Three juniors take top honors at

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All the Superior’s athletes honored at the annual banquet. Luberda | Sun

Matthew Zavala, Hunter Flanagan and Cierra Navarrette took the top honors. Luberda | Sun

Superior Sun

Hunter Flanagan, Cierra Navarrette, and Matthew Zavala took home the top awards at last Tuesday’s Sports Banquet at Superior High School. All three are multi-sport student athletes.

Hunter Flanagan was the winner of the Manny Ruiz Award, given each year to the student-athlete who displays good citizenship, excels academically, and performs well on the field.

“It’s really great to be selected as the Manny Ruiz Award winner,” Flanagan answered when asked what the award means to her. “It’s a great honor, and represents citizenship, academics and sports. It’s really a great accomplishment.”

Flanagan also received the Co-Offensive Player of the Year Award as a member of the Panthers’ state playoff softball team.

Cierra Navarrette was named the Female Athlete of the Year. She also took home awards in volleyball, basketball and softball.

“I think it’s an honor to be considered,” Cierra Navarrette said about winning Athlete of the Year Award. “I think it’s awesome that all three of us (won the awards) because we’re all friends and we’re all juniors.”

Navarrettte’s other awards included Outstanding All-Around Player (volleyball), Defensive Player of the Year (basketball), and Co-MVP (softball).

Matthew Zavala was named the Male Athlete of the Year. He played football, basketball and baseball this year and won the Big Man Award for his efforts on the Panthers’ basketball team.

“It’s a great honor. I’m not sure if I really earned it,” a humble Matthew Zavala said. “I’m going to work my butt off next year to make sure I do earn it.”

Most of the student-athletes at Superior are compete in multiple sports and several athletes won multiple awards last Tuesday.

Freshman Nicolaus Cruz took home four awards in football, basketball, and baseball. Elizabeth Ochoa took home three awards in JV Volleyball, varsity basketball and softball.

In an interview before the banquet, Superior Principal and Athletic Director spoke about the success of the student-athletes and the Panthers’ athletic program this year.

“Education and athletics go together, obviously,” Duarte said. “It’s always good when we have student-athletes who can take on both and be successful.”

“If they continue to work and grow as people, and players, we’re going to see that translate in the next year,” he continued. “It’s all about the work and the most important work is in the classroom.”

Duarte acknowledged that success can mean different things for some of the Panthers’ teams. He said he doesn’t considering wins as they only to measure success. Making progress, as many of the Panthers’ teams did this season, equates to progress.

The softball, baseball and tennis teams, to name a few, had great success on the field and on the courts this year. With a number of returning players on all the teams, Duarte said Panthers’ fans can expect the teams to improve going forward.

“Most of the underclassmen (boys and girls teams) will be back to do it again,” Duarte predicted. “With one more year of experience, I think it’s going to translate well for them.”

Andy Luberda (951 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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