To go with overall honoree Dalia Frias, we have others selected tops among girls athletes for juniors, sophomores, freshmen and those from divisions (D1, D3, D4 and D5) for the 2021-22 school year. One of those was nearly chosen as the overall winner, while another was recently named as our 2022 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.
For the full story on our 2021-21 Girls State Athlete of the Year,
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(Erik Boal also did the writeup here for our Freshman Athlete of the Year.)
Congratulations to the following additional girls for being selected as a 2021-22 Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year:
JUNIOR OF THE YEAR (Class of 2023)
Alyssa Thompson (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City)
After nabbing the top honors among sophomores one year ago, Thompson moves up to take the same honor for juniors and we can say that she also was considered a close second overall to Dalia Frias of Mira Costa.
The biggest headlines that Alyssa gained was from something she did away from competition and that was becoming the first high school athlete (along with younger sister Gisele) to sign an NIL contract with Nike. We know from our years of working with Nike to develop events like the Elite 11 and football combines that it’s a company that takes these moves very seriously. To say Alyssa and her sister are the future of USA women’s soccer is not an understatement.
For herself, Thompson did not play high school soccer during the 2021-22 school year. She was Gatorade National Player of the Year for 2020-21. She’s okay to be the junior athlete of the year for what she did on the international stage for the USA U-20 national team and for what she did sprinting for Harvard-Westlake’s track team.
The USA U-20 team won the CONCACAF championship in March with a 2-0 win in the final over Mexico. Thompson scored three goals in seven games in helping the US roll up a 49-0 margin in those games. She also gave all of the US opponents fits with her speed down the flanks. Thompson also was with a USA U-23 national team in June that played games at the Three-Nations tournament. She scored the first goal in a 3-0 win by the Americans over Sweden. She was the only high school player on that national team, joining with eight pros and 12 from college.
There was a gap in her USA soccer commitments for Thompson to perform on the track. She won titles in the 100 and 200 at the CIF Southern Section D3 championships and would eventually qualify for the CIF state meet finals in the 100 where she placed seventh. Thompson’s best times were 11.69 for the 100 and 24.64 for the 200. She also was on the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams.
With more fame and fortune seemingly headed her way, we’ll see if Thompson is able to continue as a high school competitor as a senior. If that doesn’t happen, we’re just glad that we already have been able to put her name among all of the other all-time greats in various sports on these athlete of the year lists.
More Junior Athletes of Honor (Class of 2023)
Megan McAninch (Miramonte, Orinda) Water Polo
Amanda Muse (Heritage, Brentwood) Water Polo, Basketball
Reign Redmond (Carson) Track & Field
Hannah Slover (Los Gatos) Volleyball, Track
Sydnie Vanek (Clovis) Volleyball, Track
Juju Watkins (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) Basketball
Ashley Yun (Walnut) Golf
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR (CLASS of 2024)
Charlotte Kohler (St. Francis, Mountain View)
This is a soccer player, but it might not be the one from California you’d be thinking about first. Charlotte happens to have been a sophomore who was on the same USA U-17 girls national team with Gisele Thompson (the younger sister of junior of the year Alyssa Thompson and last year’s freshman of the year).
Both Kohler and Thompson are among the nation’s top Class of 2024 girls soccer recruits and both have committed to Stanford. The team of USA U-17 players that won the CONCACAF championship in the Dominican Republic last May consisted mostly of Class of 2023 players, but a few (including Kohler and Thompson) were high school sophomores at the time.
The difference between the two was that Kohler played for her high school team in the months before the CONCACAF tournament (Thompson did not) and that Kohler was among the USA team’s leading scorers. She had four in a rout of Grenada and had a big one in a quarterfinal victory over Jamaica. To be fair, Thompson is a defender who generally doesn’t score much anyway, but we also got a vote between them from our friend and former Student Sports colleague, Sheldon Shealer, who is one of the main analysts and editors for the TopDrawerSoccer.com website.
