James Laughlin named Sierra Sun’s male Athlete of the Year from North Tahoe

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sun File PhotoJames Laughlin, the 2A's All-State Lineman of the Year, was a beast in all three sports he played his senior year " football, basketball, and track and field. For his efforts, he is the Sierra Sun's male Athlete of the Year from North Tahoe.

Combine two track-and-field state titles with football’s top honor for a lineman and there’s little debate who stands out as North Tahoe’s male Athlete of the Year.

This athlete is an imposing force with football pads or without, standing 6 foot 4 and weighing in at a trimmed-down 275 pounds. He’s as nimble as they come at such a size, yet every bit as powerful as one would expect ” basically a nightmare of a matchup for opposing football players.

With a shot put or discus in hand, his only competition was his own self, and those massive school records he nearly eclipsed en route to annihilating his 2A competition.

And after three years away from the court, the big man returned his senior season to hoard rebounds and swat shots as the center on the North Tahoe basketball team, all while infecting his teammates with his contagious work ethic and intensity.

Coaches use superlatives ” incredible, great, outstanding, tremendous ” to describe just how athletic he is. They call him a stud, a team player, an overachiever. And they’re all sad to see James Laughlin leave their respective teams.

“He’s just a hard-working kid,” said Scott Everist, head football coach at North Tahoe. “James worked about as hard as any athlete we’ve ever had. He was consistent ” he never missed a practice ” he’s athletic and he has good size. He’s going to be a tough guy to replace on the offensive and defensive lines.

“As a coach, he’s a kid you just like to have on your team.”

Coaches across Northern and Southern Nevada noticed, as Laughlin was voted 2A All-State and Northern 2A Lineman of the Year for his play on both sides of the Lakers’ line. The co-team captain made the All-State and All-League first team as a junior.

While Laughlin played mostly offensive and defensive tackle, and some defensive end, Everist took advantage of his strength and talent anywhere on the line ” depending on whom he wanted to “pick on” at the time. With “tremendously quick feet for his size,” Everist said he also used Laughlin as a pulling guard because of his ability to get down field and clear space with blocks.

Laughlin also could clear space on the basketball court, particularly under the basket while boxing out for rebounds or timing a stuffed shot. There was no getting around him, and certainly no chance to out-muscle him.

“He was key to our defensive success,” said Lakers basketball coach Mike Williams. “He had a lot of energy on the floor and a great attitude, and he was a great team player.

“Jim is physical and intense, and that really helped inspire the other guys to play that way.”

That intensity was never to be mistaken for an ill temper. As Williams pointed out during the season, Laughlin did a commendable job of keeping his cool while absorbing slaps and hacks when he handled the ball in the paint.

Then there was track and field.

Laughlin dominated this sport like no other, repeating as state champ in both the shot put and discus, and winning both events with ease. Both years.

His personal-best throws measure 156 feet, 3.5 inches in the discus and 50 feet, 6 inches in the shot put ” 4 feet, 1 inch away from the school record.

“He had from the beginning a desire to compete,” said Skip Piechocinski, North Tahoe’s head track coach and assistant football coach. “He’ll listen to you and attain and observe, and then apply that …

“He’s one of those guys who only comes around every once in a while. He’s a special athlete.”

As for his future, Everist said Laughlin plans to walk on to the University of Nevada, Reno football team as a freshman this coming season.

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