To excel individually at the highest level and still be the perfect teammate, that’s having it all.
The 2018-2019 high school year was so exceptional for the Valley that these types of athletes seemed plentiful, but two truly did have it all. A state championship for their teams and an invitation to one of the nation’s premier colleges in their sports.
West Valley’s Shea Rubright and Kittitas’ Brock Ravet did that and much more, including an all-time state scoring record, and were honored on Thursday as Female and Male Athletes of the Year at the 17th annual Yakima Valley Sports Awards.
In a year with eight state championship teams, four of which came in one day, Thursday’s other major awards emerged from a deep pool as Alyssa Goins received the Jack Cleveland Coach of the Year award after her La Salle girls basketball team captured the 1A state title with a 27-0 record and Toppenish wrestling earned Team of the Year honors.
The Valley’s unprecedented championship year started last fall with Rubright and West Valley’s timely charge to a state volleyball title in the SunDome, the first time the Class 4A tournament had ever been held in Yakima.
The Rams’ 6-foot-5 middle blocker amassed 340 of her 927 career kills during her senior season, which saw West Valley drop only two sets during a dominant 6-0 run through the postseason. While Rubright was showered with honors, like Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year, her prowess already reached far beyond the state’s borders.
Rated the No. 12 recruit in the nation, Rubright committed early to the University of Minnesota and head coach Hugh McCutcheon, who coached the U.S. men to an Olympic gold medal in 2008 and the U.S. women to a silver medal in 2012. She was named to the Under Armour All-American first team and as a result played in an All-America match held in conjunction with the NCAA National Championships held on her future home court at Minnesota.
Actually, she’s already spent plenty of time on that court.
Knowing a full two years ago that her transition to elite-level college athletics would be a challenge physically and academically, Rubright planned on finishing all her high school credits early to get a jump on that transition. She did exactly that, starting classes at UM on Jan. 23 and then spending all of spring practice with her new team.
“I was super nervous about it at first but it couldn’t have worked out better for me,” said Rubright, who returned to Yakima in early May and will graduate on Friday. “It was definitely a huge skill jump. The first thing they told me is that we’re changing everything you do — footwork, arms, posture, everything. That’s a lot to hear, but he’s a gold-medal coach so of course I was ready to do anything. It was tough at first as I was applying everything, but I got better every day.”
Minnesota doesn’t mess around. In the first two weeks of the upcoming season the schedule includes North Carolina, Florida State, Texas, Florida, Oregon and defending national champion Stanford.
“The Big 10, I think, is the best conference and a big reason I chose it,” said Rubright, who added that an official decision hasn’t been made yet whether or not she’ll redshirt this fall. “I’ve always wanted to compete with the best girls in the country.”
Ravet is just the second repeat winner of the Male Athlete of the Year award and the tipping point was the same as it was for Prosser’s Kellen Moore in 2006 and 2007 — breaking a state record.
After his junior year, when he committed to Gonzaga University and led Kittitas to a second straight 2B state basketball title, it was clear that Ravet, if healthy, would keep piling up the points.
Ravet became the state’s career scoring leader on Feb. 1 and a month later he sparked the Coyotes to a 2B championship threepeat in Spokane, leaving his colossal four-year total at 3,094.
After that came an all-star game tour capped with the Northwest Shootout in Portland, where he played alongside future Gonzaga teammate Anton Watson.
”That was a super cool experience playing with a group of guys like that,” said Ravet, who hit four 3-pointers while Watson scored 18 points in Washington’s win over Oregon. “I hadn’t played with Anton before so it was great to get to know him and talk about college.”
Ravet has been preparing for that all spring, working specifically on mid-range shots, floaters and quick release. After Saturday’s graduation at Kittitas, he’ll have a few more relatively quiet weeks before summer classes start at Gonzaga on July 1.
“It’s a little weird not playing on a summer team like I have for so many years,” he said. “I’m excited for fall practice to get started. I’m hoping to make an impact right off, but if I redshirt I’m OK with that. Whatever they want I’ll be ready.”
After a year as La Salle’s boys coach, Goins took over the girls program with a dream season — a 24-0 run to the Class B state title in 2007. The Lightning matched that this past season with a 27-0 campaign capped with a 1A state championship before a home crowd in the SunDome.
Goins, an all-league standout who played at West Valley, has presided over six state-trophy teams during her 12 seasons, all of which included assistant Ray Zeutenhorst by her side. In those 12 seasons, La Salle’s girls have won 241 games.
With eight state championship teams, including Kittitas and Sunnyside Christian boys basketball both winning their third in a row, Team of the Year was a crowded race for sure.
But Toppenish wrestling was beyond special with six individual champions and two runner-up medalists at Mat Classic. Moreover, the Wildcats had four other placers and piled up 310 points for a 51-point victory margin.
Coach Johnny Cerna’s crew was considered the best in the state regardless of classification and it proved it with head-to-head wins over the 4A and 3A state champions. The Wildcats, in fact, defeated 3A champion Mt. Spokane in a dual meet 51-21.
Three of Toppenish’s state champions will return next season.