Saturday, Dimond's ZeeZee Young was chosen for the 2004 Anchorage Daily News Girls High School Athlete of the Year Award. The selection is wrong. The best girls athlete in the 2003-04 prep season is Soldotna's Ari Goldstein.
Both Young and Goldstein had outstanding years. Young was an all-state selection in basketball, leading her team to the Class 4A state title. She also won a state track title in the 300-meter hurdles.
Goldstein, meanwhile, won the Class 4A cross country state title. She also won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs at the state track meet, in addition to anchoring her team to victory in the 1,600-meter relay.
Young was selected by a vote of the Daily News sports staff. According to the article in Saturday's sports section, Young was given the nod over Goldstein for her ability to excel in individual and team sports.
This argument does not hold up in light of past Daily News selections for Athlete of the Year. In 2003 and 2002, the selection was Kris Smith of West, who competed in cross country and track. In 2001 and 2000, the selection was East's Kikkan Randall, who competed in cross country, cross-country skiing and track.
What mattered in the selection of Randall and Smith was athletic accomplishment, whether it was in an individual or team sport. Goldstein likewise should have been judged on athletic accomplishment, not by whether she was competing in a mix of individual and team sports.
Further, while cross country and track and field athletes can achieve individual excellence without the help of their teammates, cross country and track and field athletes still have the opportunity to be excellent teammates.
Goldstein is one of those individual-sport athletes who is a great teammate. At this year's state track meet, instead of resting herself for a shot at a state-record time, Goldstein reserved energy through each race in order to assure the four victories and give her team as many points as possible.
This year, at the low-key Soldotna-Skyview dual meet, Goldstein bobbed around giving encouragement to teammates even though the meet isn't much more than a glorified practice where all the times are official.
It's moments like these that have led Soldotna cross country and track and field coach Mark Devenney to proclaim that Goldstein is one of the best, if not the best, leaders he's had at Soldotna High School.
Brush aside the argument about team and individual sports, and it's clear Goldstein had the better year in terms of athletic achievement.
It's hard to argue against the success Young had in basketball. Although teammate Lillian Bullock joined her on the all-state tournament team and the all-state team voted on by the media, Young was the MVP of Region IV and the steady guard that averaged 14.8 points and led the Lynx to a state title. Wasilla's Chandice Cronk did beat out Young for Player of the Year honors.
It's also hard to argue against the success Goldstein had in track and cross country.
Goldstein was not beaten in an individual race all year in track. She is the fourth runner, male or female, since 1990 to win the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races at the same state meet. She was not challenged in any of those races and earned athlete of the meet honors on the girls side.
In cross country, Goldstein did not have as dominant of a season, losing to Service's Juliane Smith in the Skyview Invitational and to Seward's Whitney Anderson in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Meet. Goldstein did come back to win the Class 4A race at the Region III meet, win the Palmer Invitational and beat Smith at state.
What separates Goldstein and Young is Young's performance at the state track meet. While Goldstein won every state race she ran this year, Young won the 300 hurdles at state track but finished fourth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the long jump.
These shortcomings don't mean Young is anything less than an extraordinary athlete, but they do leave her short of the standard that Goldstein set.
That's why Goldstein is the most accomplished girls athlete of the 2003-04 prep season.
This column is the opinion of Clarion sports editor Jeff Helminiak. Comments and criticisms can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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