Leo Villa, left, and twin brother Ivan, pose for a photo, April 16, 2020, Sahuarita, Ariz., were seniors on the Walden Grove baseball team. Leo was a catcher and Ivan pitched in the COVID19 shortened season. Photo credit: Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star
The Arizona Daily Star is profiling Southern Arizona high school athletes whose seasons were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. Each high school was asked to nominate an exceptional spring sport athlete who exemplifies greatness on and off the field, court or track.
A new story will be published every day through the end of May and will be linked here. Read the series:
Here's a word from the Star's sports editor Ryan Finley:
Most of us have spent the last month-plus at home, rediscovering the places where we now spend almost all of our time.
At the Star, we're doing the same — telling you stories you haven't heard before about athletes from our own backyard.
There’s no better time to tell stories of hope, hard work, ambition, and achievement.
Over the coming days, you'll read stories about achievement, on and off the field. The twin boys who played baseball together — and want to keep playing, somehow, somewhere, in college. The tennis phenom who’s spending her summer working as a ranch hand. The track star who trains by running in circles at an elementary school adjacent to his tiny high school. The track, cross country and soccer standout whose best sport might be …
The last month-plus has been a trying time for high school athletes, coaches and fans — and everyone involved in sports. At the Star, we try to strike a daily balance between focusing on COVID-19’s devastating impact on athletics and providing readers a needed break from the barrage of bad news.
Our “Spring Stars” series is a return to our roots, and a fresh look at what's in our own backyard. We think you'll like it.
Sahuarita High School senior Rachael Fox, posing for a photo, April 18, 2020, Sahuarita, Ariz. She maintained a winning record for all four years of high school. Before school and sports were cancelled in March, Fox was the Mustangs' top player with an undefeated record.
Academy of Tucson's Dakota Crabtree, posing for a photo, April 16, 2020, Tucson, Ariz., In four years at AOT, 18-year-old Crabtree has managed to break several school records, starting with the long jump. He set the school record one during the opening meet of his sophomore season, and has gone onto break it every year since.
Leo and Ivan Villa
Leo Villa, left, and twin brother Ivan, senior baseball players at Walden Grove High School in Sahuarita. Ivan Villa is hoping to attend the University of Arizona next year and major in civil engineering. Leo hopes to major in architectural engineering, academics could win out when it comes time to make the choice.
Track and Field senior at Empire High school Isabel Cordova poses for a portrait at Empire High School, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way, in Tucson, Ariz., on April 21, 2020. Last year, she took second place in state for javelin (her favorite event) with a throwing distance of nearly 115 feet.
Refugio "Kito" Del Cid
Baseball senior at Desert View High school Refugio "Kito" Del Cid poses for a portrait at Jacobs Park, 3300 N. Fairview Ave., in Tucson, Ariz., on April 21, 2020. With the quarantine in effect, Del Cid's been pitching and hitting ground balls against the wall in his back yard in an effort to stay in playing shape and keep baseball alive in his life. He says his teammates and this season– even in its shortened state– were his favorite part of high school.
Cheyenne Hudson and Laneya Wright
Marana softball players Cheyenne Hudson (pitcher and shortstop) and Laneya Wright (centerfielder) stand for a portrait at Marana Heritage River Park, on April 24, 2020. Laneya Wright and Cheyenne Hudson started playing softball on the same club team a decade ago as little girls, growing up together on the fields.
Rincon/University High School junior tennis player Ethan Lee on April 26, 2020. A member of Rincon's tennis team for the past three years, Lee was state champion last year for men's singles, after taking the runner-up spot his freshman year. Always one for a challenge, Lee was considering pursuing a state championship in doubles tennis this spring, before the season was cut short.
Flowing Wells High School junior Kaitlyn Rendon at Jacobs Park in Tucson, Ariz., on April 26, 2020. Rendon plays on FWHS's soccer, track and field and cross country teams as well as on FWHS ROTC rifle team. She has a 3.9 unweighted GPA and is ranked 10th in her class. She's also president of her school's Interact Club, and a member of several others, including National Honor Society.
Mountain View High School senior volleyball outside hitter Preston Gibbons on May 1, 2020. Gibbons is ranked seventh in his class at Mountain View and will be attending the University of Arizona in the fall.
Canyon del Oro High School senior Alyssa Lopez, shown on April 29, 2020, was the school's No.1 tennis player. Several months ago, Lopez started working as a gymnastics coach for kids at Heart and Soul Gymnastics. While the gym is closed because of COVID-19, Lopez has been creating at-home workout videos for the kids.
Amphitheater High School senior Kristiana Watson says the things she misses most about the season cancellation are losing a chance to play with her cousin and her final year of being coached by her mother on the Panthers’ softball team.
Sierra Vista Buena High School javelin thrower Jesse Avina is planning to join the Air Force after he earns his four-year degree. He’ll start this fall by enrolling at Paradise Valley Community College. He will be on the Paradise Valley track and field team.
Canyon del Oro senior pitcher Amya Legarra was 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA and three complete games when the season was halted. She plans to move to Logan, Utah, this summer, and will soon be majoring in human movement science and playing softball for Utah State University.
Santa Rita High School junior track athlete Candice Pocase on April 24, 2020. "In my 20 years of coaching, Candice is one of the most hardworking, dedicated, coachable and fun athletes that I have had the honor to coach," said Luis Blanco, who is also Pocase's track coach. "The words 'no' and 'can't' are not in her athletic vocabulary.
