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Judy Kight, coach of the Mead Panther volleyball team, hugs one of her players before heading to the stage to accept her award as Junior Female Coach of the Year. The team collected three awards. (Jesse Tinsley)

Mead girls’ feat results in awards

Volleyball title honored at youth luncheon

The Mead High volleyball team pulled off an improbable comeback to capture the State 4A championship last fall.

On Wednesday, Mead reaped honors for its feat at the 32nd annual Youth Awards Luncheon at the Spokane Convention Center. Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters tabbed senior outside hitter Alexis Olgard as Junior Female Athlete of the Year, Panthers coach Judy Kight as Junior Female Coach of the Year and Mead as the Junior Female Team of the Year.

Olgard’s father accepted the award on his daughter’s behalf. She graduated early and is in Los Angeles where she will play at the University of Southern California.

Kight, who reached the 500-win milestone last year, took a moment to reflect on the Panthers’ seventh state title in the last 11 years.

Curtis took the first two games from No. 1-ranked Mead (32-2) in the state final, and the Panthers trailed 20-12 in the third when they started their comeback.

“I’m so privileged to be the coach of a team that never gave up,” Kight said. “They made one of the most remarkable comebacks ever in state championship history. I hope it’s something they always remember.”

While all of the female honors went to Mead, the male honors were spread out.

Deer Park wrestling coach Matt Jorgensen was named Junior Male Coach of the Year. It’s an honor he most likely will be up for next year as his Stags just captured their third straight State 2A championship last weekend.

“Something like this isn’t won by one person,” Jorgensen said. “I like to call Deer Park up there God’s country. We’ve got a great bunch of volunteers and a great group of guys that help out … volunteer assistants, all my coaches, community members. Last, but not least, my team. Their dreams and their goals wouldn’t be reached without all of their hard work. You guys are awesome and I love you.”

Ferris senior quarterback Connor Halliday was named Junior Male Athlete of the Year. The Washington State University-bound and record-setting Halliday led the Saxons to the State 4A finals. He completed 294 of 461 passes for nearly 4,100 yards and 40 touchdowns.

For winning an unprecedented fourth straight State 2B title, the Northwest Christian boys basketball team was honored as Junior Male Team of the Year. The Crusaders were 29-0 last year and went 115-4 during their four-year run.

“We have all come to realize that talent alone is not the reason for our victories, but because of the God we play for, our coaches who lead us and our teammates who we depend on,” said the Crusaders’ Chase Ramey, who was a finalist for the male athlete honor.

Two special awards were presented. Nhung Tran of Rogers was honored as the Student Athletic Trainer of the Year and Grant Schultz of Reardan, a three-sport senior who carries a 3.97 grade-point average, received the Sportsmanship of the Year award.

University of Idaho football coach Robb Akey was the event’s special speaker. His 20-minute speech recounted, almost game by game, the magical season the Vandals had that was capped by their Humanitarian Bowl victory.

Akey told the more than 1,000 student athletes at the luncheon that when he became Idaho’s head coach three years ago he endeavored to build a family and a program based on character.

“I didn’t give them (his players) a long list of rules because I don’t like to keep track of those,” Akey said. “I certainly didn’t want to be the sheriff or the principal, I wanted to be the football coach. So I told them we have one rule – do the right thing. To me that’s pretty simple. As you take off to college and embark on your futures, just do the right thing. How do you know what the right thing is? If you have to think about it before you do it, you’re probably not doing it.”