A number of students from Battle Ground High School and Prairie High School have been chosen to be on the fall 2021 All-League teams from Southwest Washington.
According to a news release, Elijah Nelson of Prairie High School was named the boys tennis player of the year in the 3A Greater St. Helens League, while football star Thor Stepina was named the multi-purpose player of the year. Football players Ben Kapelka (offense) and Israel Duncan (defense), Ella Conklin and Carley Postma in volleyball, Annie Anderson and Emily Anderson in girls cross country, Logan Bigelow and Ethan Pederson in boys cross country, Kenzy Ward (100 fly) in girls swimming, and Jack Dalberg in golf, were picked as first-team selections. Tennis doubles players Geoff Bennion, Owen Lucas, James Marjama and Connor Hunter were also chosen.
In Battle Ground, in the 4A Greater St. Helen’s League, swimmer Nina Uchtmann, cross country runner Ben Gamblin, and girls slowpitch players Haylee Newston and McKenna West were chosen as first-team selections.
To be selected for All-League, Battle Ground High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Matt Stanfill said the judgment is made by a variety of factors.
“It could depend on points scored, like in baseball or softball, while in swimming or cross country, it’s done by time,” Stanfill said. “So there’s a variety of ways to be considered All-League. The other piece is that sometimes there can be nuances that can be considered for certain qualities in the players. It depends on the sport and what they’re looking at. There’s not one cookie cutter way to do it.”
Stanfill said he’s really proud of the players and that it’s a “huge deal” because Battle Ground plays in the league alongside Camas, Union, and Skyview, who are often included in state championships.
“State championships run through Clark County,” he said.
Assistant Principal and Athletic Director of Prairie High School, Manny Melo, emphasized on the team’s success as a unit in being chosen.
“Team success does play a lot into it,” Melo said. “If your team is really successful, you’re typically going to have more athletes on those (All-League) teams, just because your team success was so high throughout the season.”
Swimmer Uchtmann, 16, feels excited to be chosen for the league.
“It was a surprise,” Uchtmann said. “It’s also really cool that I was able to be listed with some of the top-tier swimmers in my area that I know of.”
This is Uchtmann’s second year swimming for Battle Ground High School, but she has been in a swimming club since she was 10 years old, she said. She recalled her sister, who was 12 at the time, started swimming at the YMCA with her, which gave her the interest in the sport she has today.
Uchtmann is preparing for the next season by swimming at her swim club and doing what she can to reach her goals, she said. She highlighted one difference in club swimming compared to high school swimming.
“High school is a shorter season, so it’s a break from club and only focuses on two events (state and districts),” Uchtmann said. “In high school, there’s a lot more collaboration and having fun with your teammates.”
Football player Duncan, 17, is also excited by the new opportunity.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I’ve been an underclassman, looking up to previous seniors from my school,” Duncan said. “It’s great, but I couldn’t have done it without the other defensive players on my team.”
One player he highlighted was Caleb Blick, who is an inside linebacker on his team.
“He was really good this year, consistently making plays and stuff,” Duncan said. “I think our whole front and center was dominant (this year.)”
Duncan is currently in the process of sending his highlight reel to colleges, as he aims to play college football. He said he plans to work during the off-season “to make that dream a reality.” He recently visited Central Washington University, which he said has a nice campus and a strong football program.