The Sun-Star picks a new list of Fe­male Ath­letes of the Year


Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY SHAWN JANSEN [email protected]­ced­


Olivia Peter­son grew up with many of her Hil­mar High volleyball team­mates. Play­ing with her child­hood friends helped make the Yel­low­jack­ets’ sea­son so spe­cial.

Hil­mar’s jour­ney this sea­son in­cluded a per­fect 12-0 run to a Trans-Val­ley League cham­pi­onship, a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive SacJoaquin Sec­tion Di­vi­sion IV ti­tle and an ap­pear­ance in the CIF State cham­pi­onship match where the Yel­low­jack­ets lost in five games to San Luis Obispo.

“It was re­ally cool to do it with friends I grew up with and are in the same grade I’m in,” said Peter­son. “To be the first ever team from your school to make it to the state cham­pi­onship is pretty cool. Not many teams make it through a whole sea­son with­out any drama. We had seven ju­niors who all grew up to­gether. We know when any of us are in a good mood and we know how to make each other mad. We just try not to do it.”

Peter­son was named the TVL Most Valu­able Player, av­er­ag­ing al­most 12 kills per match dur­ing league play. She fin­ished the sea­son with 520 kills.

Peter­son is the Merced Sun-Star Volleyball Player of the Year.

“Ev­ery­thing about her got bet­ter this year,” said Hil­mar coach Patti Har­ris. “She’s a strong, smart, strate­gic hit­ter. She’s con­sis­tent. You know what to ex­pect from her.”

The 6-foot ju­nior mid­dle­blocker recorded 99 blocks this sea­son. She’s teamed up with sopho­more Mikela Labno to give the Yel­low­jack­ets one of the mos for­mi­da­ble front lines in the South­ern half of the Sac-Joaquin Sec­tion.

As a third-year var­sity player, Peter­son was asked to move into a lead­er­ship role this sea­son and she thrived in that po­si­tion.

“I made her a cap­tain,” Har­ris said. “She’s a nat­u­ral leader on the court and as a per­son.”

Peter­son said her job as a leader was to make sure the team played for each other and not for them­selves. It was that ap­proach that led to the suc­cess Hil­mar had this sea­son, ad­ding an­other blue ban­ner to their col“I’m lec­tion and reach­ing the state cham­pi­onship.

“The run was su­per ex­cit­ing,” Peter­son said. “Winning an­other sec­tion ti­tle was spe­cial, but we weren’t sat­is­fied. I knew we wanted to go all the way to state.

“It’s al­ways tough to lose in five and it’s su­per tough when you lose in five at state. We were so close to winning a state cham­pi­onship. It was heart break­ing.”

The Yel­low­jack­ets have a shot at mak­ing an­other run next year with al­most the en­tire team com­ing back.

su­per ex­cited,” Peter­son said. “We lose two de­fen­sive spe­cial­ists, but we have more com­ing up from the ju­nior var­sity. The rest of us are re­turn­ing. We have great chem­istry, we have our set­ter (Emma Martin) back, our libero (Ju­lia Gonsalves) and Mikela Labno.”


Kendall Thomas, El Cap­i­tan

El Cap­i­tan sopho­more Kendall Thomas is mak­ing high school wa­ter polo look easy. In two years, Thomas has led El Cap­i­tan to back-to-back Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships and has been named the CCC Most Valu­able Player in both years.

The scary news for the CCC is she still has two years of high school re­main­ing.

Thomas is the Sun-Star Girls Wa­ter Polo Player of the Year for the sec­ond straight year.

“I think the thing that was re­ally spe­cial was there was just so much growth from last year to this year with our team,” Thomas said. “When we come to­gether, ev­ery­thing clicks and that’s nice to see. It was nice to see ev­ery­one thor­oughly en­joy the sea­son.”

Ev­ery­thing came to­gether for the Gau­chos as they dom­i­nated the CCC. El Cap­i­tan scored at least 14 goals in all 12 of their CCC con­tests and outscored their op­po­nents

193 to 54 in con­fer­ence play.

Thomas led the way, fin­ish­ing with 137 goals, 63 as­sists and 106 steals in a sea­son that saw El Cap­i­tan fin­ish 22-7.

“I think the big dif­fer­ence for me this year, be­ing my sec­ond year in high school, I knew what was go­ing to hap­pen,” Thomas said. “I had a lot more con­fi­dence built up. I think I’m able to bring knowl­edge of the game from play­ing at very in­tense lev­els.” Quinn Hager­man, Merced

One of the most dis­tin­guished cross coun­try ca­reers at Merced High came to an end this sea­son. Quinn Hager­man ac­com­plished a lot dur­ing her high school ca­reer, help­ing lead the Bears to back-to-back CCC cham­pi­onships her sopho­more and ju­nior sea­sons.

This year, Hager­man swept the CCC cen­ter meets, fin­ished sec­ond at the Sac-Joaquin Sec­tion sub-sec­tion and sec­tion cham­pi­onships and qual­i­fied for the CIF State Meet for the third time.

