Remarkable senior class made it a tough choice
The whole idea of picking an athlete of the year for a community is to select an individual who best represents the school year that was.
When a year is as marked and defined by success as this one was for Douglas High School, the process of narrowing down the possible poster children of that success was a pretty difficult chore.
These seniors were freshmen when I first took the job as sports editor at The R-C, so all I can say is that this class has been everything I’ve come to know about Tiger athletics so far.
Collectively, they’ve been a part of two regional championships, seven regional runner-up finishes, 10 league championships and three league runner-up finishes.
On the boys’ side, there were no less than 10 candidates who could’ve been easily picked, starting with any senior on the football team’s defensive front seven.
There was all-region honoree and league defensive player of the year Sean Molina, a defensive tackle who also won the Northern 4A Regional title in the 189-pound weight class.
Defensive end Phil Mannelly was a first-team all-league pick and also anchored down the Tigers’ lineup in baseball batting in the No. 3 spot and starting at first base. Linebacker Ryan Pruitt was a first-team all-leaguer, a regional wrestling runner-up in the 152-pound bracket and the starting third-baseman for the baseball team.
Middle linebacker Brent Koontz was named the region’ defensive player of the year and the Sierra League co-player of the year, doubling on the offensive side at tight end. And of course, there was Whalin, another starting defensive end, who ended up taking the award.
Throw in defensive back Niko Saladis, who picked off six passes and returned one for a game-changing touchdown against Reno and also managed to play a mean center field in baseball. He was a second-team all-leaguer in both sports. Starting safety Cole Hamzik was an all-region pick and played for the Douglas roller hockey team throughout his high school career as well.
But it wasn’t limited to the guys on the gridiron.
Mike Gransbery broke the school record for goals in a career (60) and played the last month of the season on a broken toe before turning around and helping to lead the Tiger basketball team into the regional championship game. He was a first-team all-leaguer in both sports and the Sierra League Offensive Player of the Year in soccer.
And you can’t forget the big guy. Keith Olson became the school’s first Division I basketball signee since the mid-80s and carried the team on his shoulders through much of the regional playoffs. He was a four-time first-team all-leaguer, a four-time All-Sierra Nevada Media Group selection and a four-time first-team all-region selection.
On the girls’ side, there was Morgan LeFever, who broke school and state records for goals in a season and in a career after coming back from an ankle injury during the spring that threatened to end her soccer career. It appears she’ll be playing for the University of Nevada next year.
Another soccer player, Alicia Sturgess, gave up her Miss Douglas County crown in order to compete in the state track and field championships with the girls’ 4×400 relay team.
But in the end, it was Whalin (who I first met while he was in the midst of hitting upwards of 30 home runs at the junior varsity level as a freshman) and Skylar Young (who came by our office as a sophomore to talk up her track teammates that attended an offseason training camp) who stood out above the others.
No matter what season it was during their four years at Douglas, it seemed that they were always simply in the thick of things.
And there really isn’t a better way to represent a class that experienced as much all-around success as this one did.
— Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.