Emily Flowers, a sophomore at Catalina Foothills High School, won a state championship last year and hopes to play at a Division I school someday. Before the coronavirus hit, Flowers was training six days a week at the Smith-Perry Tennis Academy and an academy run by UA tennis coaches. She’s trying to ensure that her game is impacted as little as possible by the change in routine.
Briana Garcilazo, a senior at Rio Rico High School. Softball is something of a family tradition, as both of her sisters also play. Garcilazo, a pitcher, first baseman and outfielder on Rio Rico’s team, will be continuing her career in college, signing on to play with Mesa Community College next year.
Leo Felix, senior at Douglas High School, poses for a portrait at 15th Street Park, E. 15th st., in Douglas, Ariz., on May 5, 2020. Felix, outfielder for the Douglas High School Baseball team, is graduating in the top 10% of his class and plans to continue his baseball career in college. "I'm definitely going to try to play somewhere, and I'm going to continue my studies in college," said Felix, adding that he plans to major in business.
Salpointe Catholic’s Abigail Russell will next compete for the UA beach volleyball team. She also played the indoor version for the Lancers. When Russell was 10, she discovered volleyball and fell in love. Her brief flirtation with track, dancing and everything else was over.
Emmanuel Corral, 18, poses for a portrait on the dirt track at Pusch Ridge High School on May 7, 2020. Corral plans to attend Pima Community College and compete on their cross-country and track and field teams.
Corral may have run the last race of his high school career, but he's still got plenty of big races in his future, many of them in Southern Arizona. Corral will be taking his talents to Pima College's track and cross country team, and is looking forward to studying political science in between meets and practice.
Softball player Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage poses for a portrait at Salpointe Catholic High School on May 7, 2020. Arizona’s 2019 All State Catcher and Defensive Player of the Year, Aguilar-Beaucage plans to continue her softball career at Grand Canyon University like her older sister.
Ryan Zuniga is hoping to follow his cousin’s footsteps and earn a college scholarship. Keith Zuniga played at Bethune-Cookman and was a 35th-round selection of the Miami Marlins, though he did not sign.
Softball player Shelby Thompson of Ironwood Ridge High School on May 12, 2020.
"Shelby... took giant steps from a freshman year, when she pitched less than 10 innings, to her senior year when was expecting to pitch in her third straight State Championship game," said softball coach David Martinez. "Shelby worked extremely hard on improving her whole person, from her mental toughness to her physical strength. Shelby is our leader and has been incredible in that role."
Gabrianna Gonzalez, 18, is a discus thrower on the track and field team at Cholla High School. She plans to attend the University of Arizona in the Fall. May 14, 2020.
Gonzalez is one of Cholla's few three-sport female athletes. She also competed in volleyball and basketball.
Of the three sports, track is her favorite. So much so that she passed up on the opportunity to graduate early in order to make a run at state.
Sabino High School senior shortstop Sydney Gray on May 13, 2020.
"Sydney has volunteered extensively with the Girls and Boys Club of America, which included organizing and sponsoring a youth football league for underprivileged boys and girls that had a positive effect on over 30 boys and girls," said Assistant Principal Jay Campos. "On campus, Sydney goes above and beyond to help fellow students feel appreciated and supported."
Bryan Cruz joined the Amphitheater High School volleyball team in 2018 after moving back to Tucson from Cucurpe, Sonora.
“First and foremost, he is a true student-athlete,” said Amphi volleyball coach Mike Frederick, who believes Cruz is one of the best volleyball players in the region. “He may be the most underappreciated player in the city. … But to us, he is everything. Not only is he our leader on the court but off the court as well.”
Senior basketball and track and field athlete Angel Addleman at Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega, in Tucson, Ariz. on May 19, 2020. Addleman will play basketball at Pima Community College.
With the track season halted early and Addleman's brief musical career behind her — she spent two years performing in the folk group Copper Wren with her sisters and some friends — Addleman found herself with some time to fill during the quarantine. But unlike some athletes who require specialty equipment or teammates to train, Addleman was able to wing it.
Blaise Biringer, 18, on the softball field at Cienega High School on May 11, 2020. Biringer plans to attend the University of Mississippi on a softball scholarship.
Prior to the shutdown, Biringer was selected to play for the Mexican National team this summer in the inaugural Triple Crown International Challenge. She was also selected by Premier Gold Fastpitch to represent the Mountain Region as an All-American (on a roster that includes fellow Spring Stars Anjolle Aguilar-Beaucage, Sydney Gray, Amya Legarra, Carlie Scupin and Kristiana Watson.)
Cameron Fimbres, Pueblo High School senior volleyball player, at Silverbell Crossroads Park, on May 15, 2020. Fimbres will be going to McKendree University in southern Illinois.
"My favorite memory of high school would have to be volleyball," Fimbres said. "It's either my escape from stress and stuff or where I could show off to friends, but sophomore year was also very fun. I got to play with my brother before he graduated and it was probably my team's best year."
Gerardo Grijalva, 17, plays pitcher and first base for the Sunnyside High School baseball team. He will be returning to Sunnyside in the Fall as a senior.
While Grijalva would love to play college in baseball after he graduates, preferably at University of Arizona or UCLA, he's also focused on his future career as a robotic engineer.
"I heard that robotic engineering has a lot of math in it, and most people don’t like math, but that’s one of my best subjects in school," Grijalva said. "Right now, really don’t have an idea of where I might go, but I for sure know that I really want to play baseball in college at the next level."
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at
email@example.com or 573-4191
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