As usual there were an array of special athletes and performances from every season and many locations in the East Valley and Southern Arizona in 2013-2014. Not remotely an exhausitive list, here are some of the more notable performances starting with fall 2013 and working toward winter and spring 2014:
Nathan Rodriguez, Corona del Sol cross country/track -- Rodriguez played second fiddle his junior year to Cibola's Bernie Montoya. But with Montoya graduated, Rodriguez made sure his senior year was Montoya-eske. Rodriguez won every cross country meet he ran and capped it winning the Division I individual title. His effort helped bring Corona the cross country team title. On to spring and Rodriguez was machine-like on the track winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and anchoring the 3,200 relay to victory. Those helped the track team take state.
Andrew Cota, Salpointe football: Cota got a good share of ink for Salpointe's unbeaten season and D-II state title. Maybe not enough given his performance. Cota completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,772 yards. He tossed 35 TD passes and was intercepted only twice. He opened the curtain to the championship season throwing five TD passes and running for one in Las Vegas against Liberty High in the Sollenberger Classic.
Cameron Denson-Kaelin DeBoskie, Salpointe football: Essentially two 1,000-yard receivers on the same team for Cota to throw to. Denson 73 catches for 1,453 yards and 19 TDs; DeBoskie 55 receptions for 964 yards and 15 TDs. DeBoskie caught three scoring passes in the opener and Denson the other two. Both are headed to Arizona to give the locals what they hope will be several years of encore performances.
Lucky Schreiner, Campo Verde cross country/track: Schreiner enjoyed a solid junior year even though he didn't prevail as the Division II cross country champ. Schreiner appeared to be the winner of the D-II title leading the race with 200 meters or so left. Spent from a late kick and learning that fellow contender, Catalina Foothills Harvey Nelson, was gaining fast, Schreiner stumbled at the finish line as Nelson leaned with him. Nelson won with a time of 15 minutes, 25.643 seconds to Schreiner's 15:26.061. Schreiner handled his heart-breaking loss with amazing maturity and respect for Nelson's effort. Schreiner went on to win the 1,600 and 3,200 titles in track in the spring and will be highly motivated this fall to nab the title that eluded him.
Julia Barcello, Seton Catholic girls basketball: Named the state's Gatorade girls basketball player of the year, Barcello's blue-collar playing career helped the Lady Sentinels secure three state titles in her four-year career. She averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds per game her final year and exited Seton as its career rebounding leader and blocked shots leader
Casey Benson, Corona del Sol boys basketball: Like Barcello, Benson played four seasons for the Aztecs varsity and came away with state titles in his last three seasons. Role changes every year were no problem for the heady left-hander. Always a solid scorer, Benson wasn't relied on for huge point totals as a sophomore. He took on more of a scoring role as a junior. Finally as a senior he navigated Corona's most talented squad of the three title teams with impeccable leadership and the all-around skills as a shooter, play-maker and defender.
William Olivas, Sunnyside wrestling and Kyle Jividen, Sahuaro wrestling: Both repeated as state champs in their respective weight classes -- 126 pounds and heavyweight. Both finished unbeaten. Jividen won his final 76 matches in a row and was Sahuaro's first-two time state champ in nearly 38 years.
Ky Westbrook, Chandler girls track: Westbrook closed out a phenomenal track career for the Lady Wolves winning four events -- all individual events. Her prep swan song saw her capture the 100-meter hurdles, 100-meters, 200-meters and shot put. All those triumphs came in handy as Chandler was pushed hard for its ninth consecutive big-school track title by Desert Vista, Chandler prevailed by six points, in no small part due to Westbrook. Westbrook was a four-time state champ in the 100 and 200 and two-time champ in the shot put.
Kent Hasler-Zach Pederson-Zane Strand, Hamilton baseball: If there was a better trio of pitchers on one team -- well there wasn't. They combined for a 24-1 record in Hamilton's 30-3 Division I championship season. Hasler was 8-1, won two games at state and saved another. Pederson was 2-0 at state and 12-0 for the year. He pitched all of three varsity innings in 2013 as a sophomore due to injury. Strand won his only start at state and was 6-0.
Bre Macha, Red Mountain softball: Played on four state championship teams in four years. She was the starting and winning pitcher in all four years with two wins over Basha, one over Chaparral and her most recent win, an 8-1 victory over Mountain Ridge in the D-I title game. That fave Macha a 21-5 record for the season. A season that saw the Lady Lions work through the pressure of winning a state record fifth consecutive state title. And a sweason for Macha pitching with her mother ill with cancer and passing away a month before the season ended.
J.T. Hatch, Mesa High boys volleyball: Hatch was the East Valley's dominant player in all facets. He helped the Jackrabbits reach the state final for the first time and the Jackrabbits had to settle for second to steady Boulder Creek. Hatch went out with a 22-kill performance. Mesa's only loss in a best-of-five match in 2014 took place in the final vs. Boulder Creek. Mesa posted a 46-4 record. Hatch led the team in kills (533), aces (74) and was second in digs (231).
Kirtana Bhat, Catalina Foothills girls tennis: Bhat was part of doubles state titles teams in 2012 and 2013with her older sister, Rachana. This spring she went solo and cruised to the singles championship with six tournament victories. She finished the year unbeaten in matchs (19). Bhat also chipped in helping the Lady Falcons win the D-II girls team title. She's back next year for a shot at a fourth title of some kind.