Sports Stars

Hunter Roubidoux, left, and Michelle Pratt receive their Athlete of the Year awards from retired Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher during the Idaho State Journal Sports Stars event at the Stephens Performing Arts Center Tuesday night in Pocatello. Find a photo gallery with this story at idahostatejournal.com.

POCATELLO — Hunter Roubidoux and Michelle Pratt were honored as the area’s top athletes at the Idaho State Journal Sports Stars event, which was held at the Stephens Performing Arts Center on Tuesday evening.

Roubidoux, a senior at Pocatello High School, was chosen as the Overall Boys Athlete of the Year. He was also recognized as the Baseball Athlete of the Year.

Pratt, a senior at Blackfoot High School, was named Overall Girls Athlete of the Year and Cross Country and Track and Field Girls Athlete of the Year.

Athletes from all across Southeast Idaho were nominated and selected as winners for the second annual event sponsored by Idaho Central Credit Union.

The keynote speaker at the event was retired All-Pro NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Urlacher spent 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears, earning eight trips to the Pro Bowl and winning the 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

In a question-and-answer session with former Highland head basketball coach Chris Frost, Urlacher spoke in-depth about his career and how he succeeded on the field.

Numerous topics were addressed, including how being a good teammate was one of his proudest accomplishments, how teams with great quarterbacks were challenging to beat, how he recovered from a 2009 season-ending wrist injury, how he led a memorable comeback against the Arizona Cardinals in 2006 and how frustrating it was to lose to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

But despite his long, Hall of Fame-caliber career, Urlacher told the audience at the Sports Stars event that he cherishes his days as a high school football player in New Mexico.

“My fondest memories are from high school,” he said. “It was so much fun. I couldn’t wait to go to school every day and practice.”

He also shared some of the secrets of his on-field success with the crowd, such as his dedication and having a strong work ethic. He spoke about getting up at 5 a.m. to work out, even in the offseason. It was a habit he picked up during his high school days.

“Some guys use training camp to get into shape,” Urlacher told the crowd. “But there was no offseason for me. I busted my tail.”

Hard work and dedication are two traits the prep stars honored at Tuesday’s event fully understand and embody.

For example, not only did Roubidoux win a wrestling state title, he also dominated as a right-handed pitcher for Pocatello High School. On the mound this season, he collected seven victories, tallied 43 strikeouts and allowed only eight earned runs in 45 innings. He also had four shutouts.

Next season, he will continue befuddling batters at the collegiate level for NCAA Division II Montana State University-Billings.

Pratt, a cross country standout at Blackfoot High School, claimed her first 4A state title and won her second consecutive 4A District 5-6 crown in 2016. She won five meets, all by at least 20 seconds, and claimed two wins by 60 seconds or more.

During the track and field season, Pratt won state championships in the 800- and 1,600-meter races.

Pratt will continue to compete at the collegiate level. She will compete for the Weber State Wildcats next season. She also had offers from Idaho State, Boise State and Utah State.

The Inspirational Athlete of the Year was Aurora Rodriguez, a freshman basketball player at Grace Lutheran High School.

Even though the student body at her high school is too small to field a girls basketball team, the school’s athletic director, Jeremy Hess, arranged for the 5-foot-3-inch tall Rodriguez to join the boys team.

According to her nomination form, Rodriguez has been fearless against her opponents.

“She did not back down and didn’t let the fact that she was a girl on the boys team slow her down,” the anonymous nominator said.

The Comeback Athlete of the Year was Bailey Harris, a senior softball pitcher at Century High School. During a game in 2015, a batter hit a comeback shot that shattered her wrist. Though the injury ended her season, it didn’t end her high school softball career.

In 2017, she totaled 67 innings on the mound, striking out 39 batters with a first-pitch strike percentage of 69.4, all team-highs.

The Academic Athlete of the Year was Rachel Forest, who plays tennis for Century. Despite juggling her time between school, tennis, club activities and four advanced placement classes, Forest maintained a 4.6 weighted GPA.

The top female senior athlete was Alyssa Crumley of Snake River High School, and the top male senior athlete was Pacen Hayes of Blackfoot High School.

The top freshman female athlete was cross country standout Josi Kelsey of Bear Lake, and the top freshman male athlete was wrestler Riggin Smith of Malad.

Other student-athletes honored Tuesday night included: Payton Fehringer, Highland, golf; Seth Hatch and Arne Klutsch, Century, tennis; Adriene Pavek, Century, tennis; Bryant Kimbrough, Gate City boxing, club athlete; Bryon Leckington, Shelley, football; Morgan Hall, Preston, soccer; Baily Permann, Century, volleyball; Coque Velasquez, Blackfoot, soccer; Jackson Pratt, Bear Lake, cross country; Brayden Parker, Preston, basketball; Makenna Baker, Highland, basketball; Kiara Grover, Highland, softball; Damon Folkman, Firth, track and field; Bo Knittel, Aberdeen, golf; Payson Anderton, Snake River, wrestling.

The Soda Springs girls cross country team won the Girls Team of the Year title, while the team’s coach, Jeff Horsley, won Male Coach of the Year.

The Bear Lake basketball team was honored with the Boys Team of the Year award.

Camie Tripp, the coach of Malad’s volleyball team, won Female Coach of the Year. Youth Sports Coach of the Year honors went to football coach Ed Peterson.

The Game of the Year honor was awarded to the Preston boys basketball team for its thrilling victory over Bishop Kelly in the 4A state semifinals.

The Sports Stars event also honored four fallen members of the Southeast Idaho baseball community with a video. The tribute memorialized coaches Dan McCaskill and Joe Maravilla, as well as umpire/referee Brian Carlson and Blackfoot baseball player Cole Baler. The families of the four men were brought on stage and received awards, at which time they received a standing ovation from the audience.

Also partnering with the Idaho State Journal to make the Sports Stars event possible were Idaho State University, Portneuf Sports Medicine Institute, Phil Meador’s Courtesy Lincoln and Powerade.