While sitting in a comfy chair at a friend’s house in the Village of Oak Creek on Jan. 23, I watched the seconds tick away on the game clock in the NFC Championship game, realizing my team was finally going to the Super Bowl.

With January 2011 only a few days away, I thought it was time to hand out my 2010 Athletes of the Year awards.

Covering the Verde Valley sports scene can be challenging but nonetheless rewarding because I get to see so many great athletes and their timeless performances.

Shortstop Mike Boler made play after play up the middle to help lead his Camp Verde High School baseball team to the state championship game, only to suffer the agony of defeat.

Kevin Cox of the Sedona Red Rock High School track and field team earned four gold medals in the regional meet in April and three in the state championships a week later.

Luke Goettl won his fourth consecutive individual state championship for the Mingus Union High School wrestling team in February.

Although I wasn’t there, hearing about seventh-grade runner Penny Fenn representing her school and her community in the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Alabama last month was a tearjerker to say the least.

With professional athletes earning millions upon millions of dollars and still wanting more and top college athletes and their families being accused of taking money left and right, amateur athletics is the only pure sport left.

With that said, all of our Verde Valley athletes and their coaches deserve a round of applause.

Kevin Cox, right, was a First Team All-Region and Honorable Mention All-State selection in February for the Sedona Red Rock High School basketball team. He also earned three gold medals at the track and field state championships in May.For my top Male Athlete of 2010, I’d like to congratulate Cox. His gold medal performances in the 100- and 200-meter dash events were outstanding and his gold medal in the long jump seemed to come easy.

Cox was a First Team All-region award winner and a received an All-State Honorable Mention award for the Scorpions in basketball, leading Sedona in scoring [16.5] and rebounding [6.5]. Cox is only one of three players to play all four years at the varsity level for Sedona basketball.

Runner-up to Cox for the Male Athlete of 2010 award would be Boler for the Cowboys.

Those who followed Boler’s high school career will remember his leadership on and off the playing field most of all.

Boler was asked to throw out the first pitch next to big leaguer Doug Davis at the new baseball field in Camp Verde and was a three-sport athlete for the Cowboys.

Boler played football, basketball and baseball for Camp Verde. Boler earned All-Region and All-State awards in May for his performance on the baseball field and was the 2A Central MVP.

Receiving honorable mention for the Male Athlete of 2010 award, I’d like to nominate several athletes for their solid performances.

Tanner Rezzonico of Camp Verde led his team in rushing with 884 yards and 10 touchdowns to receive an All-State selection this fall. Rezzonico played baseball as well for the Cowboys, earning an All-Region selection.

Jesus Rivera won a gold medal in the 800-meter run with a 1:57.15 time at the track and field state championships in May for Sedona.Ryan Cadigan of Sedona led the Scorpions in goals scored after all was said and done in February, while Jesus Rivera was the 800-meter state champion with a 1:57.15 time for the Scorpions.

Hunter Zwart was outstanding for the Marauders baseball team in the spring, hitting .467 with nine home runs and 41 RBI to go along with his 11 doubles and three triples.

Roman Bux of Camp Verde wrestled his way to a state championship at 140 pounds in February while Mingus’ Alexander Lineberry earned his way to a second-place finish at state in tennis singles in May.

I wouldn’t want to forget Mingus senior Juan Gonzalez, who led the Marauders football team to a 9-3 overall record while scoring seven touchdowns and finishing second on the team with 97 tackles and four interceptions.

For my top Female Athlete of 2010, I’d like to award Mingus graduate Tessa Fanning.

Fanning helped the girls soccer team claim its first state championship in February at the goalkeeper position and hit .611 with nine home runs and 52 runs batted in for the softball team in the spring.

Receiving runner-up for my top Female Athlete of 2010 is Camp Verde sophomore Donnie Buss.
Buss was a First Team All-Region selection in volleyball this fall and is one of the top guards for the Cowboys basketball team as well.

Buss also received several awards while participating in track and field for Camp Verde, making her one of the most well-rounded athletes in the Verde Valley.

Receiving honorable mention would be Sedona softball standout Whitney Cooper, who hit .646 with 14 home runs and 70 RBI.

Cooper had 13 doubles and seven triples and also pitched for the Scorpions, recording a 1.68 ERA in 87 innings pitched this past spring with 91 strikeouts.

