A couple of Mountain Pointe High School graduates were included in this year’s hall of fame class of Arizona athletes. They have also set a precedent that may never be duplicated.
Nicole Powell and Sara Gorton were just inducted into the azcentral.com Arizona High School Sports Hall of Fame. They are among a group of 33 athletes that have been inducted into the virtual hall of fame in the four years it has been in existence.
Both are generally regarded as among the best high school athletes this state has produced in their respective sports, Powell in basketball and Gorton in track.
But what makes the honor so unique is that the women were classmates at Mountain Pointe in Phoenix and now are among the eight members of the 2010 class of inductees. Both have gone on to professional careers at their respective sports.
To add still another twist to the occasion, Powell and Gorton actually competed on the same team in high school. Powell was a multi-sport athlete who joined Gorton on the track team at Mountain Pointe, winning a state title in the discus and helping the school to a state title in her senior year.
Gorton was the premier distance runner of her time, winning the cross-country title her junior and senior years and finishing her high school career in possession of seven more individual track titles.
She continued to excel in the distance events at the University of Colorado, where she became the first female freshman All-American at the school in Boulder. She won the NCAA championship in the indoor 5,000 meters in 2003 and added a national title in the 10k her senior year – and also captured NCAA cross-country titles in her freshman and senior years.
She graduated from Colorado as the nation’s No. 1 in the 10,000m and also left with a husband. In her senior year, Gorton married another runner from the university, All-American Steve Slattery, and now competes for Nike as Sara Gorton Slattery.
Powell was the only athlete on this year’s ballot to get in by unanimous selection of the 15-member committee that includes former and current sports writers from the Arizona Republic and the defunct Phoenix Gazette. Athletes must be out of high school for at least 10 years to get on the ballot.
It’s no surprise that Powell’s selection was unanimous. She was recently voted The Arizona Republic‘s Player of the 20th Century.
The 28-year-old is still considered by many to be the best basketball player to ever come out of an Arizona high school. A two-time Arizona Player of the Year, she set Mountain Pointe scoring records in career points (2,478) and rebounds (1,760) and averaged 21 points and 15.5 rebounds her senior year.
She wasn’t just a basketball player, but an all-around athlete. In addition to winning a state title in the discus, she was an all-region selection in tennis and was the 5A state runner-up in doubles in 1998. She also smashed a mean birdie, winning state singles championships in badminton in three of her four years.
But she was just getting warned up with her high school career. After Mountain Pointe came a stellar college career at Stanford.
At Stanford, Powell was one of only two Kodak All-Americans in the school’s history and set records that still stand today. The Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2001-02, she owns Stanford’s women’s basketball records for single-game rebounds (21) and single-season rebounds (327), and ranks first in school history for career rebounds per game (9.1) and is third in points-per-game (16.3).
Moving up to the professional game, the 6’3″ Powell was picked third overall in the 2004 draft by the Charlotte Sting and then traded the following year to the Sacramento Monarchs, where she earned the WNBA Most Improved Player Award, averaged 17 points a game and had the league’s best free-throw percentage, 97.9 per cent.
When the Monarchs folded after the 2009 season, Powell was selected by the New York Liberty with their first pick in the dispersal draft.
Eight athletes were inducted in the 2010 class, including four football players: Michael Bates from Amphitheater HS (Tucson), Fred Carr from Phoenix Union HS, and Mike Mitchell from Brophy Prep (Phoenix), and Bob Breunig from Alhambra HS in Phoenix. The other two are Mike Bibby, who played basketball at Shadow Mountain HS in Phoenix, and Jamie Graves, a softball star at Moon Valley HS in Phoenix.