Dont blame JaQuan Gardner for being a few minutes late for the 47th Outstanding Athlete Awards Dinner.
The Central Valley senior, who set Stanislaus District football records last fall for the Hawks, was conflicted by a track meet at Ceres High. So he raced to the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club, changed clothes and walked straight to the dais for the press reception Wednesday night.
But not after he won the 100-meter dash and helped his victorious 4x100 relay team.
I just had to rush it, he said.
Gardner was right on time, however, to receive the OAAs high school boys Athlete of the Year award. The prolific Central Valley running back, who totaled 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns last fall, edged fellow finalists Spencer Stark and Matt Ringer of two-time state football champion Central Catholic, state wrestling champion Israel Saavedra of Modesto and Oakdale star pitcher Bryce Dyrda.
About 400 attended the OAA dinner, which recognized Stanislaus Countys best athletes of 2013.
Winning the girls high school top award was Modesto Christian senior Lexi Tubbs, a throwback volley-basketball-track star who keyed the Crusaders drive to a state basketball title earlier this year.
Tubbs joined fellow finalists Shelby Stender from Sac-Joaquin Section water polo champ Oakdale, Gregoris Pacific-bound volleyball hitter Maycie LaBass, Hughson star pitcher Katelyn Harden and Turlock Christians high-scoring basketball star Halie Bergman.
All the hard work has paid off, Tubbs said. Theres a million and one families I have to thank....and my coaches whove always been there. I owe it all to them.
The mens Athlete of the Year award was won by former Modesto Christian star Isaiah Burse, who became one of the most productive wide receiver/kick returners in Fresno State history. Other mens finalists were UCLA national champion pitcher Nick Vander Tuig of Oakdale and USC All-American golfer Sam Smith of Turlock.
Burse became only the 13th athlete whos swept to both the OAAs high school and open honors. Modesto Christian coach Mark Dobbins accepted.
Amanda Pridmore, the pitcher who anchored San Jose States march to its first Western Athletic Conference softball championship, was named the womens open champion.
Its cool to get recognition from your hometown, especially when you leave and move on to something bigger, said Pridmore, a Modesto High graduate. I want to thank everyone who helped me.
Pridmores fellow open finalists were Modesto Junior College stars track-cross country runner Becky Hobby and state champion javelin thrower Kianna Weinzheimer (now at Kansas).
Former NFL linebacker Seth Joyner, the guest speaker, spoke directly to the athletes and made sure they thanked their parents for all their sacrifices.
If you expect little, youll get little, Joyner instructed. If you expect the best, its there for the taking.
Modesto three-time discus Olympian Suzy Powell was inducted to the OAA Hall of Fame along with the late Modesto coach-official-administrator Dan Gonsalves.
I guess its official. Im an old-timer, said Powell, the Downey High graduate wholl be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame this summer. The community has supported me so much, and Im so grateful.
Chella Gonsalves, Dans widow, recognized family members after she was introduced by former longtime Grace Davis coach Don Lanphear.
Oakdale Highs baseball team, which took home its fourth straight section title and sixth in the last seven last springs, walked en masse to the stage along with its coach Hondo Arpoika to be honored as the Team of the Year.
Kim Duyst, the mens and womens track and cross country coach at Cal State Stanislaus for 21 years and today the Warriors Associate Athletics Director, received the Darell Phillips Coaches Award. She was introduced by one of her former athletes, Stanislaus coach Diljeet Taylor.
Im up here today because of them, Duyst said in reference to all her former Stanislaus athletes, including nine national champions. Its been a great ride.
The Jay Pattee Award, for public service to the sports community, was given posthumously to Ray Baltz, the former principal of Caswell School in Ceres who transported young skiers and campers for 40 years as Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts. His son Chis accepted the award.
Patterson Highs Brooke Hejnal and Modestos Kelly Wesley each received a $2,500 grant from the Tom Mellis Memorial Scholarship.
Check back later Thursday afternoon for video from the dinner.