It took some really impressive resumes to even get nominated as this year’s high school athletes of the year, much less win the award.
But Tyson Jones and Brooke Nuneviller made a strong case for the honor, which was bestowed upon them at this year’s azcentral Sports Awards Show at Arizona State‘s Gammage Auditorium.
Jones, the recipient of the Sports Awards Boys Athlete of the Year, was up against outstanding athletes like Roman Bravo-Young and Brock Purdy. Bravo-Young, from Sunnyside High School in Tucson, won four state wrestling championships and finished his prep career undefeated while establishing a new state record of 182 consecutive victories. Purdy set 6A single-season football records in his senior season with 4,400 yards passing and 57 touchdown passes while leading Gilberts’ Perry High School to its first-ever appearance in a state championship game.
Nuneviller, the Girls’ Athlete of the Year, had to get past Jai Gruenwald and Marissa Schuld, considered the other top contenders for the prestigious award. Gruenwald ran track for Chandler High School, which has won 12 of the last 13 Division I state track & field titles. She capped her prep career by winning four individual state championships in the 100 and 300 hurdles and both the long jump and triple jump. Her mark of 20’6.75″ in the long jump broke a state record that had stood for 40 years.
Schuld was a dominant force in softball this year, pitching her Pinnacle High School team into three state championship games each of the last three years, and finally winning the 6A state title this year – the north Phoenix school’s first-ever in the sport. The two-time Arizona Gatorade Softball Player of the Year finished her senior year with a stunning 0.74 ERA and won 11 of 12 games.
So what did it take to make a big-enough impression on the azcentral selection committee of high school sports writers to edge out these worthy competitors for the award?
Like Schuld, Nuneville is a two-time Gatorade state POY in her chosen sport, volleyball. The senior at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix wrapped up an enormously successful senior season by first being named the azcentral’s Girls Volleyball Player of the Year during the indoor season, and then followed that up by earning the Sand Volleyball Player of the Year when the game moved outdoors in the spring.
By the close of the indoor season, she was ranked fourth in the state in kills and hitting percentage.
Before heading off to college, Nuneviller will compete as a member of the junior national team.
On the boys’ side, Jones has been in the news since mid-March when he erased one of the state’s legendary track & field records. In the first meet of the outdoor season, the 6’5″, 295-pounder heaved an iron ball 69 feet, 7 1/4 inches, a throw that eclipsed the state high school shot put record set back in 1958 by Dallas Long.
Long, a senior at North High School in Phoenix at the time, used a toss of 69’3″ to set a mark that would stand for the next 60 years. Many observers of the sport began to question whether it would ever be broken.
And later in the season, at the Willie Williams Classic at the University of Arizona, Jones added some distance to assure that his record would remain intact for awhile. He threw the shot 70’4.5″ to become just the 29th American high schooler to break the 70-foot mark.
He didn’t stop there, however. He broke through several more times and eventually established the new state record at 71’8.75″.
And this weekend, Jones won the shot put at the New Balance High School National Championships in North Carolina with a throw of 70’1.5″ to close out his prep career ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Unfortunately, the Arizona colleges were unable to scoop up either athlete in their recruiting nets. Jones will compete next year at Virginia Tech and Nuneviller is headed for the University of Oregon.