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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region female athlete of the year: Katie Peneueta, Heritage

Standout in volleyball, basketball and track and field never considered playing for another school

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: June 17, 2021, 11:00pm
2 Photos
Katie Peneueta was a standout in basketball, volleyball and track and field in her four years at Heritage High School. She will play college basketball at Sacramento State.
Katie Peneueta was a standout in basketball, volleyball and track and field in her four years at Heritage High School. She will play college basketball at Sacramento State. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

For many high school basketball players, getting to cut down the nets at the end of the season is a celebration.

For Heritage’s Katie Peneueta, it was a validation of her decision to go against the advice of others.

“Ever since sixth and seventh grade really, I’ve had people telling me I should go to a different (high) school, that I could be more successful somewhere else,” the recent Heritage graduate said. “But I’ve always been drawn to Heritage.”

In her four years at Heritage, Peneueta was a standout in three sports — basketball, volleyball and track and field, earning all-league honors in each sport during her time as a Timberwolf.

And to cap her senior season, Peneueta has been selected The Columbian’s All-Region female athlete of the year.

“I think being a three-sport athlete and focusing on other sports rather than just one makes you a better athlete all around,” Peneueta said. “You also get to make more friends, create new families really.”

The 6-foot-3 senior says she thinks of volleyball as her most fun sport, a getaway from basketball, her strongest sport.

During her junior season, she helped the Timberwolves advance to the 4A bi-district tournament, only the second time in eight years a Heritage team sport advanced that far.

And while that lack of success may have lured other athletes away from Heritage, it was part of the allure for Peneueta.

“Getting to know everybody here and getting to build a family here seemed like a much better opportunity rather than joining somebody else’s success,” she said. “Creating our own success here seemed a lot better. Being able to play all four years here and finally get that success was so rewarding.”

After being selected the field athlete of the year for the 4A Greater St. Helens League in track and field as sophomore in 2019, Peneueta came back to win the javelin title at the 4A/3A GSHL Invitational meet this season. She also placed second in the shot put and fourth in the discus.

And track was particularly challenging this spring as it coincided with the basketball season.

“Having to come from really hot days at track to basketball just right after, it was really difficult,” she said. “I was really tired. But as one of the leaders on the team, I knew I had to step up and show the girls that no matter what we are going through we still have to work hard. We have to show up to practice.”

During her college recruitment, Peneueta would tell college coaches one of her goals would be to cut down the nets at some point during her college career.

“Because I didn’t know if I would get that opportunity in high school,” she said.

But with Peneueta leading the way and Heritage dropping to Class 3A this year, the Timberwolves went 9-5 to post the best record of any 3A team in the 4A/3A GSHL. That included three wins over Prairie, a program the girls basketball team had never beaten in the school history at Heritage prior to this season.

Peneueta’s last-second 3-pointer gave the Timberwolves 54-52 win over Prairie in the teams’ final meeting.

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And Peneueta then got to cut down the nets.

“We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to do it,” she said. “But then we saw that Camas had cut down the nets for them winning league championship. So we were like ‘Oh, we can do that. We’d better beat Prairie so we can cut down the nets.’ ”

Cutting down the nets didn’t have to wait until college after all. Earlier this month, Peneueta signed with Sacramento State, a long-struggling program that is looking for a turnaround under new coach Mark Campbell.

“I wanted to be a part of building a successful program,” she said. “I know what that’s all about.”

Even back in middle school, Peneueta never shied away from a challenge.

“Just being a T-wolf means so much to me,” she said. “It brings so much pride to be able to say that. Being a part of such a loving a caring family — the staff here and all the students, all so welcoming all the time and so supporting — I’m so grateful to have been here all four years.”

All-Region female athletes of the 2020-21 school year by sport


Natalie Fraley, Kelso

The junior and Utah State commit was selected the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League player of the year by league coaches after averaging 19 points a game for the Hilanders.


Payton Lawson, Hockinson

Returning from knee surgery the previous year, the junior was the 2A Greater St. Helens League offensive MVP, leading the Hawks to a perfect 11-0 season and a district title.


Emma Swett, Woodland

The University of Portland-bound senior was the 2A GSHL player of the year and the Gatorade state player of the year, recording 159 kills, 118 digs and 77 assists.


Mallory Meyer, Battle Ground

The senior went 8-0 with a 1.68 ERA and 78 strikeouts pitching and batted .388 in leading the Tigers to a 16-0 record, all while also playing basketball for Battle Ground.


Riley Aamold, Union

After being an All-Region selection as junior after placing second at state, the senior went undefeated during this truncated and very unusual season for the Titans.


Lucy George, Woodland

The Grand Canyon University-bound senior won district titles in the 100 hurdles, high jump and javelin, posting wins in 22 of 23 events she entered. She was second at district in the long jump.


Allyson Peterson, Hockinson

The Air Force Academy-bound senior and 2019 All-Region runner of the year capped her season with wins in the 2A GSHL meet, district meet and was third in the 2A state virtual meet.


Emma Tuttle, Prairie

The Linfield-bound senior posted four 6-0, 6-0 victories from No. 1 singles position for the Falcons and went 4-0 in doubles with partner Shelby Rebitzke.


Jade Gruher, Union

The sophomore had seven rounds within three strokes of par, including two sub-par rounds at Camas Meadows before winning the 4A/3A GSHL tournament at Lewis River.


McKenzie Sparano, Skyview

The senior bowled four games of 206 or better, including a 267 game, to win the 4A district bowling title and leading Skyview to the team title at Crosley Lanes.


Shea McGee, Camas

The senior and now four-time All-Region gymnast of the year posted an all-around score of 37.85 in a truncated gymnastics season, all while also competing in track and field.


Annette Chang, Union

The sophomore won the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at the 4A district meet. She posted the region’s top times in the 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly and second-best in the 100 back.


Hope Childers, R.A. Long

The junior was the 2A Greater St. Helens League player of the year, leading the Lumberjills to a 14-0 record before falling to Columbia River in the district title game.