Thursday, May 25, 2017 | 2 a.m.
High school sports keep getting better in Southern Nevada, an improvement that was made readily apparent at the 2017 Sun Standout Awards Wednesday night at the South Point Showroom.
The Las Vegas Sun handed out 17 awards at the Findlay Toyota-presented event, up from 13 at last year’s inaugural show. Two teams claimed hallowed Sun Standout awards, a non-annual honor reserved for accomplishments that go above and beyond.
Bishop Gorman football and Centennial girl’s basketball each earned the trophy by emerging as two of the nation’s best programs in their respective sports. The Gaels won their third straight national championship, while the Bulldogs narrowly finished No. 2 in ESPN’s poll.
“It feels amazing to come here, get all dressed up and enjoy recapping the season, especially since there are nine seniors on this team and they’re going all around the world for college,” Centennial’s University of Arizona-bound star Sam Thomas said. “It’s nice to come together one last time and celebrate.”
Those celebrated ranged from one of the nation’s biggest high school stars in Troy Brown, Jr., a blue-chip basketball prospect from Centennial who’s committed to Oregon, to someone behind the scenes like Basic football team mom Karen Carlos.
Carlos’ youngest son graduated from Basic eight years ago, but she stayed with the Wolves and even travels to camp with them to make and pack the entire team daily lunches. Carlos was recognized with the Unsung Hero Award.
“I was born in Las Vegas, so I have to mention Elvis,” Carlos said in her acceptance speech. “He was actually a great believer in giving back, and some of you may not know, he worked at Opportunity Village for a long time and I think he really said it best, believe it or not. He said, ‘I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would feel that I contributed something to the world.’ And I feel the same way.”
Ray Mathis, Clark County School District’s recently retired executive athletic director, dedicated a 40-year career to that feeling. The former coach and administrator received the final recognition of the night, the Hank Greenspun Lifetime Achievement Award.
Brian Greenspun, Greenspun Media Group’s CEO, editor and publisher, praised Mathis in presenting the award.
“What an awesome way to recognize Las Vegas high school athletes,” Mathis said in his speech. “This is the last hurrah for an old guy, an old coach, an old athlete. I appreciate it.”
Other special presenters included Barney Cotton, UNLV football’s associate head coach, and John Saccenti, executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl. Saccenti acknowledged the Bishop Gorman versus Clark basketball series as the Game of the Year, while Cotton gave Liberty football its Moment of the Year award for upsetting Texas power Austin Westlake on the road.
Plenty of nominees felt like underdogs on Wednesday. Even Brown wasn’t convinced he would win out as the Male Athlete of the Year.
“This is one of the first times I was actually nervous to get an award,” he said. “You have all these great people from Vegas come together and to actually hear about (the other finalists) and the great things you don’t notice in like tennis and wrestling, to get this award was a real blessing.”
Female Athlete of the Year Abby Richter, who will attend the University of Virginia after a record-setting swimming career at Green Valley High, was equally taken aback.
“I can’t believe I won this,” she said. “This is something really nice to have. Everyone else seemed really awesome, amazing and athletic, and I’m just a swimmer. It was cool to get the recognition.”
Read below for the full list of winners, and pick up The Sunday magazine starting this weekend for a special edition on the awards.
Hank Greenspun Lifetime Achievement Award: Ray Mathis, Clark County School District
Sun Standout Award: Bishop Gorman football
Sun Standout Award: Centennial girl’s basketball
Male Athlete of the Year: Troy Brown, Centennial basketball
Finalists: Jose Arreola, Sunrise Mountain soccer; Ben Gajardo, Desert Oasis tennis; Frank Harris, Basic track and football; Ty Smith, Virgin Valley wrestling
Female Athlete of the Year: Abby Richter, Green Valley swimming
Finalists: Abbie Barnum, Virgin Valley soccer; Alyssa Karpinski, Cimarron-Memorial flag football; Trinity Valentine, Durango softball
Male Scholar Athlete of the Year: Darion Acohido, Liberty football
Female Scholar Athlete of the Year: Kenadee Bailey, Boulder City volleyball and flag football
Game of the Year: Bishop Gorman vs. Clark basketball series
Male Citizen of the Year: Ramiro Alvarado, Chaparral soccer
Finalist: Joshua Hunt, Spring Valley volleyball
Female Citizen of the Year: Makenzi Abelman, Durango volleyball
Finalist: Courtney Guerin, Canyon Springs softball
Team of the Year: Green Valley wrestling
Finalists: Arbor View girls soccer; Cimarron-Memorial flag football; Desert Pines football
Rising Star Award: Victoria Estrada, Coronado golf
Finalists: Audrey Boch-Collins, Clark tennis; Tiarra Del Rosario, Cimarron-Memorial flag football; Steele Dias, Green Valley wrestling; Julian Strawther, Liberty basketball
Unsung Hero Award: Karen Carlos, Basic football
Finalists: Eva Aguilar, Bonanza wrestling; Ella Cardone, Sierra Vista High
Coach of the Year: Tico Rodriguez, Desert Pines football
Finalists: Laura Allen, Foothill basketball; James Howard, Arbor View soccer; Kenneth Michaud, Rancho tennis
Moment of the Year: Liberty football wins in Texas
Inspirational Story of the Year: Palo Verde sophomore Michael Safbom wins tennis state championship after losing mother
Greenspun Academic and Athletic Cup: Palo Verde High School