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It was a night of surprises Thursday at the annual Senior Athlete Award Ceremony.
The annual event, held at Duane Smith Auditorium, honors some of the top athletic performers from the previous year for Los Alamos High School.
The climax of the night is the presentation of the Clendenen Student-Athlete Awards, which recognizes the top graduating student-athletes. In all, 11 girls and 3 boys were the finalists for this year’s award, which was won by swimmer and tennis player Dalton Smith on the boys side and three-sport star Erin Kirk on the girls.
Smith said he was stunned when his name was called.
“I feel completely humbled,” Smith said. “I feel honored that I have been given a good opportunity to excel. To choose me, I was shocked. There are great athletes at this school.”
Smith wasn’t the only person to express surprise that they were selected for awards Thursday.
Los Alamos athletic director Vicki Nelms, who served as emcee of the ceremony, said she was proud of the accomplishments of the school’s student-athletes this past year, not the least of which was they had outperformed the athletes from one of LAHS’ main rivals, Albuquerque Academy, in many sports.
One of the other highlights Nelms pointed out this season was the cumulative grade-point average of LAHS’ student-athletes against that of the rest of the school. Athletes had a 3.33 GPA, while non-athletes had a 3.07. The scholars of the athletic program were the girls tennis players, who had a 3.78 GPA.
The girls tennis program, which won the 2013 state championship by upsetting four-time champ Farmington in the final earlier this month, earned both the Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year honors.
Bruce Cottrell, whose team secured a record eighth state title, was named the Girls Coach of the Year. While he too said the award was unexpected, he was much happier about the win for his top assistant.
“It was a surprise,” said Cottrell. “But I really wanted Ashley (Bonner) to get it. I wasn’t worried about me, but without Ashley, we wouldn’t have won the doubles title.”
Cottrell credited Bonner, herself a former multiple state champ for the Hilltopper girls tennis team, with grooming the team of Madeline Margevicius/Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff and preparing it for a remarkable state championship run in 2013.
The other top coach of the year was Robert Geyer.
Geyer, who took over the wrestling program in the 2009-10 season at a time when there was serious talk about cutting the sport altogether, steered the team to a fifth-place finish in Class 4A and produced individual state champ Brian Geyer.
“It’s awesome to have won it, but I have to credit a lot of it to the kids,” Geyer said. “When we were on the cutting block, they went out there and they did a lot of recruiting.”
Geyer said his team lost a lot of top seniors, but he fully expects 30 wrestlers to be involved with the program in 2013-14.
Also Thursday, Nelms noted that there were a total of seven senior student-athletes that were involved in at least three sports this past year.
Wally Walters Memorial Scholarship
Sean Reardon, Jennifer Mooday
James Edmund Stewart Scholarship
Black Lion Award
Brice Van Etten
NMADA Scholar-Athlete Nominees
Sean Reardon, Laura Wendleberger
Girls Assistant Coach of the Year
Boys Assistant Coach of the Year
Girls Coach of the Year
Boys Coach of the Year
Clendenen Award Finalists
Boys: Cooper Christensen, Sean Reardon, Dalton Smith
Girls: Jordan Ahlers, Micaela Christensen, Janali Gustafson, Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff, Erin Kirk, Madeline Margevicius, Amy Neal, Danielle Ortiz, Cassidy Reeves, Morgan Schake, Laura Wendelberger
Clendenen Award Winners
Dalton Smith, Erin Kirk