Prep “Athletes of the Year” taking their talents out of state


As happens all too often, the top high school athletes in Arizona are packing up their multi-talented skill sets and heading for another state to begin their college careers.

The Arizona Republic just announced its azcentral Athlete of the Year award winners.  Audrey LeClair, the girls’ AOY just graduated from Phoenix Country Day and will soon be wearing the maize and blue of the Michigan Wolverines.  The boys’ winner, Notre Dame Prep’s Jake Smith, has already unpacked his bags in the Lone Star State as he gets ready for his first season with the Texas Longhorns.

Between the two of them, they contributed significantly in five different sports.

Smith played running back and receiver for the Saints and also was a top scorer for the Scottsdale school’s lacrosse team.  LeClair led all softball players in the state during her senior season with a .804 batting average, capped her prep career in track & field by winning state titles in the long jump and high jump, and played four years of basketball.

By the time he got to his junior year, Smith was on the radar of most college recruiters.  His selection in his senior year as the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year marked the attainment of his career goals in the sport he loved best.  The 6-foot, 185-pound athlete played at various positions throughout his development, but excelled at running back and wide receiver, the roles he played as a senior.

Smith’s final two years saw a big surge in his stats as he compiled 4,887 all-purpose yards as a junior and senior – contributing 26 touchdowns by running for 1,876 yards and another 37 after piling up 2,125 yards receiving.

As if that wasn’t enough of a contribution to Notre Dame athletics, Smith got on board the lacrosse program and became a team leader in that sport, setting up as a midfielder.  He scored 27 goals in eight games to lead the Saints to their third consecutive lacrosse state championship.

LeClair’s sport of choice for her college career will be softball, but it wasn’t easy, she says, choosing between life on a softball diamond, the oval track, or the basketball court.

She finished her prep career with a .737 overall batting average, 182 total hits, 151 RBIs, and 26 home runs.  In track, she contributed in both running and field events. In addition to her long jump and high jump titles, she placed third in the 100-meter dash (:13.26) at the state finals this year.  And she also spent four years on the Eagles’ basketball team where she averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds for her career, but contributed 12 points per game her senior season.

And while making major contributions to the sports teams, she also excelled in the classroom.  She maintained a 3.5 GPA as a senior.

Her basketball coach, Sean Newland, had a simple way to define her combination of athletic ability and classroom achievements:

“She is a once-in-a-generation athlete.”