Cream of the crop: Sahlberg, O’Neil named Athletes of the Year
Credit the school’s quality coaching, Truckee residents’ athletic genes and active mindsets, or the area’s world-class natural training grounds ” but Truckee High consistently pumps out talented athletes.
This year is no exception.
With yet another large batch of senior athletes set to graduate, the Sierra Sun was faced with the annual task of singling out just two as its Athletes of the Year.
To whittle down the field, only seniors were considered, and each had to participate in two or more sports. There’s a wide variety from which to choose ” from the typical “ball” sports to skiing, snowboarding, running and more.
Obviously, more than just the chosen two boast worthy athletic credentials. But only two were selected.
For their performances during the 2007-’08 school year, combined with their competitiveness and sheer athleticism, Keven Sahlberg and Lauren O’Neil are the Sierra Sun’s Athletes of the Year.
Sahlberg, a speedy three-sport athlete who hoarded end-of-the-season honors on two of those teams, is a playmaker in every sense of the word.
He excelled in football and baseball and was a scrappy bench player in basketball. All three teams played into the postseason, and the senior was big reason for the football and baseball teams’ success.
Football in hand, Sahlberg was a nightmare for opposing coaches and players. The ball often was in his hands his senior year, as coach Bob Shaffer plugged him in full-time at quarterback after senior Tucker Ballister was injured early in the season.
Though Sahlberg had never played the position, the returning All-League halfback and return specialist figured it out on the run ” literally.
“When Keven took over at quarterback it changed our offense, and I think that’s when our season took off,” Shaffer said, explaining that Sahlberg gave Truckee a different dynamic with his ability to scamper out of the pocket. “It gave us some identity on offense ” made it more favorable.”
With Sahlberg at the helm, the Wolverines went on to sweep the Northern 3A during the regular season before losing a tight battle to Fernley in the first round of playoffs.
“The second half of the year was fun to watch,” Shaffer said. “Keven allowed us to take advantage of his strength and surprise some teams because our offense was different than in the past.”
Sahlberg finished the regular season with 55 completions on 112 attempts, totaling 905 yards and 11 touchdowns. He earned All-League honorable mention recognition for his efforts.
But Sahlberg was most effective as a return man in the open field, where he could freeze tacklers in their tracks with elusive moves and speed. He was voted to the All-League first team and All-State first team as a return specialist.
Oh yeah, he punted, too ” well enough to receive All-State honorable mention recognition at the position and make the All-League second team.
Playing halfback as a junior, Sahlberg rushed for 740 yards on 101 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per touch.
Then there’s his other best sport ” baseball.
Truckee’s No. 1 pitcher and cleanup hitter, Sahlberg earned first team All-League and first team All-State honors. He led the league with a 6-0 record during the regular season and 64 strikeouts in 44 innings. His ERA was a micro-sized 1.43.
“He’s very competitive. He’ll battle,” said Truckee head coach Mike Ellis. “And he’s clutch, too.”
The senior cleanup hitter had eight doubles, one triple, three home runs and 20 RBIs while posting a .658 slugging percentage ” a team-high. He also led the team with 34 stolen bases on 34 attempts and tied for the team lead with 30 runs scored.
“He’s good all the way around,” Ellis said. “He can throw, hit, run, catch ” he does everything. He came through this year for us and carried us on his shoulders for a while there.”
Ellis said he sent in game film to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where Sahlberg will likely try to walk on as a freshman in the fall.
O’Neil was co-captain of the state champion Truckee soccer team ” along with Katie Dill and Addie Shaffer ” and a key member of the inaugural Truckee snowboard team.
A versatile soccer player who could shift to any position from her normal midfield post, the senior was voted All-League and All-State Most Valuable Player.
And she was well deserving, helping lead the Wolverines to a 19-0-3 record and a 2-1 win over rival North Tahoe in the state championship ” her third year starting on varsity.
She also earned first team All-League recognition at midfield her junior year, and was a priceless team leader throughout her high school career.
O’Neil was one of only three girls on the Truckee snowboard team, which competed in the CNISSF for the first time this past season.
“She had a positive attitude and was just a real team player,” said Corine Harvey, Truckee’s coach. “She was motivational to the rest of the kids on the team.”
At the CNISSF Championship at Northstar, O’Neil finished 27th and 29th for the Truckee girls’ second best finish.
“She was a real leader and was just delightful,” Harvey said, adding that the senior made her job easier with her dependability.
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