With the all-conference and all-state recognition done for this academic year, one final athletic-related honor that’s handed out to Philomath High School students occurs at the annual graduation ceremony.
The school chooses a female and male athlete of the year from the graduating class. This year’s recipients were Lauren Berklund and Brooks Stearns.
PHS Athletic Director Tony Matta that the awards are based on selections from the local coaches.
Berklund's primary sport at Philomath High was basketball. She was part of the squad that qualified this year for the state tournament and left with a fifth-place trophy — not as high as they would've liked but certainly an accomplishment to be noted.
Berklund made the all-conference team for three straight seasons — honorable mention after her senior campaign. She was one of the key players in a program that overcame various challenges in her earlier years.
During the team's stretch run this past winter, Berklund was confident that the team would do well.
“Last year at this time, it seems like we fell apart but I don’t think that’s going to happen this year,” she said following a win over Stayton. “We’re all pretty confident in us as a team and we work really well together.”
Perhaps just as impressive for Berklund during her senior year was making all-conference in volleyball. Berklund hadn't played volleyball previously in high school but decided to go out for the sport this last year.
“She comes out and decides ‘hey, let’s do this’ and makes all-conference honorable mention,” PHS coach Denee Newton said last fall. “It’s mostly because of her blocking stats; she did an awesome job up there and it clicked with her.”
Stearns was a standout athlete in all three of his sports — football in the fall, wrestling over the winter and baseball in the spring.
Stearns was the only player from Philomath to be named to the all-conference first team in football. The Warriors 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior made it on defense at linebacker.
“He’s a guy that throughout the season probably came off the field a total of less than 20 snaps,” said Matta, the team's head football coach. “Offense, defense, special teams and even in the fourth quarter of the game, he’s making plays sideline to sideline.”
In wrestling, a sport that he didn't try until his junior year, Stearns ended up winning a fifth-place medal at state.
“This was super fun,” Stearns said after finishing runner-up in the 182-pound weight division at districts. “I went last year (to state) but as a spectator. It’s nice to be able to know what to expect but at the same time, it’s different that I get to wrestle in it now. That’ll be cool.”
Even with those impressive performances, Stearns might be remembered most for his accomplishments in baseball. During his senior season, he hit .506 with a school-record 17 doubles along with 39 RBIs and 39 runs scored. He made the all-state first team in addition to all-OWC first team.
“Catcher is by far the most demanding position on the field, not just physically but mentally and what it takes to be a leader," PHS baseball coach Levi Webber said just recently. “At times, we weren’t the most polished on the bump and he did a good job of helping some young guys through some rough spots and leading some older guys. It’s nice when you’re a pitcher and you’ve got a guy behind the plate that’s going to keep pretty much everything in front of him.”
At graduation, sportsmanship awards were also presented among the various senior awards. Earning those honors this year were Hailey Matthews and Marshall Brattain. The sportsmanship awards are named in honor of retired teacher Gary Cox for his "outstanding service as a coach, AD and teacher, and dedication to PHS," Matta said.