After a one-year hiatus, The Daily Sentinel High School Sports Awards returned to Grand Junction on Monday night.

District 51 student-athletes were celebrated and recognized at the Avalon Theatre, with 74 nominated for awards and 22 winners, almost all of whom hail from Grand Junction, Central, Fruita Monument and Palisade high schools.

The primary guest speaker was outgoing Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster. Foster addressed the importance of sports for students at all levels, drawing from his experiences with building CMU’s athletic department under his watch.

In his tenure, CMU grew from 11 sports to 26.

“I’m a firm believer in student-athletes,” Foster said. “We believe in what they bring. We believe in what competing teaches you. We believe in what being on a team and in a sport teaches you. The GPA of our student-athletes is always higher than our overall student body.

“Oftentimes, I hear from employers in the Grand Valley or from folks as old as I am that, ‘Oh my gosh, this generation is so lazy. They just don’t know how to do anything. What am I going to do for employees?’ My answer to them is, ‘Hire a student-athlete.’ ”

In addition to honoring athletes for their success in their sports, two also received scholarship money to play their sport in college.

Ben Snyder, the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission executive director, presented two athletes who are attending Colorado Mesa University with scholarships in honor of Foster. The two athletes chosen were Fruita Monument’s Brandon Miller and Central’s Leah Redding.

Nominees and winners in each sport were chosen by The Daily Sentinel’s sports reporters and editor. Each of the four District 51 high schools had one nominee per category.

Grand Junction’s Kieran Thompson was selected as the male athlete of the year.

Thompson qualified for the Class 5A state wrestling tournament all four years of high school, winning a state championship at 132 pounds as a junior and placing third at 145 in February after another dominant season against Western Slope foes. He also returned to the gridiron for the first time since middle school in the fall of 2020, starting on both sides of the ball for the Tigers.

Palisade’s Kendyl MacAskill was selected as the female athlete of the year, and she wasn’t the only member of her family to be honored at the Avalon.

MacAskill was a star for the volleyball team, coached by her mother and this year’s winner for coach of the year, Wendy MacAskill. Kendyl contributed all over the floor in leading the Bulldogs to their first trip to the state tournament since 1995. She was also the basketball team’s leader in rebounds and assists, and is still representing Palisade after her graduation by participating in track and field.

Season A winners were: Gabe Harrison, Palisade football; McGinley Zastrow, Fruita boys cross country; Jadyn Heil, Fruita girls cross country; Myah Arrieta, Central softball; Kade Hayward, Fruita boys golf; Brandon Miller, Fruita boys tennis.

Season B winners were: Dillon Chapman, Grand Junction boys basketball; Leah Redding, Central girls basketball; Kieran Thompson, Grand Junction boys wrestling; Sarah Cook, Grand Junction girls swimming.

De Beque’s Kate Ramthum was also a Season B winner, taking home the girls wrestling award as a member of the District 51 squad.

Season C winners were Mac- Askill in volleyball as well as Grand Junction boys soccer’s Luke Sturgeon.

Season D winners were: Jacob Weaver, Fruita baseball; Laney Laffler, Grand Junction girls soccer; Justin Blanton, Central boys track and field; Tristian Spence, Central girls track and field; Emma Aubert, Grand Junction girls tennis; Cierra Noetzelmann, Fruita girls golf; Tony Farber, Fruita boys lacrosse; Maya DeGeorge, Grand Junction girls lacrosse; Jack Jordan, District 51 boys swimming.