Times recognizes the best of the best for winter sports

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Navajo Times

SHIPROCK, N.M., May 8, 2014

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

Members of the Navajo Times first-team All-stars in girls basketball include Window Rock’s Naomie Klah, Many Farms’ Briana Clah, Tuba City’s Tate Tsingine, Shiprock’s Ashley John and Ramah’s Jordyn Lewis. Mac Beach (Window Rock) was named the Navajo Times coach of the year.

For some local players and coaches the extra time and effort put out on the wrestling mat and on the basketball court was worth it once they showed up at the Navajo Times All-Star ceremony.

Some of the top area coaches and players alike were rewarded and given their moment in the spotlight.

The athletes and coaches were honored during the ceremony held May 5 at the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

Briana Clah, a senior at Many Farms High School, was named co-player of the year in the girl's basketball.

"I was actually surprised because the first team was filled with good players," Clah said. "I played really hard this year and all four years, and I'm just waiting for that moment to get recognized. So, it feels pretty good."

Clah was selected as the Arizona Division III, Section I Player of the Year and First-Team, All-Star in Division III basketball.

She also signed to play basketball for Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz.

The highlight of the late morning event was the revealing of the coaches of the year and players of the year.

Clah, along with Ramah's Jordyn Lewis were named girl's basketball players of the year. In boy's basketball, Chinle's Kevin Yazzie and Justin Begay from Shiprock were named boy's basketball players of the year. In wrestling, in the lower weight division, Aaron Herder from Parker High School and Piedra Vista's Sam Sandoval, were named wrestlers of the year. Monument Valley's Lakota Laughter and Troy Rightmire from Bloomfield were named middleweight class wrestlers of the year. Donovan Clyde from Wingate and Shem Bowman from Holbrook were named upper-weight class wrestlers of the year.

This year's boy's basketball coaches of the year went to Tuba City's Ryan Brown and Shiprock's Chester H. Atcitty, Jr. Girl's basketball coaches of the year were Shiprock's Larenson Henderson and Window Rock's Mac Beach. John Bokker of Holbrook and Greg Shoemaker from Bloomfield were named wrestling coaches of the year.

Brown, who was unable to attend the event, said he was excited to hear that he had been awarded co-coach of the year, in a telephone interview.

He said it was a testament to the program's success as a whole.

"I think that with getting this award it just shows the work that the players put in and the coaches put in. It's more of a collective effort," Brown said. "It's not just me, it involved everybody; the administration and athletic department."

Brown was a first-year head coach at Tuba City where coached the team to the quarterfinals of the Arizona Division III state championships. He is also a former Tuba City high school basketball player.

He said knowing that he returned to the community and was able to earn such an honor makes it that much more special.

"It really touched me in that way because you don't see or hear former players going down the road the I've done. It's really special going through the process as a playerÉand coming back and having that opportunity to step into this position and have a lot of fun with it and have a lot of success as a well," he said.

The ceremony began with the Navajo Times photo session followed by introductions and a welcome address from Navajo Times Sports Editor Quentin Jodie.

Jodie also introduced guest speaker Raul Mendoza.

Mendoza, a longtime Arizona prep basketball coach at Holbrook, encouraged athletes to prepare for a stage much bigger than that of the high school level.

Mendoza gave the students four keys of success: preparation, plan, focus and belief.

"If you're going to do that, I guarantee you you're going to be successful in life," he said. " Life is what it's all about, you got to prepare, plan, and then you have to focus on what you're going to do. You're going to have to have faith in yourself, who you are and what you want to accomplish."

Dozens of athletes, their parents and coaches were in attendance of the event.

Athletes were chosen based on a number of factors that included the consideration of nominations by their own coaches and other coaches, as well as the consideration of the Times staff who saw many of the athletes perform.

Kevin Yazzie, co-boy's basketball player of the year from Chinle High School, was selected as the Arizona Division III, Section I Player of the Year and was selected for the First-Team, All-Star in Division III Arizona basketball.

Yazzie said he knew the nomination field would be competitive and was surprised to hear that he had won.

"It's something I didn't expect when I came here, there's a lot of athletes out here that have the same potential as me," he said. "It's just an honor to get this award."

In wrestling, co-lower weight class wrestler of the year Lakota Laughter, from Monument Valley, had a loss for words but managed to credit his hard work for having received the award.

"I've been going to a lot of off season tournament," he said. "It feels good to receive this."

Shiprock's Henderson was just as surprised has many of the other coaches. Henderson said he was just making sure his selected girls had their jersey's for the photo session and didn't think he would received the award.

He said it helped put things into perspective after his team fell short in the championship game this season.

"One thing about losing was my wife kind of put it in perspective by saying "look at your overall record of 51-4, how many coaches get to say that in two years?'

She was right," he said. "I'm pretty honored by it."

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