Gila Ridge guard and shortstop Summer Ehrig won it for the first time. Cibola runner Bernie Montoya won it for the second straight year. Yuma Catholic football coach Rhett Stallworth took the award for a third time.
The three won top honors Monday night at the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Spring Sports Banquet at the Yuma Civic Center as the premier athletes and coach for the past athletic season.
Ehrig, a star basketball and softball player, won the 2011-2012 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Female Athlete of the Year on Monday night over Gila Ridge volleyball, basketball and track star Destiny Dilworth, Cibola cross country and distance runner Monica Huston, Cibola volleyball, basketball and track player Kelsey Pangerl and Kofa volleyball and softball player Miranda Brookhart.
“I was really surprised I won it,” Ehrig said. “It's a good way to go out.”
The Gila Ridge senior was the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Girls Basketball Player of the Year her junior and senior year and was a star shortstop for the Gila Ridge softball team, which made a surprisingly deep run this year in the Division II state playoffs despite being the No. 24 seed.
“She is one of the most competitive players I ever met,” Gila Ridge softball coach Jaime McGalliard said of Ehrig, who was also named to the Sun/Rotary softball team. “It doesn't matter if you're flipping a coin, she wants to beat you.”
Montoya, the Cibola distance runner who has burst onto the national scene, won the 2011-2012 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Male Athlete of the Year over Cibola basketball and football star Jordan Mitchell, Cibola wrestler Pierre Gaud, Yuma Catholic football and wrestling star Ryan Gill and Cibola football, basketball and track standout out Deante Gaines.
“I was a little worried about whether I was going to win it,” Montoya said. “Because Deante Gaines had a pretty good season with three sports — football, basketball and track. And he did really good in track.”
After breaking out as a sophomore at Cibola, Montoya has finished up an impressive junior season with a list of accomplishments that has left him little to achieve at the state level. He now owns seven state championships — including sweeping the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 this past season. He also set the all-time Arizona record in the 3,200 and ran the fastest open 1,600 in the nation.
Now, with a senior year looming which seems to be a symbolic victory lap for Montoya, the eyes will be set on a national level.
“He is as passionate off the track as he is on it,” Cibola cross country and distance coach Kris Norton said. “We know all the high school kids nationally, we do our research and know who the kids are. He loves it. It's his entertainment.”
Stallworth, the Yuma Catholic football coach, won the 2011-2012 John Blabe Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Coach of the Year Award over McGalliard, Norton, Cibola wrestling coach Mike Jankowski and Yuma Catholic baseball coach Curt Foppe. Stallworth's Shamrocks took the Division IV football state championship over Northwest Christian this past fall. It was the first outright football state championship a team from Yuma has ever won.
“It feels good because what we accomplished this time has never been done before and that's when it gets really special,” Stallworth said. “And how we did it. Beating (Northwest Christian) because they were the preseason No. 1 and all their team was back from last year — which beat us. And they beat us right out of the gate. This is a reflection of the whole team, not just me.”
Stallworth, who won the award in 2008 and 2011, has created an almost self-sufficient program at Yuma Catholic in the five years he's been with the school.
“I think we're in the stage where the program kind of runs itself. The way that we established it — and it's the principles of how you established it. Commitment, work-ethic, accountability,” he said.
As the spring is ready to give way to summer, Stallworth has little time to daydream about the Shamrocks' 21-19 championship win.
“Now that spring ball is coming, (the championship) is a little further removed and it's time to move on and see if we can get another one,” Stallworth said.
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson