Jeff Vorva’s Extra Point: It is an honor to honor these talented athletes
Our last order of business before we put the 2016-17 high school season to bed was to select our second Regional/Reporter Athlete of the Year.
When we started this last year, I didn’t want too many rules to anchor us down for this honor. One paper I worked with took seniors only recommended by athletic directors. Long story short, an athlete I thought was a surefire winner was not even nominated.
Anyone who put on a uniform for an area school was eligible for our award.
Last year, we named Sandburg’s Torpy twins – Sean and Chris – as co-athletes of the year as they were amazing cross country and track runners who helped the Eagles win a state title in cross country and the 800 relay team to set a state scored. That decision was relatively easy.
Not so much.
We had Chicago Christian’s April Van Ryn win athlete of the year honors in girls cross country and girls track. We had Brother Rice’s Jimmy Baker qualify in two events at the state track meet and help his volleyball team to a fourth-place finish in the state.
We had Chicago Christian’s Ben Friesen who won a state track title in the Class 1A 400-meter run and took fourth in the long jump. Oh and his name is not Brian, as suggested by an idiot headline writer a few weeks ago (that would be me).
We had Marist’s Morgan Taylor who was a quarterback on an East Suburban Catholic Conference champion football team and a starter on an East Suburban Catholic Conference champion basketball team.
And there was plenty of other talent to choose from.
But in the end, even though she played one sport, we deemed the best player on the best team in the nation as our Athlete of the Year and Mother McAuley volleyball star Charley Niego got the nod.
Over the course of the year, we honored 23 athletes in 22 sports with two sports getting co-players of the year and Van Ryn winning twice. For the second year in a row, Sandburg led the pack with seven athletes, down from last year’s monster 12 athletes out of 24 spots. Chicago Christian took four slots and Brother Rice three.
There was also an interesting twist as a brother and sister combo were named with Charley Niego earning Girls Volleyball Player of the Year and her brother Josh of Brother Rice earning Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
So, how did our first co-athletes of the year do in their first year in college? The Torpys both went to Miami (Ohio) and Sean earned Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in track while Chris was an important member of the 1,500 relay team.