Girls Athlete of Year: Elena Bruckner

Elena Bruckner shows concentration in the shot put. The Valley Christian of San Jose grad also is among nation's all-time best in the discus. Photo:

Elena Bruckner shows concentration in the shot put. The Valley Christian of San Jose grad also is among nation’s all-time best in the discus. Photo:

It’s a debate whether she should even be considered the best girl at her school, but with CIF state track titles in two events, top placements in the IAAF World U20 championships and being a key player on a CIF state title team in another sport, that’s enough for San Jose Valley Christian’s Elena Bruckner. She joins an all-time list that includes many of the greatest legends in women’s sports history, including Helen Wills-Moody, Billie Jean King, Lisa Leslie, Kerri Walsh and Alyson Felix.

For the rundown on the other 2015-16 State Girls Athletes of the Year, CLICK HERE.


It’s not quite the same as in 2004-05 when swimmer Jessica Hardy and volleyball player Cynthia Barboza were both at Long Beach Wilson, but it could be argued that this year’s Cal-Hi Sports Girls State Athlete of the Year might not even be the best at her own school.

We’re pretty confident, however, that Elena Bruckner of San Jose Valley Christian not only was strong enough in two sports to edge volleyball teammate Ronika Stone for this year’s top overall honor, but that she also was strong enough to top anyone else who was strongly considered.

Bruckner, who was the 2014-15 State Junior Athlete of the Year, shined in both the shot put and discus on the track. Before that, she also was a solid starter and key player for a Valley Christian girls volleyball team that went 31-8 and won the CIF Division III state crown.

Bruckner competed hard and made friends from others around the world in last month's IAAF U20 World Championships in Poland. Photo:

Bruckner competed hard and made friends from others around the world in last month’s IAAF U20 World Championships in Poland. Photo:

In receiving the prestigious statewide honor, Bruckner becomes just the sixth from Santa Clara County to be chosen for it going back to 1919-20. Two of the others are from San Jose Archbishop Mitty – Rometra Craig for 1998-99 (basketball, track) and Kerri Walsh for 1995-96 (volleyball, basketball) – while the other three are all swimmers – Keena Rothhammer of Santa Clara 1972-73, Donna de Varona of Santa Clara 1962-63 and Chris von Saltza of Los Gatos 1959-60.

Bruckner, who is headed to Texas for college, ranks as one of the greatest shot put-discus competitors in U.S. prep history. Her top mark in the shot put of 54 feet, 7 inches ranks her sixth all-time while her top mark in the discus of 186-10 only shows three others on the national list that are higher.

While she didn’t get a double victory at this year’s CIF state meet in Clovis, she repeated as the CIF state champ in the shot put and was second in the discus.

But Bruckner also wasn’t done after the state meet. She just returned from the IAAF World U20 Championships in Poland where she further established herself as one of the top young track athletes in the U.S. Despite competing mostly against athletes in college, Bruckner was third in final qualifying and finished seventh in the shot put at 51-7 ¼. She was second in final qualifying in the discus and finished seventh at 170-9.

“Statistically, Elena is one of the best combo throwers in the history of prep track and field, but she’s never been satisfied, always looking to get better,” said Valley Christian coach Josh Small when Elena was named as Gatorade’s State Girls Track Athlete of the Year. “She’s a gifted athlete, but also one who has matched that talent with an incredible work ethic.”

Bruckner, who also had a 4.13 GPA at Valley Christian, showed that work ethic through social media comments she made after the seventh-place showing in Poland in the discus.

“Should have been third,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to tighten your ponytail, fix your bow, and get back out there.”
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Not all track athletes with the kind of pedigree that Bruckner has compete in a second sport, but she certainly did. Playing a key role for Valley Christian’s nationally ranked team in volleyball, Bruckner was third on the team in kills and was in the top rotation in every match. The Warriors finished 31-8 and won their second CIF Division III state title in three years with a 3-0 sweep of Chula Vista Olympian.

Stone, the daughter of former NFL lineman Ron Stone, was clearly the star of that volleyball team. She led the team in most statistical categories, signed with Oregon and was on more than one All-American team. She also was a standout for the USA Youth National team last summer.

In a comparison with Bruckner, however, it’s hard to say if Stone ranks as one of the top five or six players ever in the nation. It’s easier to say that Bruckner might be that highly ranked in her track and field events plus she was more than solid in a second sport.

Other single-sport athletes along with Stone that also were seriously considered for the state athlete pick included Tara Davis of Agoura (also from track and field), Sabrina Ionescu of Orinda Miramonte (basketball), Andrea Lee of Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (golf) and Gabrielle Garcia of Placentia Valencia (wrestling). U.S. Olympic team water polo player Aria Fischer of Laguna Beach also would have been considered, but she didn’t attend Laguna Beach and didn’t play for the Breakers this school year in favor of home schooling.

In that other year when two great candidates were from the same school, we chose Hardy the swimmer over Barboza the volleyball player. At the time, Hardy had broken at least one American record and was on the world stage. Barboza was the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year, although to be fair to the Gatorade selectors they didn’t include swimming and still don’t as one of the sports in that program.

Hardy and Barboza later went on to compete in the Olympics, a feat that wouldn’t be surprising in 2020 or beyond for both Bruckner and Stone.


