McNary Athletics

Sullivan repeats at SK Beacons

His career as a Celtic may have ended a few weeks ago, but Colby Sullivan continues to collect awards from his state championship senior season.

On Saturday, at the fourth annual Salem Keizer Beacons Awards, Sullivan was named the Beacons’ Athlete of the Year in boys golf for the second consecutive year.

This was the second year the Beacons had honored student-athletes, and Sullivan was one of three to go back-to-back at this year’s awards. West Salem’s Lizzy Bennett and Jack Meier, girls basketball and boys cross country respectively, joined Sullivan as repeat winners.

Sullivan had plenty of McNary company on Saturday, and he wasn’t the only one to walk away with a Beacon Award.

Junior Max Blanco was named the Beacons Athlete of the Year in boys wrestling, capping off his own state championship season. Blanco was nominated for the same award last year.

Blanco’s teammate and another state champion, Josh Friesen, was also nominated for boys wrestling athlete of the year. 

One other McNary grappler was nominated, junior Ali Martinez. Like Blanco and Friesen, she brought home a state title. And Martinez was the only two-sport nominee, as she was also up for athlete of the year in softball.

Natalie Cunningham of West Salem was nominated for two sports in 2022, girls soccer and girls track and field.

There were a half-dozen other McNary student athlete nominees up for awards on Saturday, including senior Hudson Brunk (boys soccer), senior Maddie Corpe (volleyball), senior Jando Gonzalez (boys basketball), junior Caleb Skipper (boys tennis), junior Elijah Clendening (boys golf) and senior Bekah Forrette (girls golf).

Aside from student-athletes, the Beacon Awards honors those that have made vital contributions to youth sports in the area, featuring one from each of the district’s six high schools, and others from the community.

This year’s recipient from McNary was former wrestling coach Jerry Lane — fitting enough with three McNary wrestlers nominated. Lane was the first McNary wrestling coach, and brought them to a state championship in 1975 and runner-up in 1976. 

Lane was presented his Beacon award by another McNary coaching legend, the 2022 Beacon Award honoree from McNary Vic Backlund.

The Beacon Awards are hosted by the Salem-Keizer High School Sports Booster Club, and seeks to eliminate obstacles that keep students from participating in athletics. They presented each high school with $2,000 at the end of Saturday’s event. And with the recent announcement that the district will once again be collecting athletic fees from families, that money could be needed more than ever.

2023 Beacons Athlete of the Year recipients:

  • Football – Zach Wusstig (South Salem)
  • Volleyball – Kayleigh Carpenter (South Salem)
  • Boys Soccer – Diego Garibay (McKay)
  • Girls Soccer – Maggie Lapray (South Salem)
  • Boys Cross County – Jack Meier (West Salem)
  • Girls Cross Country – Nelida Dalgas (North Salem)
  • Boys Basketball – Jackson Leach (West Salem)
  • Girls Basketball – Lizzy Bennett (West Salem)
  • Boys Wrestling – Max Blanco (McNary)
  • Girls Wrestling – Mariko Sonis (North Salem)
  • Boys Swimming – Mike Oprea (West Salem)
  • Girls Wrestling – Mia Piexoto
  • Baseball – Brandon Stinnett (Sprague)
  • Softball – Rowan Thompson (South Salem)
  • Boys Tennis – Adam Son (South Salem)
  • Girls Tennis – Tirzah Tarbox (Sprague)
  • Boys Track and Field – Mihaly Akpamgbo (West Salem)
  • Girls Track and Field – Isabel Zamora (McKay)
  • Boys Golf – Colby Sullivan (McNary)
  • Girls Golf – Emily Keel (Sprague)