The Press Democrat recognized 136 athletes and scholar athletes from 38 high schools at the 21st annual All-Empire Athletes of the Year awards ceremony at the Friedman Event Center in Santa Rosa Wednesday.
Eight of the students, four boys and four girls, were awarded scholarships, and four Empire coaches were honored. Here are their names:
Large School Athlete: Alex Netherda, Maria Carrillo
Alex received All-Empire recognition for football all four years at Maria Carrillo and already is a two-time All-Empire selection in track and field. After football season he was named The Press Democrat’s All-Empire large school defensive player of the year. Track season could bring more honors. He’s already a two-time NBL champion in the 300 meter hurdles, in addition to the 4×400 and 4×100 relays. He’s headed to Cal Berkeley in the fall as a “preferred walk-on” to the football program and is working on a possible track scholarship with the Golden Bears.
Large School Athlete: Joelle Krist, Petaluma
Joelle has been a fixture in the starting lineups of Petaluma’s varsity basketball and softball teams since her freshman year and the volleyball team since her sophomore year. She has been named All-Empire multiple times twice for basketball and twice for softball, with her senior softball season still under way. She has been named the Sonoma County League MVP in softball and basketball numerous times. Joelle signed a national letter of intent in October of her junior year to accept a softball scholarship at the University of Arizona. She plans to study physiology.
Small School Athlete: Isazah King, Lower Lake
Isazah was The Press Democrat small schools football player of the year on defense this year as a defensive back and earned all-county recognition at quarterback. He also earned All-Empire recognition in football as a junior. He was voted the team MVP and the Coastal Mountain Conference player of the year. In the spring he was a star of the track team. He won the 100- and 200-meter dash finals at the county meet and the CMC meet. He qualified for the North Coast Section meet in both events. Isazah earned an academic and athletic scholarship and will be playing football in the fall Carroll College in Montana.
Small School Athlete: Hannah Sarlatte, St. Vincent
A nominee for both the athlete and scholar-athlete awards, Hannah has combined exemplary school work with an outstanding sports career. She¹s achieved All-Empire recognition as both a softball and volleyball player, three times as a softball player and this year in volleyball. She was the St. Vincent nominee for The Press Democrat¹s Youth Services Award for physical education and athletics. She has worked as a volunteer youth coach, a Parish Ministry volunteer and as a Girl Scout Brownie Troop Leader. She has a 4.212 overall GPA at St. Vincent and is still deciding among a number of colleges that have accepted her application.
Large School Scholar Athlete: Alex Gustafson, Sonoma Valley
Alex was the defensive player of the year and an all-league linebacker as well as a three-year captain of the basketball team. He has earned All-Empire recognition. He has worked with other bilingual volunteers building a community center in a village in El Salvador and is an active member of his church’s youth group. He also got involved in politics, helping the campaign of a city council candidate. He is interested in video production and has made and appeared in a number of student-made films. He enjoys cooking, particularly baking, and travel. Alex has a 4.1 overall GPA. He’s still making his college choice among Cal Poly, Cal, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara. He plans to study economics.
Large School Scholar Athlete: Millie Unti, Healdsburg
Millie is a three-sport leader at Healdsburg. She was a three-year member of the basketball team and MVP of the Stokes tournament, an all-league defensive specialist for the volleyball team and an all-league performer in track in the shot put, discus 4×4 relay and triple jump. Her GPA is the best in her class, 4.45 overall and 4.67 for this school year. She’s the band leader for the Healdsburg jazz band, worked in peer tutoring as co-president of the Science Alliance and a volunteer coach for basketball, track and volleyball at the junior high school. She’s headed to UCLA to study molecular genetics, immunology and microbiology, and may try to walk on to the volleyball team or club track.
Small School Scholar Athlete: Jack Preston, St. Helena
The Press Democrat’s All-Empire offensive football player of the year, Jack led the Saints to the North Coast Section championship game. He was named to the Cal-Hi Sports all-state all-academic team. His work in school also include his role as the liaison between the student body and the school board, a role that had him visiting each school in the district once a month and twice each month with the school superintendent and school board president. He has attended five mission trips with the Grace Church Youth Group and attended the UCLA Anderson School of Management summer session for a week. He¹s deciding between Tulane and Boston College.
Small School Scholar Athlete: Savannah Stoughton, Sonoma Academy
Savannah had a big year. She was a first-team All-Empire selection on the Coyotes’ section championship soccer team and the All-Empire small schools girls basketball player of the year. For her career at Sonoma Academy, she scored 130 goals with 90 assists in soccer and 1,042 points in basketball. She¹s a member of the National French Honor Society, helped to raise money to build schools in Afghanistan and volunteered to coach at Kawana Academy Elementary School. She’s finishing the school year with a 4.45 overall GPA and has an academic and athletic scholarship at High Point University in North Carolina to continue her soccer career.
Coach of the Year: Tom Bonfigli, Cardinal Newman, Basketball
No large school basketball coach in the Redwood Empire has won 30 games in a season except Cardinal Newman¹s Tom Bonfigli — and he¹s done it four times.
The Cardinals went 30-4 this season and 11-2 in the North Bay League to grab a share of the title. Cardinal Newman lost in the Norcal regional semifinal.
In 33 years at the helm of the Cardinal Newman boys basketball program, Bonfigli has led the team to a 703-266 record, has been named the Cal-Hi Sports Coach of the Year twice, won two NorCal championships, two North Coast Section championships and 14 league championships.
Coach of the Year: Rich Carnation, Windsor, Wrestling
Windsor High School has dominated area wrestling for years under the guidance of long-time coach Rich Carnation. The Jaguars took third in the NCS individual tournament this season and sent four wrestlers to the state tournament, with two making it to the quarterfinals. They have won the North Coast Section dual championship four years in a row.
Under Carnation, the Jaguars have qualified a wrestler for the state tournament 12 years in a row. Carnation, who formed the team more than two decades ago when the school opened, has been head coach all but two of those years. Since 2007, the Jaguars have produced 35 top 8 NCS finishers, 22 state qualifiers and five wrestlers who have finished in the top 8 at the state tournament.
Coach of the Year: Madison Lott, Elsie Allen, Football, Basketball
Madison Lott, Elsie Allen High School¹s athletic jack of all trades, did what no coach on campus has done in 16 years brought a league title banner home to the Lobos.
The Elsie Allen boys basketball team posted an 11-1 record in the Sonoma County League and a 22-7 record overall in the most successful athletic campaign of the school’s 31-year history. Lott and the Lobos made their run despite the near season-ending injury to their top scorer and most valuable player from last season.
Lott, who is an elementary school physical education teacher in a neighboring district, has been the head coach for four years and served as the football coach for two years until passing the baton after the Lobos’ fall season. He also serves as Elsie Allen¹s athletic director.
Coach of the Year: Ally Sather, Maria Carrillo, Volleyball
Maria Carrillo High grad Ally Sather returned to her alma mater in 2013 and has continued the Pumas’ dominance in all things volleyball.
Sather, an All-American volleyball player at Sonoma State University who still owns the record for most kills, took over as head coach for the Pumas two seasons ago and promptly racked up a 30-0 record in the North Bay League. The Pumas were 28-10 overall this season and are 57-17 in Sather¹s two seasons at the helm. The Pumas made it to the North Coast Section finals in 2014 and lost in the first round of the CIF State Championship.