Navajo Times Spring Sports All-Stars

Best of the best win Times' honors

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 14, 2012

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(Times photo - Paul Natonabah)

TOP: Winners of the 2012 Navajo Times spring sports awards given out June 12 are, left to right, William Marino (Cuba), track coach of the year; Christian Mackey (Kirtland Central), co-male athlete of the year in field events; Matt Smith (Winslow), baseball player of the year; and Jackson Thomas (Del Norte), co-male athlete of the year in track events.

SECOND FROM TOP: Chaez Ortiz, holding trophy, the Navajo Times Co-female Track Athlete of the Year, and her Cuba High teammates and coaches celebrate their Class 2A team championship at the New Mexico state track meet. (Courtesy photo)

O n Tuesday the Navajo Times honored the athletes and coaches of the year for the 2012 spring sports season.

With each passing week the process of selecting All-Stars became progressively harder, particularly for the recipients of player of the year awards.

But after profiling many athletes and coaches, the Navajo Times sports department determined that these individuals deserve the recognition of being the best of the best.

Christian Mackey, co-male track athlete of the year

At the New Mexico Class 4A state track meet, Christian Mackey of Kirtland Central placed second in the shot put and fourth in the discus, leading the Broncos to a 13th place finish.

The soon-to-be junior recorded a new PR in the shot put with a throw of 49 feet, 4.75 inches and lost the state title to rival Troy Young of Piedra Vista by 8 inches.

In the discus, Mackey's best throw was 136-2.50, which placed him fourth as he scored nine of his team's 13 points.

"I missed qualifying for state in the shot put by three inches last year," Mackey recalled.

But this past spring he qualified in his first meet and later competed in the prestigious Marilyn Sepulveda meet where he tossed the 12-pound shot put 47-5.5 in the finals and ended up third.

The Sepulveda meet invites only the top eight athletes in the state regardless of classification.

Jackson Thomas, co-male track athlete of the year

As a former sprinter and hurdler, Del Norte's Jackson Thomas didn't find his niche until his junior year when he placed fifth in the 2010 Class 4A state cross-country meet.

Before that, Thomas showed little interest in running as he roamed the Del Norte high school campus on a skateboard.

But after a friend convinced him to join the track team during his sophomore year, Thomas pushed himself the next two years to become one of New Mexico's elite runners as he ended his senior year with three state championships.

Last November he captured the New Mexico Class 4A state cross-country title. He then capped his senior year by winning both the 800-meter and 3200-meter runs at last month's Class 4A state track meet.

Thomas, who originally hails from Naschitti, N.M., set a PR in the 800 meters with a time of 1:57. In the two-mile, he crossed the finish line in 9:47.33.

Jackson also competed at the exclusive Marilyn Sepulveda meet and won both the one-mile and two-mile races in impressive fashion.

Thomas will be headed to Central Arizona College, but he said he's keeping his options open.

"That's where I'm headed, but New Mexico has shown an interest," he said.

Rolonda Jumbo, co-female track of the year

As one of the area's most gifted runners, Rolonda Jumbo collected her 10th and 11th state high school titles during the Arizona Division III state track meet in Phoenix last month.

Jumbo was also named the 2011 Navajo Times Female Runner of the Year.

A week before the state meet, the recent Chinle High graduate contracted a bacterial infection but despite that she hoped to set Arizona's all-time record in the 1600-meter race.

She missed setting that record by eight seconds, but she will go down as being one of the best Native American high school runners ever.

According to her coach, Shaun Martin, she's had the most sub-5 minute miles than any other Native American runner.

At the state meet, she set the Division III record with a time of 4:57.83 in the mile. In the two mile, she was clocked in at 10:37.52.

In the fall, Jumbo is headed to Northern Arizona University on a full-ride scholarship.

Chaez Ortiz, co-female track athlete of the year

A lot was riding on the final event of the New Mexico Class 2A state track meet as the championship trophy changed hands.

Cuba's Chaez Ortiz was a big part of that as she passed two runners in the final leg of the 4 x 400 relay and helped the team to a third-place finish.

