This is the final 2020-21 state honor to be completed and it’s the girls version of the boys that was announced yesterday. By our evaluations, there were three girls that stood above all others with one who was a senior, the other a junior and the other a sophomore. The top honoree is national record-breaking pole vaulter Paige Sommers from Westlake (Westlake Village) while the lead junior honoree is wrestler Amit Elor from College Park of Pleasant Hill with sophomore Alyssa Thompson from Harvard-Westlake of Studio City (soccer & track) winning out in her class. We also have freshman and divisional state athletes of the year accolades that have been decided.
For a look at updated all-time state list of athletes of the year,
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(Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis also completed several of these writeups.)
During the strongest year for girls pole vaulting in U.S. prep history, Westlake of Westlake Village senior Paige Sommers still soared above the competition to produce one of the most memorable seasons by any high school track and field athlete in California.
Whether it was on the runway at her home stadium, the renovated venue at Arcadia High, a newly constructed facility in Menifee devoted solely to pole vaulting or in one of four states she traveled to for competition, all eyes were on the Duke-bound Sommers and her quest to elevate the all-time marks in the event.
Following a year in which she competed unattached in several meets against professional and college athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sommers relied on that experience during her return to high school events. She was rewarded May 26 by enjoying her greatest career achievement with a clearance of 14 feet, 9 inches (4.50m) to set American Under-20 and national prep outdoor records at the Marmonte League final at Westlake High.
It was that remarkable effort, which is equal to the No. 11 American outdoor performance and ranks in the top 50 in the world this season, combined with impressive consistency throughout the spring that earned Sommers the recognition as Cal-Hi Sports 2020-21 Girls State Athlete of the Year.
Sommers, who equaled the all-time high school indoor mark of 14-9 achieved in 2019 by Chloe Cunliffe of West Seattle High, is the first female athlete from Westlake High to receive the state’s top honor and the only pole vaulter ever to receive the recognition.
The last girls track and field athlete to earn the state award was Tara Davis of Agoura High in 2016-17. Davis concluded her career at Texas this year by setting collegiate records in the indoor and outdoor long jump, winning a pair of NCAA Division 1 titles and representing the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics, placing sixth. Sommers participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials along with Davis, as the only high school pole vaulter to qualify to compete June 24 in the field of 24 athletes.
Although Sommers was unable to advance to the final, she traveled from Oregon the following day to compete again June 26 at the California Track and Field Championships at Arcadia High – organized as a replacement for the annual CIF state meet held at Clovis Buchanan High that was canceled for the second year in a row as a result of the pandemic – and win the unofficial state title with a first-attempt clearance at 13-8 (4.16m) to edge Allison Leigh of San Diego Del Norte, who needed three tries to make the same height. Leigh was one of nine prep athletes this year to achieve a 14-foot clearance (4.27m), including three from California, along with 2019 state champion Ashley Callahan of Rancho Bernardo at 14-6 (4.42m).
Although both athletes excelled June 12 at the San Diego Section Division 1 finals, Callahan and Leigh were unable to match the overall success of Sommers, who equaled the No. 12 competitor in World Under-20 history. Sommers also set the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 record with a 14-foot clearance June 12, making her the only female pole vaulter in section history to win titles in the top two divisions.
Sommers concluded her career with four individual section championships, along with the California junior class record 14-6 from the 2020 Thousand Oaks Invitational. She achieved six 14-foot clearances this year, more than any vaulter in the country, and accumulated nine during her high school career, tied for second all-time.
Sommers is also the only prep vaulter with three of the top 10 all-time clearances, including a 14-8.50 (4.48m) performance April 3 that ranks No. 3 in high school history.
Sommers also won the NSAF USA Meet of Champions on March 26 in South Carolina, battling cold and windy conditions to prevail with a 12-11.50 (3.95m) clearance against a field that included three 14-foot competitors from Washington, including national sophomore class record holder Amanda Moll from Capital High. She also placed runner-up at the adidas indoor nationals Feb. 28 in Virginia with a 13-9.25 (4.20m) clearance, a mark that ranks third all-time in California and among the top 20 efforts ever achieved in indoor prep competition.
Outdoors, indoors and everywhere in between Paige Sommers was a Golden State delight and cleared the bar on so many levels that no other girl for the 2020-21 school year could match.
