming in my freshman year,” Hayes said. “I didn’t intend to run. I wasn’t a runner, my parents weren’t runners. He saw me walking through the doors of the school and said ‘hey, you should come onto the cross country team.’ I said, ‘I don’t know I’m a basketball player.’ And he said, ‘no you’re not, you’re going to be a runner.’ And I took his word and filled out my paperwork and haven’t regretted it since.”
As the only boys from Jackson up for the award, there was an extra moment of drama for Hayes and classmate Conor Plaisance.
“When they said Jackson and they said Conner, I didn’t know who they were going to choose because of Conor Plaisance — and he’s just as deserving,” Hayes said. “When they finished the sentence and said ‘Hayes,’ I was just like, ‘wow!’ This feeling, I hope it never goes away.”
Jenkins earned eight varsity letters in her four years of high school, four for soccer, one for track and two for tennis. She also played basketball her freshman and sophomore year. Jenkins has a 3.98 GPA and is ranked in the top three percent of her class. She is headed to Northwest Nazarene University after graduation.
“It kind of establishes what I’ve worked for,” Jenkins said. “It’s like a final recognition of the work that I’ve put into the community and the work that I’ve put into my school.”
Both Hayes and Jenkins expressed admiration for their fellow nominees.
“I have always felt pretty confident in myself and my abilities,” Jenkins said “But standing up next to 10 other great individuals, it makes me feel like an underdog. It makes me feel like they deserve this award more than I do because of the service that they’ve put in, but then I have to remember, oh wait, I’ve done these things as well.”
Hayes and Jenkins weren’t the only student-athletes recognized on Thursday. Each school named a boy and girl scholar-athlete award winner for each sports season, the Cliff Gillies Awards from each school were announced as well as three-sport letter winners.
The 200 and 400-meter freestyle relay state champion swim team of Nichole Carlson, Darcie Booth, Danielle Booth and Kalena Laurent were recognized as the only athletes from the three schools to bring home a state championship this season.
Jackson’s Jason Todd also received a special recognition award from being named the Washington State Gatorade High School Player of the Year after leading his team to the Class 4A state championship game in March.
The Everett School District also honors a coach of the year from each school. Cheer coach Jenny Beste won for Jackson, girls basketball coach John Low won for Everett and football coach Joe Cronin won for Cascade.
Low helped the Seagulls rally from some mid-season adversity to win the 3A district 1 championship. Cronin helped the Bruins win five games after going winless the previous two seasons.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.