During the high school season, Kohler led St. Francis to a 15-2-5 record and she was Player of the Year in the highly regarded West Catholic Athletic League. She connected for a pair of goals when the Lancers topped their rivals from Archbishop Mitty in the CIF Central Coast Section Division I semifinals and she hit for one in a NorCal D1 playoff win vs. Carondelet of Concord. The Lancers lost to Mountain View in the CCS final and fell to Buchanan of Clovis in the NorCal semis. Their efforts did help the school recently get named as our Cal-Hi Sports State School of the Year.
More Sophomore Athletes of Honor
Kaiulani Garcia (Gilroy) Wrestling
Claire Little (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta) Volleyball
Jathiyah Muhammad (Dublin) Pole Vault
Cambria Salmon (Beaumont) Softball
Kennedy Smith (Etiwanda) Basketball
Gisele Thompson (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City) Soccer
Olivia Williams (Acalanes, Lafayette) Water Polo, Cross Country
Amia Witt (Calabasas) Basketball, Track
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR (CLASS of 2025)
Sadie Englehardt (Ventura)
Becoming the fastest ninth-grader in U.S. prep history in six events only begins to measure the incredible impact Engelhardt had during her first year in high school, not just in California, but around the country and globally.
But there was one performance that stood out above all the others, and surprisingly, it wasn’t her winning the 1,600-meter state title May 28 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Clovis Buchanan High. Engelhardt became the world’s fastest 15-year-old female athlete in the mile April 9 at the Arcadia Invitational with her 4:35.16 effort, eclipsing the 1979 all-time mark of 4:36.0 established by Gunvor Hilde of Norway.
Her 4:33.29 split for 1,600 meters also surpassed the California record of 4:33.54 set March 26 by Girls State Athlete of the Year Dalia Frias of Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. Frias ran the all-time state mile performance of 4:35.06 at Azusa Pacific University to prevail against Engelhardt in 4:36.63. Engelhardt also triumphed against Frias in the 1,600 state final by a 4:36.67 to 4:37.09 margin to become the first ninth-grader to win the championship. Frias did win in several other head-to-head races.
Englehardt followed June 11 with a California 1,500-meter record and the sixth-fastest performance in U.S. prep history by clocking 4:11.79 competing against a field of elite professionals at the Portland Track Festival in Oregon. She also achieved the fastest all-time 3,200-meter effort by a freshman April 22 by running 9:50.69 at the Ventura County Invitational at Moorpark High.
In March, Englehardt added national indoor freshman records by clocking 4:18.97 in the 1,500 and 4:37.40 in the mile, the latter performance helping her place second behind Stanford signee and Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year Juliette Whittaker (4:37.23) of Mount de Sales Academy in Maryland at New Balance Nationals Indoor at The Armory in New York.
At the CIF state cross country finals, Englehardt was runner-up behind Frias, but she became the second fastest ninth-grader in history by running 16:58.7 on the 5-kilometer layout at Woodward Park in Fresno. Only Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley, who clocked 16:57 as a freshman in 2010, has run faster on the state course than Engelhardt, who concluded her first cross country season in December by earning All-America honors with a 15th-place finish in 17:51.5 on the 5-kilometer Balboa Park layout at the Eastbay National Championships in San Diego.
But when it comes to her performances on the track, Engelhardt will set her sights even higher in her quest for more class records and all-time age-group marks, including the 16-year-old global mile standard of 4:28.25 achieved in 2013 by fellow American Mary Cain.
More Frosh Athletes of Honor
Aja Johnson (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) Track & Field
Kai Minor (Lutheran, Orange) Softball
Aliyahna “Puff” Morris (Etiwanda) Basketball
Hanne Thompson (Montgomery, Santa Rosa) Cross Country, Track
Jessica Oakland (St. Francis, Mountain View) Sr.
For purposes of these honors, St. Francis for softball could be considered D1 and since we have some flexibility where to place Senior of the Year and overall State Girls Athlete of the Year Dalia Frias along with Junior of the Year Alyssa Thompson, a spot was opened up for D1 to get an athlete honor done for Oakland.
