FARMINGTON — After a week of voting, two athletes ran away with this year's Facebook Fan Favorite awards, presented by The Daily Times.
Piedra Vista's Wyatt Hardy took the boys' award with 57 more votes than second-place finisher Christian Mackey of Kirtland Central. Aztec High's Tyra Gabehart claimed the girls' certificate with 132 votes to finish well ahead of Bloomfield High's Haili Bekes in the voting.
"It really is an honor. It shows how aware our county is of what all the kids are doing and how much they actually care about it," Hardy said. "It isn't just people from PV voting for me and kids from Kirtland voting for Mackey. It was everyone from all over voting for all of us. It is big to see how much everybody cares, and it is an honor to be picked."
Gabehart was also impressed with the support that poured in from all over the county.
"It is really cool to be voted by a group of people and not just one person deciding," she said. "I was looking at the votes for all the girls, and we had people from Aztec voting for PV and PV people voting for Aztec and Bloomfield. It didn't seem like a popularity contest. Everybody actually had an educated opinion."
The Facebook Fan Favorite award went to the male and female athlete with the most votes on a Facebook poll on The Daily Times' Facebook page. The contestants were made up of the athletes who finished as runners up to The Daily Times Athlete of the Year awards. The poll was open from May 22 to 28, and more than 300 people voted.
In Hardy's case, he came just short of Aztec's Adam Lucero in a tough decision for Male Athlete of the Year.
"I have known Adam since we were little, and I have nothing but great things to say about him. He is a great guy who is a fantastic athlete and it has shown," Hardy said. "Mr. Football, state champion and all the other awards he has gotten proves how hard he has worked. He is a complete class act on and off the field."
Gabehart finished behind PV's Katie Hegarty for top female athlete, but was recognized for her hard work on the soccer field, the basketball court and on the track while also juggling duties as one of the top student athletic trainers at Aztec.
Gabehart was named to the all-state first team in soccer after helping lead Aztec to a second-place finish in 4A. She was also a North/South All-Star selection in basketball and is a member of the Aztec track and field team that won the first state title in school history. She did that while training during all three sports seasons.
"It is nice to be recognized for soccer and basketball and track, but I put so many hours into athletic training because it is something I love," she said. "I have had such a passion for it, and it feels good to know that was noticed, too."
Hardy was recognized by fans in San Juan County for his accomplishments in three sports, as well as the classroom, this season.
Hardy was an integral member of the football team that reached the state quarterfinals in 2012. As a wrestler, Hardy won the 4A 160-pound individual state championship while helping the Panthers win a third consecutive team title. In track and field, Hardy was a member of two state championship winning relay teams as PV also won the team title in track this spring.
While juggling all of those activities, he also maintained a GPA above 4.5.
"It has been hard. There were a lot of late nights getting done with practice and then going home to take care of homework. Then it was back to school bright and early, especially during wrestling. There are late nights with school in the middle of the year, and then I was back to the gym at 5 a.m. to be ready to practice," he said. "It was hard, but doing all of that definitely paid off with the scholarship offers and everything. It is all worth it."
Hardy will attend Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas in the fall. He will wrestle for the Pioneers at 165 pounds.
While he will work to become a top collegiate athlete, Hardy said he will always look back at his time at PV with fond memories.
"It has been amazing. I have seen how the PV fans have grown around all the sports and how all the teams have taken off," he said. "The amount of support we had from fans across the county was amazing."
College, he said, will be a new experience.
" I will have the drive of being the new guy and having to rebuild who I am. It will be big for me to show what I am able to do and how good New Mexico athletes are and how underrated we are."
Gabehart hopes to prove the same at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. next year when she plays soccer for the Skyhawks.
"It definitely makes you feel good when you are writing down all your credentials and trying to sell yourself to schools, but, when the college scene comes, a lot of these awards aren't going to help me," she said. "These awards are just temporary and I have a long ways to go to get them again in college."
Gabehart hopes the same fans who voted her their female fan favorite athlete will keep supporting her during her college career.
"It is really cool to have people ask you for schedules and know that they are willing to come support you. Having a small community of support has really helped," she said.
John Livingston covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.