Whitney Cooper hit .646 with 14 home runs and 70 RBIs in the spring softball season for Sedona Red Rock High School. She had a 1.68 ERA in 87 innings pitched with 91 strikeouts as well.As for Fenn, she finished 29th overall at Veterans Park in Hoover, Ala., with an 11:51 time in the national championships.

Fenn won the fifth- and sixth-grade championships last year locally, and won the seventh- and eighth-grade title this season.

Camp Verde’s Shayna Sterrett got a First Team All-Region award this fall for her performance on the volleyball court and did an excellent job playing first base for the Cowboys in the spring.

Last but not least, sophomore Mykala Seresun was outstanding in 2010, finishing second overall in the 3, 200-meter run as a freshman in the spring. Seresun earned a title this fall in cross country, finishing first overall in the Division IV Section II championship meet in Flagstaff with a 19.36 time.

Congratulations to all of our Verde Valley athletes and here’s to a great 2011 sports season.

To wrap up the fall 2010 season, I’d like to congratulate several high schools teams on a job well done.

With All-Region and All-State considerations around the corner, I’d like to hand out a few fall sports awards of my own.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board and its athletic directors continue to spin heads like we’re taking part in the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist” with the new divisional and sectional alignments, making it understandable only to those who possess a doctorate in athletic organizational mayhem.

One day, hopefully, we’ll all get used to what school and what sport is in what division and what section.

Say that three times fast.

Perhaps the biggest mind boggler of them all, however, is the increase in ticket fees for regional and state tournaments this season in team sports, and sectional and divisional tournaments for individual sports.

I attended the 3A West Regional Volleyball Championships this past weekend in Sedona, and to my surprise, there were only two — that’s right, two — students in the stands at Sedona Red Rock High School for the West semifinals.

For teams that absolutely depend on a good student turnout to help them strive to be their best, it’s difficult playing in an empty gymnasium. Make no mistake, teams feed off an emotional crowd filled with a few hundred students.

The AIA is now charging a whopping $6 a head for students, with school identification of course, and $8 for any parents or other adults looking to attend. For state tournaments, which began this past weekend in some sports and begin this week for others, the AIA is charging a monumental $10 a head for adults, with no change to student rates.

I’m sorry, but, this seems to be a bit much, wouldn’t you say?

Major League Baseball fans can pay less than $10 to get a seat to a pro baseball game, never mind the fact parents and other fans will have to pay the same amount to watch a bunch of pimply-faced kids kick the ball around this spring.

For a team like the Scorpions, who wound up winning the regional tournament by the way despite a lackluster crowd, a student fan base is key to its success.

Asking a team to work hard all year so it can host a tournament match or game at the end of its season is more than enough, never mind the fact that many students who attend regular season games pay $1 and $2, or get in free altogether.

Asking a young teenager who probably doesn’t work for a living to pay $6 to get a seat at a high school game is silly.

In the end, this will eventually hurt the AIA, not help. Let’s not forget that every penny of a regional or state game goes to the AIA — not the schools themselves.

There’s a reason why two years ago the AIA put every 1A conference state basketball tournament game at Prescott High School, asking teams to play all four rounds in four days time, and then turning around and allowing the 3A conference state tournament to be played at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.

What’s the reason, you ask?

Well, the 3A will bring northern schools down from the reservation, which happen to travel well. A final four basketball game between Tuba City and Monument Valley high school’s could bring 10,000 people.
What does that equal? More money for the AIA, not Tuba City and Monument Valley.

Isn’t it supposed to be about a special moment, a special memory for the kids, for the athletes who work hard all year toward one common goal?

Getting to play at a lousy high school for a state championship isn’t even close to playing on an NBA pro basketball court like United Airlines Arena for a title like high schools did years ago.

When I attended SRRHS and played basketball for the Scorpions, we made the state semifinals in 2000 and played on the same floor as great Suns players like Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash. You can bet I’ll never forget that, and neither will any of my teammates.

Yes, you could say, “If we are to have those special venues for everyone, we need to charge more.” OK, well, how about the thousands of dollars schools pay in fees to be a part of the AIA in the first place?

What ever happened to loading up a bus full of kids to go watch their team play at state? You don’t see much of that anymore either, thanks to everyone trying to cover their butt with a generation of legalities not even Moses himself could part.

In the end, charging adults to attend high school games is one thing, but I call for a free pass for students.

It’s the right thing to do and it gives our student athletes a natural high to be cheered by their peers.{jcomments on}

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