Congratulations to the following additional girls for being selected as a 2020-21 Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year (our Girls State Athlete of the Year also would be first among seniors):
More Senior Athletes of Honor
Mia Barnett (Crescenta Valley, La Crescenta) Track, Cross Country
Caroline Canales (Calabasas) Golf
Jayla Castro (Rocklin) Softball
Jayda Curry (Centennial, Corona) Basketball
Elise Miller (San Pasqual, Escondido) Track
Kami Miner (Redondo, Redondo Beach) Volleyball
Sara Pettinger (Mission Viejo) Soccer, Track
Alannah Scott (San Ramon Valley, Danville) Tennis, Lacrosse
Calli Stokes (Redondo, Redondo Beach) Basketball, Softbal
Nicole Struss (Laguna Beach) Water Polo
JUNIORS (Class of 2022)
Amit Elor (College Park, Pleasant Hill)
This internationally known wrestler is similar to boys junior and State Athlete of the Year Domani Jackson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana) in that we already know she won’t be eligible for any California high school honors next year. For Amit, it’s not early college, but she’s now training full-time in Jersey City, N.J., and is taking online courses.
Our friends at SportStars Magazine recently ranked Elor No. 1 among its Bay Area 75 rankings of top high school athletes for 2020-21 and College Park will always be known as her high school. Her sights have always been on the bigger picture ever since she went 44-0 with 44 pins and a CIF state title as a College Park freshman in 2018. That turned out to be her only CIF high school season for College Park, but she continued going to the school after 2019.
And what a bigger picture it has been for Amit. In all likelihood, she would have been on the USA Team at the Tokyo Olympics last month but she missed the age requirement for the trials by one day. Elor won all six of her Cadet division matches at the World Team Trials in May by pin, and went 6-for-6 on pin wins in Junior division matches in the same event.
That just set it up for Elor at the Cadet World Championships held in July in Budapest, Hungary. She claimed gold in the 69-kilo division with a 10-0 win in the final against Elizaveta Petliakova of Russia. The US team also had a breakthrough as it won the Cadet Women’s World team title for the first time in program history.
The last junior from the CIF North Coast Section to be Girls State Junior Athlete of the Year was swimmer Chelsea Chenault from Carondelet of Concord for 2011-2012. College Park High has never had a girl named as a state athlete of the year in any category before Amit. The state is going to miss her, but will be rooting for her to continue her international success representing her nation.
More Junior Athletes of Honor
Isumeh “Ice” Brady (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) Basketball
Mariah Elohim (Westlake, Westlake Village) Basketball, Softball
Justina Kozan (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) Swimming*
Jessica Oakland (St. Francis, Mountain View) Basketball, Softball
Elia Rubin (Marymount, Los Angeles) Volleyball
Aysha Shaheed (Madison, San Diego) Track
*See below for D1 category.
SOPHOMORES (CLASS of 2023)
Alyssa Thompson (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City)
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Thompson’s success during the spring was that she had to play both sports during the same season, a challenge created by the unique athletic calendar adopted by the CIF-Southern Section during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pulling double duty did nothing to slow down the Stanford commit, as Thompson produced one of the most impressive seasons by any girls soccer player in California prep history, accumulating 48 goals and 14 assists to lead Harvard-Westlake (18-0) to both Southern Section and Southern California Regional Championships in Division 1.
Thompson became the second Harvard-Westlake athlete to earn Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors, joining Jill Oakes in 2001-02. She also became just the second sophomore to receive national soccer recognition by Gatorade, following Kennedy Wesley of Cerritos Valley Christian in 2016-17.
Thompson continued to be at her best in the biggest moments, scoring all six goals for the Wolverines in a Southern Section quarterfinal victory over Temecula Valley, along with recording a hat trick in a 5-0 victory against Villa Park in the section final to help Harvard-Westlake capture its first Division 1 championship since 2010.
The U.S. Under-19 national team member, the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2023 according to TopDrawerSoccer.com, capped her season with four goals June 5 in a 6-1 victory in the Division 1 regional final over Garden Grove Pacifica.
The timing of the regional soccer championship prevented Thompson from competing in the Southern Section Division 3 track and field prelims the same day, therefore she wasn’t able to race the following weekend at the section final, where the Wolverines still captured their first team title since 2014.
