Our series on the fall All-Region athletes of the year and teams concludes today, and I hope you've enjoyed our celebration of the best in high school athletics ... even if you didn't completely agree with it.
And with that in mind, I thought a bit of explanation behind our selections would be in order.
So let's start with the easy ones.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Is there any doubt about our pick of Alexa Efraimson?
She was the Class 4A state champion. She won every high school race she entered but two. And in those two, she finished second in prestigious meets — to Glacier Peak's Amy-Eloise Neal at the Stanford Invitational and to North Central's Katie Knight at the Richland Invitational. The only real question left is if the Camas sophomore will become The Columbian's first four-year All-Region athlete of the year.
VOLLEYBALL: I think Greg Jayne's lead on Saturday said it all.
State tournament MVP.
A state championship for her team?
Which would leave no doubt as to why Prairie's Karlee Lubenow is The Columbian's All-Region player of the year in volleyball.
My work is done here.
GIRLS SOCCER: A lot of the factors at play in Lubenow's selection applied to Columbia River's Sarah Case.
She was the defensive player of the year for a state championship team that won with its defense.
An open-and-shut case, pun intended.
FOOTBALL: At the end of the regular season, we were sold on John Norcross as our player of the year.
Then came the postseason and an offensive explosion by Camas running back Nate Beasley.
Beasley had one game of 93 yards or better in the nine regular season games. In the four postseason games, he gained 178, 119, 249 and 138 yards.
That made us think. But when we looked closer, we went back to Norcross.
He was the defensive player of the year from his linebacker spot in the Class 4A GSHL. From the Wildcat — or "Norcat" as the Papermakers called it — offense, he scored 17 touchdowns. And he was an all-league tight end, catching passes and opening holes in the running game for ... Nate Beasley.
OK, now for the tough picks.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY: Mark Tedder or Colby Gilbert? Colby Gilbert or Mark Tedder?
The coaches in the 4A Greater St. Helens League could not separate the two, naming both athletes co-runners of the year.
Battle Ground's Tedder had the better September, beating Skyview's Gilbert at the Hudson's Bay Run-A-Ree, New Balance Festival of Champions and Nike Pre-Nationals.
But Gilbert got Tedder during their league meet at Evergreen in October.
At district, Gilbert nursed a sore hamstring, and Tedder won again.
Tedder edged Gilbert by two seconds again at regionals.
But it was state where Gilbert made his case.
He got healthy and put together the perfect race, placing third overall in 15 minutes, 21 seconds. Tedder finished eighth in 15:39.
In the end, it was too hard to go against a runner who placed third in the state.
GIRLS SWIMMING: Hockinson's Julia Sanders had an amazing high school career, winning 10 individual state titles at Class 2A.
At Class 2A, that's the key phrase here.
When we pick these athletes and teams, we don't look for the athletes who had the best seasons in relation to other athletes in their school classification. We look for the athletes who had the best seasons regardless of school classification.
Sanders dominated her races at the 2A state meet. But if you compared her winning times against those in the 3A meet, where Columbia River's Monica Bottelberghe competed, her time of 2:05.90 in the 200 individual medley would have placed her third in the 3A meet. Her time in the 100 butterfly of 56.61 seconds would have placed her fourth.
By comparison, Bottelberghe's winning time in the 3A 200 freestyle of 1:50.05 earned her All-American consideration. Her runner-up time in the 100 free of 50.91 seconds was an automatic All-American time.
And that's why went with Bottelberghe.
Thanks to all the fans who participated in our first All-Region football team vote. We had 1,549 votes cast from Monday to Friday.
And thanks to the coaches who participated in their poll. We had 10 of our 18 area coaches participate in that survey.
On our fan and coaches ballots, several players were listed on both offense and defense. Yet, none appeared on the All-Region team on offense and defense.
And that's because we were looking to select the 24 best players for our team, then place those 24 players on offense or defense.
First, The Columbian staff assembled our team. If the fans and coaches agreed with our placement of a two-way nominee on, say, offense, then the votes for that player on defense were voided out.
We did this because we didn't want to limit the opportunity of a player to make the team.
In the end, 22 of the 24 players The Columbian staff selected to the All-Region team were confirmed by the coaches and/or fans. In the coaches' vote, 21 of the 24 players they voted for made the team. And the fans had 19 of their 24 selections make the final All-Region team.
The 3A GSHL will open league play with games this week. So The Columbian's basketball preview features will run this week. The boys are slated for Wednesday's edition, and the girls are slated for Friday's paper.