James Barron: The almost NorthStars: Those who nearly earned top honors

·4 min read

Jun. 7—When it comes to the NorthStars section The New Mexican publishes each year, there are always some hard decisions when it comes to honoring Northern New Mexico's best prep athletes.

The debates can be intense and downright roiling when you're on the losing side of an argument (and there have been plenty). When it is all said and done, however, you usually end up with an excellent collection of top athletes in each sport, as well as the overall boy and girl athlete of the year.

Still, it leaves an empty feeling inside for those who were on the cusp of recognition but didn't quite make the list. With that in mind, here is an opportunity to recognize the "Almost NorthStars" — a sort of honorable mention for their efforts for the season.

It's not quite like landing in the section with your portrait or action card like last weekend, but these athletes certainly deserve a nod — maybe even a pat on the back for a job well done.

Male athlete of the year

Mathew Gonzales, Las Vegas Robertson: In all the years of debating the best athlete in Northern New Mexico, this year might have been the most intense. In one corner, there was Santa Fe High's Alex Waggoner, a once-in-a-generation talent who might go down as the best soccer player ever in the state. In the other corner, Gonzales — an athlete who checked all the boxes you want for the overall male athlete of the year.

He was the football player of the year because he was the Cardinals' offense. He averaged 209.9 total years per game, which was almost two-thirds of the team's output and always played big in the biggest games. But he also was an outstanding player and was the second choice behind Santa Fe High's P.J. Lovato for the big school basketball honor.

He averaged 25.4 points per game as he helped the Cardinals to a Class 3A title — the second he could claim on his NorthStars belt.

Oh, and he played baseball. But the less said about his .178 batting average on a team that reached the Class 3A quarterfinals, the better. However, he checked all the boxes to be the athlete of the year. It was just the wrong year to compete with an otherwordly soccer player.

Football

Martell Mora, Santa Fe High — It was one of the best seasons over the past three decades for the Demons, and Mora was the biggest reason for their success. He was a multi-purpose option in Santa Fe High's offense, rushing for 1,230 yards, gaining another 463 receiving and scoring 24 touchdowns. His contributions didn't end there, as he led the team with

29 solo tackles and had two interceptions on the defensive side. Had the Demons been able to qualify for the 5A playoffs, that might have been enough to push him ahead of Gonzales. But he was the best player in Santa Fe, hands down.

Boys tennis

Jonas Anderson-Joyner and Mateo Gilbert, Santa Fe Prep — The Blue Griffins' duo produced a third-place finish in the Class 1A/4A State Individual Tournament, overcoming a mid-season injury by Anderson-Joyner that sidelined him for two weeks mid-season. As it was, they went 9-3 and were the No. 2 seed in the doubles bracket. They also were key cogs in Prep's run to a District 2-1A/4A team title that helped it earn the second seed in the state team bracket. McDermott had the consistency and the individual singles title in the district, and it was enough to trump a disappointing performance in the singles tournament.

Girls tennis

Stella Garca and Mikaella Sena, Robertson — Talk about a winning duo. They were a part of state championship teams in volleyball and girls basketball, and followed it with a 1A/4A doubles titles for three championships in one season. Even better, they surrendered just five games during the state tournament. The duo went 14-0 during the tennis season, meaning they tasted defeated in three sports just once — a 61-58 loss to Moriarty in girls basketball in January.

For seniors like Gonzales, Mora and the Robertson tennis duo, their chance to grace NorthStars next year has come and gone, so this might be a nice consolation prize. For others, like Anderson-Joyner and Gilbert, they will have one more year to break through.

But there will be more intense discussions about who deserves to be in the section next year, so there is a good chance we'll talk about more close calls next year, as usual.

And another "Almost NorthStar" column might become a yearly theme.