It’s a hard job, but we decided it had to be done:
Take every East Valley varsity high school female athlete who’s flexed muscles at one time (or more) since August, stir them all into one large bowl, and use a colander to sift through and leave behind a freakishly-good five.
A field of thousands has been whittled into one hand’s worth of finalists for our Tribune Female Athlete of the Year, a transcendent group of young women both athletically and competitively.
They’ve succeeded and taken others with them down rewarding roads during the 2011-12 school year.
Cast your vote at varsity.evtrib.com and do it quickly. Come next week, only one will win.
Macey Gardner, Gilbert volleyball
The spectacular career of Macey Gardner was coming to an end, and it looked once again to be painfully short of a title. Not this time. The Arizona State commitment took over the girls volleyball state championship match, dominating the last three games to rally the Tigers to a five-set victory over Horizon for the hardware. Gardner’s first three seasons ended in the state semifinals, but she captured that elusive state championship in the final match of her career. Gardner had a season-high 32 kills against the Huskies, capping a season in which she accumulated 407 kills, 220 digs, 38 aces and 38 blocks. Gardner’s standout play throughout the year and her ability to elevate it in the championship match made her one of the year’s top athletes.
Kasey McCravey, Desert Mountain basketball/softball
The Desert Mountain girls basketball team went 19-10 this past season, and Kasey McCravey was a large part of that success. As it turns out, she was just warming up. McCravey ended the basketball year as the team’s second-leading scorer, dropping in 10.4 points per game. She led the team in assists (5.6) and steals (2.9) per game, and added 3.8 rebounds. Her numbers were even more impressive in the spring when she moved over to the diamond. The senior shortstop batted .508 with six homers and 47 RBIs, and broke her own school record for hits in a season with 61. McCravey, a three-time All-Tribune first-team infielder, will play softball for West Point next year.
Ashlee Moore, Hamilton basketball/track
Is there anything this girl can’t do? Ashlee Moore didn’t star on the girls basketball team, but the starter played a key role in helping the Huskies to a state championship game appearance against St. Mary’s. The sophomore finished the season with averages of 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals as a starter for Hamilton, playing a supporting role to her talented upperclassmen teammates. She really showed off her versatility in track and field. Moore won both the long jump and the high jump state titles, finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and sixth in the triple jump. While others may have reached a higher peak in a specific event or sport, few match her versatility.
Kat Simonovic, Mountain View swimming
The daughter of Serbian nationals with dual citizenship, Simonovic began competing in the 200 freestyle in her freshman year of 2009 when her coach figured there was less rigorous competition in the state at that time. It’s worked. She’s won three consecutive state titles in the 200 freestyle, and, after her decision to switch from the 500 free to the 100 during the fall, she promptly won the sprint-distance state championship. With a nod to the elite track and field athletes in town, Simonovic, a senior-to-be, could be the East Valley high schooler closest to reaching the 2012 Olympics in London as a Serbian national record holder and member of her home country’s qualifying team.
Ky Westbrook, Chandler track
Yes, family genetics (her father, Michael was an NFL wide receiver) but remember, Ky’s just finished her sophomore year. Westbrook shot up the national rankings at the Division I state meet when she clocked a wind-aided 11.42, which ranks No. 5 in the nation regardless of conditions, and is No. 2 among sophomores in the country. She won both the 100 and 200 sprint state titles for the second consecutive year, and took second in the shotput. Her 100-meter personal record of 11.65 seconds is already third on the all-time Arizona charts and her 24.06 in the 200 is has her on the verge of the elite 23-second barrier. Her combination of speed, strength and potential for growth means she could be the next great heptathlete to come out of Arizona.
Sarah Fakler, Xavier cross country/track; Dezirae Elias, Chandler basketball/track; Ashley Hatch, Highland soccer/track; Claire Horvath, Tempe Prep basketball/track; Haley Lawless, Seton Catholic volleyball; Sydnie Martindale, Higley volleyball/basketball/track; Chantel Osahor, St. Mary’s basketball/track; Siera Phillips, Red Mountain softball; Sarah Schmelzel, Xavier golf; Sydney Tassielli, Valley Christian volleyball/basketball/track