Marissa Drewrey, nominated five straight years for Stanislaus County Athlete of the Year, smiled ear to ear Wednesday night.
The Cal pitcher from Oakdale, a workhorse for the Golden Bears until her current injury-riddled senior season, finally annexed the top women's open division honors. Her award highlighted an emotional 43rd Outstanding Athlete Award Banquet attended by more than 400 at the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club.
It's great to be nominated five straight years," said Drewrey, a finalist three times in the high school division and twice in the open. "And it's an honor to win."
Drewrey, 24-11 last year for a Cal team (she's won 66 career games) that reached the NCAA Super Regional for the second straight year, topped Modesto Junior College water polo star Erica Crain and New Mexico State softball standout Tiare Jennings (Pitman) in the women's open.
UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel charmed and inspired the crowd with what he calls his "passion bucket" approach to football and life. But all heartstrings were tugged by the unveiling of a new OAA public service award named for the late Downey High student-athlete Daniel Hyde, an Army lieutenant who died in Iraq last year.
Brian Hyde, Daniel's father, sang the national anthem, and Frank Bispo, Hyde's football coach at Downey, dedicated the award. The night ended with a standing ovation and a moving five-minute video tribute to the fallen soldier.
"I will remember him," Bispo said, "as a true American hero."
The men's open winner was Oklahoma State sophomore German Fernandez, the Riverbank product and NCAA 1,500-meter champion. Bruce Edwards, German's coach at Riverbank, received the award on behalf of the injured Fernandez.
Fernandez, the 10th athlete to win the OAA's top awards at both the high school and open categories, edged Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Pitman) and Cal State Stanislaus' NCAA Division II pole vault champion Kasey Burlingham.
Modesto Christian also enjoyed a big OAA night. Isaiah Burse, the do-it-all quarterback who anchored the Crusaders' magical ride to a small-schools state football title, annexed the athlete of the year award in the high school boys division. Burse edged Billy Flamion and Matt Galas (both from Central Catholic), Javon Kelly (Downey) and Justin Jones (Oakdale).
"I promise to stay humble and never change," said Burse, who will take his football skills this fall to Fresno State.
Winning the top girls prep award was MC senior Brandi Henton, the talented guard (bound for Cal State Long Beach) who carried the Crusaders to the state Division IV final last year. The other finalists were Jode Johnson and McKenzy Harden (both of Ceres), Shawnee Martinez (Enochs) and Taylor Hanson (Johansen).
The entire Modesto Christian football team was on hand as it was feted as the OAA's Team of the Year. Coach Mike Parsons, who accepted the head-coaching job at Clovis West, accepted the plaque and embraced many of the members of "my great little team."
The rest of the awards list:
HALL OF FAME Ray Lankford, the Grace Davis High and MJC football and baseball star who became one of baseball's best outfielders of the 1990s for the St. Louis Cardinals, was inducted. Sam Nichols, Lankford's nephew, accepted.
PHILLIPS A large contingent of family and friends watched Wayne McGhee, for more than three decades a successful coach and administrator, receive the Darell Phillips Coaches Award. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for baseball," said McGhee, a catcher in the Boston and St. Louis organizations before he spawned his long coaching career.
PATTEE Jeff Hickman, one of the founders of Modesto Slam & Jam and a tireless coach and supporter of local basketball for more than 30 years, was given the Jay Pattee Award for public service to the sports community.
MELLIS Patterson High senior Kianna Weinzheimer, a two-sport athlete and student body president, received a $2,500 grant in memory of the late Tom Mellis, one of the SOS' founders. She will attend Oregon.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.