Thompson still produced the No. 8 wind-legal 100-meter performance in the state at 11.97 seconds, second-fastest among all sophomores behind Carson standout Reign Redmond (11.75). She also ran a wind-legal 24.71 in the 200, which ranked No. 4 among all 10th-graders in California this year.
Thompson joined Courtney Corrin in 2013-14 in receiving this same sophomore recognition for Harvard-Westlake. Corrin excelled in the same two sports for the Wolverines, also contributing to a Division 1 soccer title.
The last female soccer athlete to earn top sophomore honors was Megan Edelman of Danville Monte Vista in 2017-18, which followed Wesley in 2016-17. The last girls track and field athlete to receive sophomore recognition was Agoura standout, Texas graduate and U.S. Olympian Tara Davis in 2014-15.
More Sophomore Athletes of Honor
Claire Little (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta) Volleyball
Mya Perez (Norco) Softball
Juju Watkins (Windward, Los Angeles) Basketball
FRESHMEN (CLASS of 2024)
(Harvard-Westlake, Studio City)
The only ninth-grader selected to the All-CIF Division 1 roster in soccer after helping the Wolverines capture the fourth Southern Section championship in program history, Thompson was among five pairs of siblings on the Harvard-Westlake roster, but she and sophomore sister Alyssa had no problem distinguishing themselves as the elite sister act in the entire state.
Thompson scored twice to support four goals from her sister, as Harvard-Westlake earned its first regional soccer championship since 2009 with a 6-1 triumph in the Division 1 final against Garden Grove Pacifica, solidifying its status as the top-ranked team in the state and elevating the Wolverines to No. 4 in the country, according to the United Soccer Coaches Association national spring rankings.
The U.S. Under-16 national team member has also followed her sister by already providing a verbal commitment to Stanford. Both Thompson sisters contributed to Harvard-Westlake outscoring opponents 89-8 and recording 12 shutouts to collect section and regional titles in the same season for the first time in program history.
Thompson also produced her share of highlights on the track, running the No. 4 wind-legal 100-meter time among all ninth-graders in the state at 12.31 seconds, in addition to the No. 6 effort by a freshman in the 200 at 25.53.
Perhaps the biggest highlight for the Thompson sisters came May 7 at the Arcadia Invitational, when Alyssa and Gisele teamed with Adrienne Usher and Daniela Quintero to win the 1,600-meter sprint medley relay in 4:04.29, the fastest time in the state all season and No. 5 in the country.
The last Harvard-Westlake female athlete to be honored as the state’s top freshman was Courtney Corrin in 2012-13, competing in the same two sports. The last track and field athlete to be recognized as a freshman was Reonna Collier of San Jose Piedmont Hills in 2013-14.
More Frosh Athletes of Honor
Brynne Nally (Pacifica, Garden Grove) Softball
Kennedy Smith (Etiwanda) Basketball
Justina Kozan (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) Jr.
Here’s how Justina can be the Girls D1 Athlete of the Year as a junior. First, we have both Westlake (Westlake Village) and College Park (Pleasant Hill) as D2, which is where both State Athlete of the Year Paige Sommers and State Junior of the Year Amit Elor would be. While Kozan was essentially ranked behind both of them, she’d be next in line and comes from a school that clearly is D1 in most sports. Technicalities aside, Justina had an outstanding year in the pool despite all the troubles with COVID.
When Kozan committed to USC last February, she was ranked as one of the top three Class of 2022 girls swimming recruits in the nation. This was before she ever swam in a competitive race for Santa Margarita since she was a transfer into the program from Walnut (she was listed from Walnut as a divisional girls athlete of the year for 2019-20).
Last spring, Kozan won two individual titles and was on two winning relay teams in the CIF Southern Section D1 finals. Santa Margarita easily won the team title and in our evaluations for State School of the Year was considered the best in the state and Justina would be State Swimmer of the Year. Her best times have come in the 100 free and 200 free. She won the 200 free by almost three seconds in the CIFSS finals (No. 3 in Orange County history) and also has a top 10 OC time in the 100 free. Kozan’s versatility also is shown by the events she’s named in as a member of the 2020-21 USA Swimming National Junior Team: LCM 200 free, 100 fly, 200 fly and 400 IM.
