Truckee Athletes of the Year | Neill, Parker shined brightly for Wolverines
A Division I-A goalie’s nightmare may well involve a ball at the powerful right foot of Kaylee Neill inside the 18-yard box, or maybe a loose ball in open grass, with Quinn Parker speeding in its direction.
Both scenarios would likely have resulted in a Truckee goal — among the 86 tallied by the Wolverines in 23 games during their 2013 campaign.
“They really set a high standard for Truckee High soccer, both with their athleticism and their teamwork,” Truckee soccer coach Katie Jamison said of Parker and Neill.
In addition to their abilities on a soccer pitch, Neill and Parker excelled on the track, basketball court and softball field, which set them apart as the Sierra Sun’s Co-Female Athletes of the Year from Truckee High School.
“They both really mentored the younger girls and supported them. They were just really wonderful ladies to look up to,” Jamison said.
Neill played varsity soccer all four years, earning first-team All-League honors as both a junior and senior. She also was an impact basketball player and softball player, despite being relatively new to softball her senior year.
From her first race freshman year, it was clear that Parker would go down as one of the fastest sprinters in Truckee history. She lived up to the expectations, leaving her mark on the track and field program with multiple state titles and school records. Her explosive speed came in handy as a standout forward on the Truckee girls soccer team as well.
“She definitely is built like a sprinter and has fast-twitch muscle fibers — something coaches don’t see very often, and when we do, we feel very lucky,” said Truckee track coach Diana Yale. “She also has a beautiful natural running stride. Her winter training in the weight room helped her get faster and stronger.”
It showed at the state track and field championships in Carson City, where Parker won the state title in her strongest event, the 400-meter dash, while setting a new school record with a time of 57.76 seconds. Yale credited her work ethic.
“She put in a lot of hard work during the season to get under 58 (seconds) in the 400, to get faster out of the blocks, to work on running the curve and to work on finishing speed and her lean,” Yale said.
Parker also anchored Truckee’s state champion 4 x 400 relay team, which set a school record with a time of 3:57.65. She earned a fourth-place state medal in the 200 with a time of 26.25 and was fifth in the 100, in 12.91. She owns seven school records.
Despite her success, however, the senior team captain remained humble in nature and was always helpful to her younger teammates.
“Quinn is such a likable person that all the girls admire her and see her as an excellent role model. As team captain, she inspired the girls in many ways,” Yale said. “With seven of the 20 school records, girls really look up to her but also know they can talk to her and approach her.”
Parker, who also excels in the classroom, as she was honored as one of two salutatorians from Truckee High, will attend Princeton University in the fall. She hopes to run track at the Ivy League college.
Jamison didn’t have to think hard to pick out Parker’s biggest strength in soccer. “Definitely her speed,” she said.
Aside from her ability to out-sprint an opposing player to the ball, Parker also was an adaptable team player.
“We actually took her out of the forward position and had her transitioning back and forth between forward and defense. It’s a hard transition for a lot of forwards to make, and Quinn made it seamlessly,” Jamison said.
Parker finished with five goals and nine assists her senior year, including the game-winning shot against eventual state champion South Tahoe during the teams’ second meeting. She was honored with All-League honorable mention.
Neill — aka Ned — was a beast from Day 1 on the soccer field. She had a nose for the goal, a strong and accurate shooting touch, and impeccable ball skills. Opposing teams recognized as much, and they threw multiple defenders her way in an attempt to limit her production.
It didn’t matter. Neill scored 18 goals in 20 games — second most in the league — and recorded seven assists.
“Other teams started to figure it out and started to double team her, so we had to figure out a way to get the ball away from her and then back to her,” Jamison said. “It was a difficult transition at first, to start thinking a different way, but by the end of the season it was amazing how much of a team player she had become.”
The Truckee girls finished the year 16-6-1 overall and played into the state semifinal.
In the winter, Neill provided much-needed offense and leadership as an efficient guard on a young Truckee basketball team.
“As a senior she really stepped up and became the leader out there through example,” said Truckee coach Dave Shalvis. “She had that built-in, ‘I’m older than everybody’ (mindset), and her ability to get to the rack when she really wanted to set her apart. She was fearless. That really shined for her.”
When not using her quickness and aggressiveness to drive to the hoop, Neill punished sagging defenders with her outside touch. She led the Wolverines in scoring, averaging 11.5 points a contest, highlighted by a 28-point effort against Sparks. She made 29 of her 3-point attempts and kept the Wolverines in games with her sheer competitiveness.
“She had a desire to win and also brought a sense of calm to the game with her ability to not get (flustered),” Shalvis said. “In situations where others were not producing points, she would continue to produce points.”
Neill was not known as a softball player. Yet she went out for the team her senior year and proved to be among the Wolverines’ most talented players.
“Kaylee is just a natural, gifted athlete,” said Truckee softball coach Chris Simpson, who placed Neill in center field. “I think she’s pretty much good at everything. She was just one of those players who I could put out in the field and not worry about anything. I put her in center field because she was so quick and could catch anything.”
While she could track down a fly ball, Neill could also rake at the plate. And she didn’t swing for singles.
“Kaylee was just a slugger. She took her hacks,” Simpson said. “She was one of those kids you didn’t mess with. She swung for the fences, and we let her.”