With that, the Lady Rams edged defending state champion Santa Fe Prep 47-46 in team points.

As the team's leading scorer with 25 points, Ortiz also placed second in three other events - the 200- and 400-meter runs and the long jump.

Because of school obligations, Ortiz was not present at the Tuesday award ceremony. Her mother, Cheryl Chavez, was there in her behalf.

William Marino, track coach of the year

With 11 state qualifiers, Cuba track coach William Marino squeezed every last drop of effort out of his team.

And after the Lady Rams won two individual titles on the opening day of the New Mexico Class 2A state track meet, Marino felt that his team had a chance to take home one of the team trophies.

The Rams got a big boost at the start of Day 2 as Cuba senior Felecia Chavez set a new state record in the javelin with a throw of 131-5.

Needless to say, that win by Chavez got the team going as they overtook Santa Fe Prep for the team title by a close margin, 47-46.

"We had a lot of things go right," Marino said, while adding that some of the other teams didn't fare too well, individually.

Katera Eltsosie, softball player of the year

The accolades have been nonstop for Katera Eltsosie.

Besides be named the Navajo Times Softball Player of the Year, the Volcano Vista pitcher and third baseman recently picked up a national award.

On June 6, Eltsosie was named the New Mexico Gatorade Softball Player of the Year. The prestigious award recognizes America's elite high school student-athletes. They are honored for their athletic and academic achievements as well as the good work they do off the field.

This past season, Eltsosie led the Hawks to a 30-1 record and the Class 5A state championship. As a pitcher she posted a 16-0 record with a 1.51 ERA and batted .496 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.

In the classroom she maintained a 3.54 GPA and volunteered on behalf of Special Olympics.

Eltsosie has signed to play for Lubbock Christian University this fall.

Becky Barris, softball coach of the year

Under the guidance of Becky Barris, the Winslow Lady Bulldogs reached the championship game of the Division III state softball tournament.

This was their fourth consecutive trip to the finals, but the longtime Winslow coach couldn't be happier for her kids even though they fell short in the championship game by a 7-1 count to Bourgade Catholic.

Barris felt that they had to overcome a lot of obstacles in the new realignment.

"We had a tough season and you know Bourgade Catholic is a private school that moved into our division," Barris told the Navajo Times. "We beat everybody that was in our division last year and that's what we wanted to do."

As far as playing a team like Bourgade Catholic, Barris said it was a different look.

"We don't get to play every weekend like they do," she said of the Phoenix private school. "They get that extra repetition, but I happy with how the season ended."

But the thing she is most proud of is sending her kids to college. Over the years, Barris' players have gone on to the next level including three that signed this year.

Matt Smith, baseball player of the year

As a four-year starter for the Winslow baseball team, Matt Smith put up gaudy numbers this past season.

Smith led the team in six key statistics and had the highest average at .489 with seven homers, four triples, 15 doubles to go along with 54 RBIs and 47 runs.

With those numbers he was named the Navajo Times player of the year. Just recently he also recognized by the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Smith was voted the sectional player of the year in Division III, which covers all of northeast Arizona.

Winslow coach Art Griffiths called Smith "a coach's dream."

"He's a great kid who works extremely hard," Griffiths said.

Next season Smith will play for Arizona Christian University despite being offered three out of state full-ride scholarships.

Bryan Silva, baseball coach of the year

There is an old adage that goes something like this: it doesn't matter how you start, but it's how you finish.

Bryan Silva is a firm believer in that as his Miyamura Patriots made it into the championship game of the Class 4A state baseball tournament - the school's first appearance.

Despite not being a contender at the start of the 2012 season, Silva always believed his team had the tools to be one of the best.

"We were the underdogs of the tournament," Silva said. "But one of our goals was to win the state championship. In the back of our minds we believed that."

Entering the state tournament, the Patriots garnered the No. 10 seed and beat No. 7 Los Alamos, No. 2 Artesia and No. 6 Valencia before losing to three-time state champion Piedra Vista by a 15-1 count.

"We just kept on chugging and you know everybody counted this team out since the beginning of the season," Silva said of their tournament run.

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