In this age of specialization, multi-sport athletes are rare.
That’s just one of the things that make Kearny’s Takoda Browne and Rancho Bernardo’s Nia Akins special. Their high school athletic seasons just ran one after the other with little opportunity to catch their breath.
They were so outstanding they were selected the 2015-16 Athletes of the Year by the combined votes of the San Diego Hall of Champions, San Diego Union-Tribune and a poll voted on by the public.
Both were honored Saturday at the 10th Prep Athletes Awards Gala along with the coaches of the year Liz Ladley of West Hills (gymnastics) and Tristan McCoy of Rancho Bernardo (football).
A full houseof more than 350 student-athletes, parents, coaches and well-wishers were on hand.
Here is a look at each major award winner:
BOYS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
It’s one thing to be first team All-Section in a single sport, but Takoda Browne earned the honor for football and basketball. He didn’t slow down in the spring, running for Kearny’s track team.
Although he enjoys all three sports, it’s obvious which one he favors.
“I have a passion for basketball,” said Browne, who transferred to Kearny from Mississippi before his sophomore season. “I have a basketball IQ and playing on the same team for three years with many of my teammates, it was great when we’d know exactly what the other guy was going to do before they did it.”
Leading the Komets to section Division I Championship this year, Browne averaged 10.9 points a game for Kearny (31-4).
Before that, he rushed for 1,559 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to accumulating 2,559 all-purpose yards in football.
The other finalists were Foothills Christian’s T.J. Leaf (basketball) and La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak (baseball).
GIRLS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Whether it was on the track or heading off into the hills of a cross country course, you could usually find the University of Pennsylvania-bound Nia Akins in the front of the pack by the end of the race.
“The highlight of the year for me was when my teammates qualified for the state cross country championships,” said Akins. “I was really proud to lead them and it just goes to show that with a lot of hard work, you can accomplish your goals.”
Akins could outsprint the best quarter-milers in the section as well as outlast those who found the 3.1-mile cross country course their favorite venue.
In cross country, Akins captured the section Division II title at Morley Field, covering the 2.75-mile course in 16-minutes, 40-seconds to win by 10 seconds. She then went on to place 16th in the state championships.
She fared just as well in track, winning the section 800-meter title before qualifying for the state championships in the event where, after helping to set the pace for most of the race, she finished 12th.
The other finalists were Calvin Christian’s Sara Wagenveld (volleyball, track) and Bishop’s Destiny Littleton (basketball).
MALE COACH OF THE YEAR
When he went 1-9 two straight years, Tristan McCoy admits he was wondering what he had to do to turn around Rancho Bernardo’s football fortunes.
As it turned out, he just needed to keep doing what worked and after going 10-3 in 2014, he hit the jackpot last season, posting a 13-2 record that included a state Division III bowl championship victory over Atherton Sacred Heart Prep.
FEMALE COACH OF THE YEAR
Although she has been the gymnastics coach at West Hill for five years, success has followed Liz Ladley every year. Over that time she has placed first in the section twice, second twice and third the other time.
In 2016 her Wolf Pack girls used the optional all-around performance by freshman Tessa Anderson to win the team title by less than two points, 224.450-222.600.