Montoya, Westbrook earn Track Athlete of the Year awards

The Arizona Republic managed to spread the honors around in its selection of the Track Athletes of the Year, picking a sprinter on the girls side and a boys distance runner.  But, except for an early-season injury, it could just as easily have been a couple of sprinters walking away with this season’s awards.

Bernie Montoya was named the Boys Track Athlete of the Year, an award he richly deserves.  The senior from Cibola High School in Yuma wrapped up his prep career with impressive performances in the 800 meters, 1,600 meters, and 3,200 meters at the state championships.  After winning the 3,200, he came within a second of breaking the state record of 4:05.89 in the 1,600, for his third straight state title in that event – and then did set a new state mark in the 800 with a sizzling time of 1:50.19.  He already owned the state record in the 3,200 (8:47.07).

But Montoya has been a constant in the winner’s circle throughout high school, winning three state cross country titles.  This latest track title puts a nice cap on a stellar prep career, which earned him a scholarship at Arizona State. He’s already shown he is ready for the college stage.  Last year he won the prestigious Adidas Dream Mile in New York, a premier invitation-only event that featured 14 of the best men’s and women’s distance runners in the country.

While Montoya was an obvious pick this year, that decision could have been a lot more difficult if Devon Allen had not spent a good part of the early season trying to recover from an ankle injury he sustained while representing Brophy Prep on the football field.

The senior sprinter managed to work his way back into top shape by season’s end, first breaking his own state record in the 110 hurdles at the Mt. SAC Relays in late April; he set the record last year, when he also posted a state-record time in the 300 hurdles.  He finished the season by winning his second consecutive state title in the 110 high hurdles, and added wins in the 300 hurdles and 200 meters.

Ky Westbrook, this year’s Girls Track Athlete of the Year, was an obvious pick as well.  But she had to beat out an outstanding distance runner, Sarah Fakler, who has been dominant throughout her prep career and closed the track potion of her career with a state title in the 3,200 meters (10:30.34).  She won three straight Gatorade Arizona Cross Country Runner of the Year awards during four years at Xavier Prep.

But no one will argue the merits of handing the award over to Westbrook, despite the fact that she still has another year yet to compete for Chandler High School, where she has helped the girls’ program to the last three of eight consecutive state championships.

The dominating sprinter has owned the 100-meter and 200-meter events in this state since entering high school. She has never lost in state tournament competition, winning three state titles in each event.  This year she won the 200 in a time of 23.39, breaking a state record that has stood for almost a decade, and then went on to run away from the field with a time of 11.45 in the 100 – putting her at No. 3 on the state list of all-time fastest times in that event.

She also added field events to her repertoire this season, with the idea of becoming a heptathlete competitor in college.  Now she competes in the long jump, high jump and hurdles – but enjoyed huge success in the shot put. She posted a toss of 47’09” this season to break a state record that had stood for 33 years.

It will be interesting to see what else this youngster decides to do for her senior year.  She apparently has few limits to her athletic abilities.

(Photo: Margot Kelly)