The three-time CCC Most Valu­able Player is the Sun-Star Girls Cross­Coun­try Ath­lete of the Year for the third time.

“A lot of the credit goes to my dad and mom for be­ing such great sup­port­ers,” Hager­man said. “This is my dad’s sixth year as the coach at Merced. He started when my sib­lings were in the pro­gram and he wanted to coach all of us. It’s been a great fa­ther-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship.

“I think back to all the pro­gres­sion I’ve made from my freshman year to my se­nior year. My time at Merced High has been great.”

Hager­man was post­ing some of her best times ear­lier in the sea­son and felt great dur­ing work­outs. How­ever, one wrong step while train­ing strained her calf two weeks be­fore the Sac-Joaquin Sec­tion cham­pi­onships.

The in­jury pre­vented her from train­ing be­fore the sec­tion meet and she

still man­aged to fin­ish sec­ond in the Di­vi­sion III race with a time of 19 min­utes and 6 sec­onds to qual­ify for state.

“I went from work­ing out and be­ing at my peak to not run­ning at all for two weeks be­fore sec­tions,” Hager­man said.

“At sec­tions, I ran OK. I did what I had to do to qual­ify for state.”

Af­ter fin­ish­ing ninth at state as a ju­nior, Hager­man fin­ished 35th this year with a time of


It wasn’t the way she wanted to fin­ish her ca­reer, but she’s made plenty of other great mem­o­ries along the way.

“I love cross coun­try,” said Hager­man, who ac­cepted a schol­ar­ship to run at South­ern Utah Univer­sity. “To go to all the meets this year and say, ‘This is my last High­lands, or my last meet in Sali­nas or last Clo­vis In­vite. Ev­ery­thing was for the last time this year. It made this year spe­cial in that as­pect.”


Jenasis Yarrell,

El Cap­i­tan

Since mov­ing to Merced prior to her freshman year at El Cap­i­tan, Jenasis Yarrell has dom­i­nated girls ten­nis in the Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia Con­fer­nce.

The Gau­chos ju­nior cap­tured her third con­sec­u­tive CCC sin­gles cham­pi­onship this sea­son, go­ing a per­fect 15-0 in CCC matches this sea­son.

Yarrell is the Sun-Star Girls Ten­nis Player of the Year for the third con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

“This year felt dif­fer­ent be­cause I’m older and more ex­pe­ri­enced,” Yarrell said. “It’s dif­fer­ent now be­cause it’s my third year on the team at school. I’ve made some great friends on the team and those bonds make it even more fun.”

Yarrell keeps ad­ding to her game.

Last year she re­ally fo­cused on her serve to add an­other weapon to her game. This year she con­cen­trated on her vol­ley.

“It helps me be more ag­gres­sive in matches and end points quicker,” Yarrell said.

Yarrell lost just two matches all sea­son, fin­ish­ing with a 22-2 record.

The Gau­chos star reached the fi­nals of the Sac-Joaquin Sec­tion Di­vi­sion II sin­gles tour­na­ment, winning her first three matches be­fore fall­ing in the cham­pi­onship game 6-1, 6-4 to Ar­mijo’s Laura Wadsworth.

“I was very ex­cited and proud of my­self to go fur­ther than I did last year,” said Yarrell, who reached the semi­fi­nals as a sopho­more. “Mak­ing the fi­nals was a big ac­com­plish­ment.”


Claire Wright,


Chowchilla High se­nior Claire Wright didn’t start play­ing golf un­til she got to high school. In just four years, she be­came one of the top golfers in the Cen­tral Sec­tion.

Wright posted the top score in all five North Se­quoia League tour­na­ments this sea­son to help Chowchilla win their first NSL cham­pi­onship. Three of the matches she shot an even-par 36 at Ea­gle Springs, Pheas­ant Run and Dragon­fly.

She qual­i­fied for the Val­ley Cham­pi­onships af­ter shooting a 76 at Le­moore, which was good for sec­ond place out of 100 play­ers at the Cen­tral Sec­tion Di­vi­sion II and III cham­pi­onships.

She fin­ished 12th at the Cen­tral Sec­tion In­di­vid­ual Golf Cham­pi­onships at River Is­land Coun­try Club in Porter­ville to earn her sec­ond straight trip to the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia High School Cham­pi­onships.

Wright is the Sun-Star Girls Golfer of the Year.

“The first tour­na­ment I ever played in was when I joined the Chowchilla golf team,” Wright said. “I think I shot a 40 on a par-36. It was a league match.”

Wright played volleyball and golf dur­ing the fall her freshman and sopho­more sea­sons. The past two years she’s con­cen­trated on golf.

It was the sum­mer be­fore her freshman year that she started play­ing golf. Her twin brother, Jack, jokes it’s be­cause she was copy­ing him.

She would fol­low her brother when he went on the course at Pheas­ant Run.

“I just liked the fact that golf was an in­di­vid­ual sport,” Wright said. “Ev­ery­thing was up to me. If I hit a bad shot, it’s my own fault. If I hit a good shot that was up to me, too. I like team sports too, but golf is com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

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