The recent Lancers’ graduate, who is now getting ready for her freshman season at the University of Minnesota, wasn’t just the Ms. Softball State Player of the Year. She was a Ms. Softball player of the year with record-breaking accomplishments. She also was a Ms. Softball player of the year who was a standout in a second sport (basketball).
In leading St. Francis to the first-ever CIF NorCal D1 regional softball title and final No. 1 state ranking, Oakland had a .578 batting average and a .678 on-base percentage. She hit a state-leading 21 home runs with three triples, eight doubles, and had 67 RBI and 52 runs scored. Jess also led the state as a junior with 19 round-trippers and finished among the top 15 in state history with 44 for her career. She also ended her career top 25 in state history for career RBI with 159 and will get a state record listing for career runs (135).
The daughter of St. Francis softball coach Mike Oakland, Jessica played basketball on the varsity level for all four years of her high school career as well. She earned All-West Catholic Athletic League recognition in basketball for her final three seasons and was a frequent double-figure scorer. Her softball teammate, Sydney Stewart, also was on the Lancers’ basketball team and was first team all-league for this school year. Sydney, headed to Washington, also was first team all-state in softball along with Oakland.
More D1 Senior Athletes of Honor
Takiya Cenci (Clovis North, Fresno) Track & Field
Kathryn Jacobsen (Temecula Valley, Temecula) Soccer
Londynn Jones (Centennial, Corona) Basketball
Micaela Kastor (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village)
Justina Kozan (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) Swimming
Feyi Olukami (Clovis East, Fresno) Volleyball, Track
Elia Rubin (Marymount, Los Angeles) Volleyball
Jennifer Soto (Gilroy) Wrestling
Sydney Stewart (St. Francis, Mountain View) Basketball, Softball
Dalia Frias (Mira Costa, Manhattan Beach) Sr.
Technically, two of the other class-by-class honorees (Alyssa Thompson & Sadie Englehardt) also could be be considered D2. With Frias at the top of everyone, that just means that we can have additional girls written up as state athletes of the year instead of several getting two of them. Frias is the only one of the four class-by-class winners landing a second honor for a division.
More D2 Senior Athletes of Honor
Kapiolani Coleman (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) Volleyball, Track & Field
Mariah Elohim (Westlake, Westlake Village) Basketball, Softball
Cameron Fields (Stagg, Stockton) Rugby, Soccer, Track
Anna Hong (Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego) Field Hockey, Lacrosse
Gabriela Jaquez (Camarillo) Basketball, Softball
Jillian Albayati (Anaheim) Sr.
There are a couple of firsts with Albayati’s selection for the D3 category. She’s the first-ever girls state athlete of the year in any category from Anaheim, which began in 1898. She’s also the first girls athlete of the year to be chosen for what she did as a baseball player.
The one-of-a-kind and ground-breaking season that Jillian had for the Colonists in baseball generated a ton of media attention in Southern California last spring. And it was deserved. There have been other girls who’ve played high school baseball in California before, but Albayati took it to another level.
In becoming the first girl to pitch in a CIF Southern Section championship game, Albayati showed in that game what she could do. Her team didn’t win, but she pitched nine innings in a 1-1 tie with Estancia of Costa Mesa in the D6 final in a game that the Eagles won in 11 innings, 2-1. Albayati then got the win in a CIF SoCal regional playoff game vs. Hueneme of Oxnard.
For the season, Jillian finished 12-0 on the mound with a 1.51 ERA. She also batted .351 with 17 RBI (which was second-best on the team). Among her honors already received has been MVP of the Orange League, all-CIF Southern Section D6 and Orange County Register Girls Athlete of the Year.
“I think she really inspired a lot of girls that they can basically do anything,” said Aaliyah Barrera (11-year-old daughter of Anaheim head coach Mike Barrera) in talking to the Register.
Albayati will now head to Cal-State San Bernardino on a scholarship. Baseball may not be completely over for her, but at her college she will be playing softball.