(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

Last year's winner, Abbey Weitzeil, is the top 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle swimmer for the USA in this year's Olympic Games. Photo:

Last year’s winner, Abbey Weitzeil, is the top 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle swimmer for the USA in this year’s Olympic Games. Photo:

2015-16 – Elena Bruckner, San Jose Valley Christian (track, volleyball)
2014-15 – Abbey Weitzeil, Saugus (swimming)
2013-14 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2012-13 – Chelsea Chenault, Concord Carondelet (swimming)
2011-12 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2010-11 – Maggie Steffens, Danville Monte Vista (water polo)
2009-10 – Ashton Purvis, Oakland St. Elizabeth (track)
2008-09 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track)
2007-08 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track) Jr.
2006-07 – Alix Klineman, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (volleyball)
2005-06 – Jayne Appel, Concord Carondelet (water polo, basketball)
2004-05 – Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson (swimming)
2003-04 – Candice Wiggins, La Jolla Country Day (volleyball, basketball)
2002-03 – Alyson Felix, North Hills L.A. Baptist (track)
2001-02 – Julia Pitts, Torrance North (volleyball, basketball, track)
2000-01 – Lashinda Demus, Long Beach Wilson (track)
1999-00 – Monique Henderson, San Diego Morse (track) Jr.
1998-99 – Rometra Craig, San Jose Mitty (basketball, tae kwon do, track) Jr.
1997-98 – Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica (volleyball, soccer, baseball)
1996-97 – Tayyiba Haneef, Laguna Hills (volleyball, basketball, track)
1995-96 – Kerri Walsh, San Jose Mitty (volleyball, basketball)
1994-95 – Marcy Crouch, Huntington Beach Marina (soccer, softball)
1993-94 – Suzy Powell, Modesto Downey (basketball, track)
1992-93 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track)
1991-92 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track) Jr.
1990-91 – Marion Jones, Oxnard Rio Mesa (basketball, track) Soph.
1989-90 – Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside (basketball, track)
1988-89 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming)
1987-88 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming) Jr.
1986-87 – Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia (softball)
1985-86 – Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma (basketball, track)
1984-85 – Elaina Oden, Irvine (volleyball, track)
1983-84 – Wendy Brown, Woodside (basketball, track)
1982-83 – Wendy Wyland, Mission Viejo (diving)
1981-82 – Denean Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1980-81 – Cheryl Miller, Riverside Polytechnic (basketball)
1979-80 – Sherri Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1978-79 – Cynthia Woodhead, Riverside Polytechnic (swimming)
1977-78 – Tracy Austin, Rolling Hills (tennis)
1976-77 – Linda Fratianne, Van Nuys Valley Professional (figure skating)
1975-76 – Jill Sterkel, Hacienda Heights Wilson (swimming)
1974-75 – Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian (basketball, softball)
1973-74 – Mary Decker, Orange (track)
1972-73 – Keena Rothhammer, Santa Clara (swimming)
1971-72 – Mable Fergerson, Pomona Ganesha (track)
1970-71 – Laura Baugh, Long Beach Wilson (golf)
1969-70 – Cathy Rigby, Los Alamitos (gymnastics)
1968-69 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1967-68 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1966-67 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1965-66 – Charlotte Cooke, Compton (track)
1964-65 – Peggy Fleming, Pasadena (figure skating)
1963-64 – Sharon Stouder, Glendora (swimming)
1962-63 – Donna de Varona, Santa Clara (swimming)
1961-62 – Carolyn House, Los Angeles Marshall (swimming)
1960-61 – Billie Jean King, Long Beach Poly (tennis)*
1959-60 – Chris von Saltza, Los Gatos (swimming)
1958-59 – Karen Hantze, San Diego Mission Bay (tennis)
1957-58 – Sylvia Ruuska, Berkeley (swimming)
1956-57 – Barbara Ann Roles, Arcadia (figure skating)
1955-56 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1954-55 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1953-54 – Carol Tait, Atherton Menlo-Atherton (swimming)
1952-53 – Barbara Stark, Lafayette Acalanes (swimming)
1951-52 – Paula Jean Myers, Covina (diving)
1950-51 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1949-50 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1948-49 – Marlene Bauer, L.A. unknown (golf)
1947-48 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1946-47 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1945-46 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1944-45 – Nancy Chaffee, Ventura (tennis)
1943-44 – Jean Doyle, San Diego Point Loma (tennis)
1942-43 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1941-42 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1940-41 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1939-40 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1938-39 – Esther Williams, L.A. Washington (swimming)
1937-38 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1936-37 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1935-36 – Peggy Graham, Beverly Hills (golf)
1934-35 – Margaret Osborne, S.F. Commerce (tennis)
1933-34 – Florence Chadwick, San Diego Hoover (rough water swimming)
1932-33 – Dorothy Poynton, L.A. Fairfax (diving)
1931-32 – Evelyn Furtsch, Tustin (track)
1930-31 – Alice Marble, S.F. Polytechnic (tennis)
1929-30 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1928-29 – Gloria Russell, Berkeley (track)
1927-28 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1926-27 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1925-26 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1924-25 – Eleanor Garatti, San Rafael (swimming)
1923-24 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley (tennis)
1922-23 – Helen Wills, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1921-22 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1920-21 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1919-20 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
*Known as Billie Jean Moffitt while in high school.

Note: All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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