fan vote to win a fan favorite award.
Those contestants are Aztec's Tyra Gabehart, Piedra Vista's Zhianna Flores and Bloomfield's Haili Bekes.
Gabehart, a senior, was an all-state soccer player who led the Lady Tigers to a second-place finish in the state tournament. She was also a North/South All-Star basketball selection and a member of the state championship winning Aztec track and field team. She also served as an athletic trainer during all three sports seasons.
Flores, a junior, won three individual track and field state championships and set the state record in the 200-meter dash. The junior has cracked the top-10 nationally in some of her events.
Bekes, a senior, was a three-sport athlete for Bloomfield who led the Lady Bobcats in volleyball, basketball and softball.
Voting will go on until the morning of Tuesday, May 28, and winners will be announced on May 29.
During her senior season at PV, Hegarty led the volleyball team to the first state championship game appearance in school history and a second-place finish. She also won state track and field championships in both shot put and discus, helping the Lady Panthers to a third-place finish in track.
For all of her athletic accomplishments, Hegarty is recognized as The Daily Times San Juan County Female Athlete of the Year.
“This is the cherry on top of my senior year — to get this kind of thing and to be appreciated by the community. It is a great feeling,” Hegarty said.
Hegarty has been one of the top female athletes in the county since her sophomore year at Aztec High.
She transferred to PV as a junior, and she sharpened her skills to become one of the best volleyball players in the state.
“I don't know if I ever saw it in myself. I just get out there and play my sports and do well at them,” Hegarty said when asked when she first realized her true athletic prowess. “I have a great support system with my family and my track and volleyball coaches and teams. Being surrounded by people like that allows me to be the best of my potential. I have the best female support staff, and that lets me be the best female athlete.”
Hegarty became the first PV volleyball player to sign a Division I scholarship when she committed to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
PV volleyball head coach Ron Becker said it is Hegarty's ability to lead by example that helped push the team to new heights in 2012.
“She is a huge leader on the court with everything she does. She leads by example and doesn't just talk about it,” Becker said. “The biggest trait she brings is the ability to set the pace and establish a work ethic that everyone else has to match. She set the bar so high, people really have to come up to it. To have that is big. Coaches can tell you whatever but, when a player is out there doing it, everyone else really follows along.”
Becker called it a blessing to have coached Hegarty for two seasons in high school and in club volleyball.
“I am really going to miss that girl. It is neat to have had an athlete of that caliber,” he said. “She is an amazing all-around athlete. When she played basketball, she was great at it. She was great in track. I hope to see more athletes like her, because I know we have girls at this school who have watched her and want to emulate what she has done.”
Hegarty graduated with a GPA higher than 4.2, while also working on her athletics for countless hours outside of practices and games.
“Since sophomore year, I haven't really had a life. It is definitely paying off now with college and that fun stuff,” she said. “Even after senior year, I have gone to open gyms to play with the girls. You have to put in the time before to get the payout now. I am glad I put in the time the last three years. Working five to six hours a day during the summers has made it so I can work on new things now to get me ready for college.”
Hegarty said it is still a bit painful when she remembers her volleyball team was just a few points away from winning the volleyball state title game against St. Pius X in November 2012, but she takes gratification in leading the program to new heights.
“Ron Becker has supported me immensely and has done everything under the sun that is volleyball-related for our program. I wanted to win state for him,” Hegarty said. “Even coming in second was huge, though, because the highest we ever placed before that was fifth. Breaking into the state title game let everyone in this area know we can do it. It is not just for the teams down south that are big and bad and have reputations. Little towns like ours can get to that game and make things happen.”
Hegarty said winning state titles in shot put and discus at state track and field gave closure to her high school athletic career.
“I joked at the beginning of the year that if we didn't win state in volleyball that I would go out for track and field because I had to win a state title sometime in my career,” she said. “I am glad I did.”
While Hegarty ran away with the award this season, she recognized the accomplishments of several other athletes in the county.
“From PV alone, you have Kaleigh Graham and (Zhianna) Flores getting it done in their sports. Sarah Root over in Aztec is a track superstar,” she said. “Then you have Kelcie Gerry and Tyra Gabehart at Aztec who have played soccer for so long. They are all amazing athletes, and it is so hard to pick one girl in my mind. There is so much talent up here it is ridiculous.”
Hegarty came up in an ultra-athletic family with brothers, Riley and Matthew Hegarty. Riley Hegarty graduated from Brown University, where he played quarterback for the football team after a stellar career at Aztec High. Matthew Hegarty currently plays football for Notre Dame after his own accolade-filled high school career.
“It is fun getting awards like this because we all sit around and joke about which awards we have and haven't won in comparison to each other,” she said. “Growing up in my family, you had to excel above and beyond to get noticed. It was really cool. Just coming here to accept this award, my brother, Matt, told me how proud he was of me. Having that support from the family is a blessing.
Editor's note: The athletes were chosen by The Daily Times sports editor John Livingston and sports reporter Joshua Perry for their newsworthy athletic performances and contributions to their team(s) and school, not on statistics alone.
John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.