Cambridge standout Mike Shoff standing above the rest.
That time of year in high school sports is once again upon us. With the completion of the State Golf Championships, the 2011/2012 high school sports season comes to a close and with that arrives the task of choosing an Athlete-of-the-Year.
I would not dare to touch this award, especially the girls side, but for years my wife and I have ventured guesses on the who would win the coveted prize in both the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star newspapers. We＊ll leave the ladies to the very capable duo of Mike Patterson of the World-Herald, and Ron Powell of the Journal-Star. Both are wily veterans at this task and Powell is a graduate of Grand Island senior High, so he has to be a wise man. As far as the guys are concerned, you just don＊t get anymore capable than the World-Herald＊s Stu Pospisil and the Journal-Star＊s Ryly Jane Hambleton. Between the two of them I calculated they have nearly a gazillion years experience. If you aren＊t up to snuff on that measurement, it means＃＃ a bunch.
Here is what makes this 2011/2012 year so unique in my opinion. The number of Class A male athletes to choose from is a small pool indeed. It is so small that if I had to come up with one name in 5 seconds＃＃well, it wouldn＊t happen. This opens the door for 3 lower class athletes, 2 of which come from the 8-man football ranks. I really think that you may see Drew Ott of Giltner, Jed Fenske of Twin Loup, and Mike Shoff of Cambridge named as finalists. All have Division One athletic scholarships. Ott is an Iowa football recruit, Shoff a South Dakota football signee, and Jed Fenske has been given a University of Nebraska wrestling scholaship. Ott and Fenske played 8-man football, and Shoff and his Cambridge buddies played in C-2 11-man.
Here are my guesses for Athlete-of-the-Year nominations that should begin Sunday in both the World-Herald, and Journal-Star newspapers. Remember, it usually takes a standout 3 sport athlete to win this coveted award:
Josh Banderas - Lincoln Southwest 4 star Rivals linebacker is headed to Nebraska on a football scholarship. Banderas was also a standout hurdler, winning the 110 Highs and finsihing 2nd in the 300IH last week at the State Track Meet.
Jake Schany-Blair - Ohio football recruit was a World-Herald Super State selection at linebacker and also rambled for 1.302 yards as a running back. Schany was this year＊s 170 lb. Class B wrestling champion, and 2011∩s 145 pound champ.
Andy Janovich-Gretna 每 Husker FB recruit was World-Herald Super State linebacker, gained 800 yards as a RB, and was the 220 pound state Class B wrestling champ this spring and 189 pound champ in 2011.
Tom Swanson-Grand Island 每 World-Herald Super State lineman last Fall, and won the Class A shotput in last week＊s State meet. He was also 3rd in the Discus. He is a D-1 Navy track recruit.
Tay Bender-Lincoln Southwest 每 The multi-talented Bender is a Kansas football recruit and was offered a basketball scholarship as a Sophomore from Colorado State. Yes, Bender is that good.
Drew Ott-Giltner 每 OWH Super State linebacker, 3 year all-state football player, 2 year all-state basketball, and outstanding shotput man in track. Finished 2nd to the outstanding Mike Shoff in last week＊s state track shotput.
Mike Shoff-Cambridge 每 South Dakota football recruit was OWH Super State football lineman, State Class D heavey weight champions three years in a row (runner-up as a freshman), and won the all class Gold medal in the shotput in last week＊s state track championships at Omaha Burke.
Jed Fenske-Twin Loup 每 Nebraska wrestling recruit finished his career with a 155-14 record, 2 class championships, and 4 state medals. He led his Sargent team to a state Class D football championship last fall, gaining 2,036 yards along the way. Fenske helped his team to a Class D state track championship a week ago and led the entire state in the pole vault at one time late this spring, leaping 15∩ 3.5∪.
Others who may have a shot at a nomination could be:
Garrett Johns-Aurora-2nd team Super-State FB, state wrestling champion
Darian Barrientos-Jackson-Omaha Central 每 Super State FB, Starter for the EAGLES State Champion basketball teams.
Jordan Brichacek-Howells 每 Super State FB, talented weight man in track, D-1 N. Dakota St. recruit.
It would certainly be a milestone if a non-Class A or B athlete won in either publication. The last male athlete lower than Class A or B to win the Athlete-of-the-Year in the World-Herald or the Journal-Star was Tecumseh＊s Matt Davison in 1997. The last ※small town§ athlete to win in the Journal-Star was Madrid＊s Larry Vlasin in 1965, a year after Grand Island＊s John Sanders was honored and two years after GI＊s Tom Millsap was ※The Man§. The only 2 winners in the World-Herald I remember were Duane Buchtel of Clay Center in 1956 and the first ever winner, Hoppy McCue of Arapahoe in ＊51. Class C＊s John Kroeker was the WH Athlete-of-the-Year in 1984, as well as the Journal-Star, and of course Wood River＊s Scott Frost grabbed the honor in both papers in 1993.
So in a week we will probably find out if ※small town Nebraska§ can produce another ※Athlete-of-the-Year. Stay tuned.