Sierra Nevada Media Group names athletes of the year

The Sierra Nevada Media Group named Galena's Cole Dowty and Whittell's Katrina Kacirek as its high school athletes of the year for 2006.

The two were chosen out of all the athletes from schools covered on a regular basis by the Sierra Media Group's newspapers: Truckee's Sierra Sun, the Appeal, The Record-Courier, Tahoe Daily Tribune, Tahoe World, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Fallon's Lahontan Valley News. Kacirek and Dowty were selected based on voting done by staff from the Sierra Nevada newspapers.

This was the second year the awards were given. Last year, Fallon's Josh Mauga and Douglas' Erin Brinkmeyer were the recipients.

Dowty was a tight end and defensive end for Galena's football team and earned all-High Desert League, all-Northern 4A and all-state first team honors as a defensive end. In wrestling, Dowty was a two-time regional champion and a zone runner-up and qualified for state three times.

In track, Dowty ran on the 4 x 800 and 4 x 400 relay teams, which both earned third at the NIAA 4A State meet and helped the Grizzlies win the state title. It was a stellar ending to his high school career as Dowty went from playing for a football team that went 1-9 to making the zone semifinals in football and winning the state track title in less than two years.

Dowty also carried a 3.8 grade point average and plans to major in civil engineering at the University of Nevada. As a result, Dowty was named as one of Northern Nevada's top 10 student-athletes by the NIAA. Dowty credited his teacher and coaches for the award.

"It was just for them as much as me," he said. "It was just a tremendous honor. That was awesome."

Along with winning the state track title, Dowty's other memorable moments included winning a playoff game this past year in football and almost beating McQueen in the zone semifinals. "That was our goal all year to beat McQueen," Dowty said.

Another memorable moment came when Dowty lost by one point to Fallon's Riley Orozco in the Northern 4A finals. Orozco went on to win the 171-pound NIAA 4A state title.

Dowty said it was an honor to represent Galena.

"It's a pretty tight community out here," Dowty said. "Everyone's just real supportive."

He also said being the Sierra Nevada Athlete of the Year was one of the top honors he's received. "That ranks up there with the NIAA," said Dowty, comparing the Sierra Nevada Award to being one of Northern Nevada's top 10 student athletes.

Kacirek also made an impact in three sports.

Last year, Kacirek was one of the best jumpers in the state. She helped then-sophomore and teammate Jessica Woods with technique in both the triple jump and long jump.

Woods accepted her best friend's advice and proceeded to win the state long jump title, finishing in front of second-place Kacirek.

"It's funny because Katrina basically taught Jessica how to long jump last year and Jessica ended up beating her at state," Whittell track coach Brian Rippet said. "Katrina wasn't fine with it, but she knew it was her teammate and she was happy for her. This year it was reversed because Katrina won state in the long jump."

It's that drive that resulted in Kacirek being named the Sierra Nevada Senior Female Athlete of the Year.

During the 2005-06 school year, Kacirek won state titles in volleyball and track, and also led the girls' basketball team to its first regional title in more than two decades. In all, Kacirek won 10 regional and state titles.

In volleyball, Kacirek was dominating, having been named first team all-state and all-league. She holds the state record for most aces in a career (205) and won her third career state title in volleyball, helping the Warriors to a 30-7 record.

Coming off an impressive volleyball season, Kacirek had an easy transition to basketball. She averaged a double-double and helped Whittell win the Northern 2A regional title and advance to the state semifinals.

Kacirek led the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game and was second on the team with 10.2 rebounds per game.

She also averaged three steals per game. When Kacirek went down with a knee injury midway through the season, the Warriors went 0-5 in games without her. When Kacirek returned, Whittell regrouped and went on to win the regional title.

That competitive spirit trickled over into the track season.

Kacirek, who missed most of the spring with tendinitis, came back to win state in long jump and also ran one leg on the state record 4x100 relay team that helped Whittell win its second consecutive team state title.

"Third-time state champs in volleyball, zone champs in basketball for first time in 20 years, then state champs again in track ... it couldn't have been a better senior year than that," said Kacirek, who won seven individual state track titles in her career.

Kacirek said she will attend the University of Oregon next season but hasn't decided if she will play sports.

Douglas High's Lauren Martin finished third place in the voting for her efforts with the Tiger ski team and the San Jose Junior Sharks traveling hockey team this season.

Staff from the papers of the Sierra Nevada Media Group voted on the athletes of the year. Winners received a plaque and a $500 check.

- The Nevada Appeal's Charles Whisnand and the Tahoe Daily Tribune's Jeremy Evans each contributed to this report.


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