Santa Margarita has had a number of Girls State Athletes of the Year since 2010, a list that Justina is now on. The list includes water polo player Honnie Vandeweghe-O’Shea for 2019 (sophomores), swimmer Ella Ristic for 2017 (freshmen), swimmer Katie McLaughlin for 2015 (D2) and soccer player Lauren Bohaboy for 2011 (D2).
Kozan concluded her summer at the Olympic Trials. She didn’t land a spot in any event, but gained valuable experience. She then watched former Eagle Katie McLaughlin compete in Tokyo, including the 4×200 free relay in which she won a silver medal.
Paige Sommers (Westlake, Westlake Village) Sr.
Our 2020-21 State Athlete of the Year as well as 2020-21 State Junior of the Year Amit Elor from College Park of Pleasant Hill would both be in the D2 schools category.
Alyssa Thompson (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City) Soph.
Harvard-Westlake as a school could be D1, but for this honor roll we are going to put Thompson down for D3. The Girls State Sophomore Athlete of the Year, after all, was part of a Harvard-Westlake team that won the CIFSS D3 title in girls track.
Tereise Tosi (Garden Grove) Sr.
Here’s an athlete who proves that we really were looking for multi-sport athletes for these honors. Tereise also will go down as the first-ever state athlete of the year for girls at Garden Grove in any category.
Tosi’s primary sport was softball, which is what earned her a scholarship to Cal State San Bernardino. She was particularly potent for the Argonauts just this last spring. In 18 reported games, she smacked the yellow ball around for a .660 average, ranked among the state leaders with 11 homers and had 34 RBI. One other highlight for Tereise came when she hit two homers and drove in five runs in back-to-back games.
While softball was going on, Tosi also was getting it done for Garden Grove on the basketball court. She averaged 15.3 ppg with a high game of 24 points in a win against Western of Anaheim.
Perhaps the best honor for Tosi in her prep career, though, came in a third sport: volleyball. She led Garden Grove to the CIFSS D7 title as a sophomore in 2019 and was named the CIFSS D7 Player of the Year. Volleyball was a sport that was even more wrecked by COVID than basketball or softball so Tereise didn’t play as a senior.
Maia Garcia (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills) Sr.
The two sports that Maia shined in at Pinewood were basketball and track and field (high jump). The Panthers obviously are D1 and Open Division in girls hoops, but for all other sports at the school they are D5 so for this year’s athlete of the year selections we are putting down Garcia for D5. By doing that, it also made her an easy winner and she is able to join three others from Pinewood who played basketball who also have been named D5 Girls State Athlete of the Year: Daniela Roark for 2004-05, Sebhem Kimyacioglu for 2000-2001 and Lauren Smith-Hams for 1998-99.
Garcia, a 6-foot-3 center in basketball, was a key starter for a Pinewood team that went unbeaten and beat Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 50-48 for the CCS Open Division title. The victory clinched either a first or second final NorCal ranking depending on which rankings one is looking at. Garcia had her best game in that finale, too. She scored on a putback late in the game to tie the score at 47-47 and finished with a double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds. For the season, Garcia averaged 8.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. She also had 14 points and seven rebounds in a CCS Open semifinal victory vs. St. Ignatius of San Francisco.
While her scholarship to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is in basketball, it seems as if Maia also will continue with the high jump. And why not? She has a career best clearance of 5-6 and Cal Poly also is where her father, Darrin, graduated from and competed in track and field. With Darrin by her side (he’s also her jumping coach), Garcia decided to attend the unofficial state championship meet held at Arcadia High after a disappointing 5-2 second-place finish in the CCS finals. She did much better to clear 5-5 and while she later said she thought 5-7 would be needed she won the event at 5-5. It was actually an accomplishment just to qualify out of the CCS since Garcia had to do that the very next day after the big basketball game with Mitty.
Erik Boal has covered high school sports in California for 25 years, formerly serving as editor at the Glendale News-Press and Los Angeles Daily News. He is currently the editor for DyeStat.com and RunnerSpace.com, which focus on track and field, cross country and road racing, but has been a regular attendee at major Southern California high school sports events since the early 2000s.