More D3 Senior Athletes of Honor
Elise Evans (Woodside) Soccer
Megan Grant (Aragon, San Mateo) Volleyball, Basketball, Softball
Allie Montoya (Mountain View) Soccer
Brianna Navarrosa (Mater Dei Catholic, Chula Vista) Golf
Morgan Netherton (Newport Harbor, Newport Beach) Water Polo
Ellie Roan (West County, Sebastopol) Basketball, Track
Sharon Nejad (Menlo School, Atherton) Sr.
It was a tough matchup when Nejad was a 5-foot-10 freshman post player for the Knights and had to face 6-foot-3 USC commit Clarice Akunwafo of Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) in the CIF D2 state basketball finals. She held her own, scoring 12 points and getting 10 rebounds to help Menlo win the game, 70-63.
Nejad has gone on to complete four-year varsity careers at Menlo in both basketball and volleyball. For her efforts, she has now been selected as the D4 girls state athlete of the year. Menlo’s last and only other girls athlete of the year would be Kate Paye for 1990-91 (small schools). She’s the sister of John Paye, who was Sharon’s coach at Menlo for basketball.
On the court, Nejad was a double-double machine at Menlo for all four seasons. She followed up her 12 ppg season in 2019 with 13.6 ppg in 2020. Just this past season, she was named all-state for D2 and she was a NorCal Player of the Week. That was after she had 31 points and 16 rebounds vs Harker Academy (San Jose) and then 24 points with 16 rebounds vs Notre Dame of Belmont.
In volleyball, Nejad also was a strong contributor on a team that was moved up to play the toughest competition in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division. The Knights had a 29-7 season last fall and reached the CCS Open championship (lost to Archbishop Mitty). Nejad had 18 kills in that match and then had 13 in a win over Clovis West in the NorCal Open playoffs. She finished with 223 kills for the season.
Both sports have been important to Sharon, but she’ll be playing basketball next when she heads to Pomona College. Maybe it’s her 4.0 GPA and being valedictorian of Menlo’s senior class, but we have a hunch that she’ll be doing something far more important than sports in future years.
More D4 Senior Athletes of Honor
Elle Bohlman (Carmel) Football kicker, Basketball, Golf, Lacrosse
Madison Clark (Calaveras, San Andreas) Basketball, Softball
Ella Woodhead (Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton) Water Polo
Caitlyn Cole (Stone Ridge Christian, Merced) Sr.
We scour the search engines along with deep dives into the MaxPreps databases to look for outstanding three-sport standouts among the smallest schools to come up with winners in this category. Sometimes, there’s someone down in D5 who just did too much in one sport. This time, we have a three-sport girl with major accomplishments in all three.
Meet Caitlyn Cole. She’s getting ready to start her freshman year at Colorado State-Pueblo on a softball scholarship. At Stone Ridge Christian last season, while playing for a 21-2 team, Cole rapped out 54 hits, scored 49 runs, had 18 doubles and ended with a .701 batting average. Her softball career batting average of .639 in 64 games also looks like it will be good enough for the state record book.
Cole’s other two sports are volleyball and basketball. In volleyball, as a freshman, she was part of a team at Stone Ridge that went 31-4 and won the D6 NorCal regional title. She continued to play after the pandemic and last fall she had 264 kills and 59 aces for a team that finished 21-9. In basketball, Cole was one of the leading scorers in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section at 21.3 ppg. She helped the Knights go 23-4-1 and had games such as 40 points vs. Escalon and 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals vs Modesto.
Cole, who has a younger sister, Cali, who will be a junior at the school this upcoming school year, and played for her mother, Cathy, as the softball coach, also graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was valedictorian.
This is the first-ever state athlete of the year choice for Stone Ridge Christian (either boys or girls).
More D5 Senior Athletes of Honor
Natalie Gleason (Capistrano Valley Christian, SJ Capistrano) Softball
Giselle Rodriguez (Fall River, McArthur) Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, Track