Benefits. Education. Recognition. All State Games.
Cheyenne Mountain's Janae Vander Ploeg wins 2012 Fred Steinmark Award By Scott Stocker
Cheyenne Mountain's Janae Vander Ploeg was nearly caught speechless when she was told she had won the 2012 Fred Steinmark High School Athlete of the Year Award.
"I can't think right now," said Vander Ploeg. "This is such a huge honor. Just to be in the running has meant so much to me. Fred Steinmark was such a excellent athlete and student and to win..I just feel so humbled."
While this is the 41st year for the Steinmark Award, sponsored by the Colorado High School Coaches Association, it's the 39th for the girls which was first presented in 1974. Vander Ploeg is the 40th winner as there were two girl winners in 1984.
The rules for an athlete's nomination require that two sports be played during an athletes high school career - in which the athlete must have been selected All-State in one sport and at least All-League in another. Tthe student must carry at least a 3.0 grade point average and being active in school and community activities also carries a lot of weight with the voting coaches.
Throughout her high school career, Vander Ploeg has excelled in three sports: volleyball, basketball and soccer, lettering in all three, all four years. And, among the trio, her career in volleyball has been nothing short of superb while earning All-American honors as a junior and senior.
But then, she hasn't been too shabby in basketball or soccer either.
"I love being a student athlete," Vander Ploeg said. "Early in my career I learned to balance my athletics with both academics and family life. I believe that playing these sports is the reason why I am so happy all the time. It's something I would not trade the world for.
"This Award serves to acknowledge athletes in Colorado, and allows them to become part of Freddie Steinmark's lasting footprint. I did not want this award only for myself, but I wanted it for my school, my teammates, my family, my coaches and my friends. Our family shares a saying, 'People may not remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.' I want to have a positive impact on the people I meet, just like Freddie."
Vander Ploeg, who will enter Northern Arizona University in the fall, helped lead Cheyenne Mountain to four-consecutive Class 4A state volleyball championships. She earned second-team All-League honors as a freshman as the Indians won their first title in the sport and it only became better from there.
Vander Ploeg was named first team All-Conference as a sophomore then topped off her high school career being named the state tournament Most Valuable Player as well as Player of the Year by the Denver Post in both her junior and senior seasons. She finished her career with the most kills and aces in school history.
"Outside of her athletic gifts, Janae makes her teammates better with her leadership and work ethic," wrote volleyball coach David Barkley. "Her ego never comes into play. My understanding is that she feels the same way about all the sports she plays. When all of the these great attributes are combined, it is easy to see why Janae is so deserving of this award."
Volleyball, of course, is played in the fall in Colorado, but that certainly didn't stop the exploits of Vander Poeg in the winter. She went on to earn second-team All-State honors in basketball in her sophomore and junior seasons and first team as a senior.
As a sophomore and junior she led the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals and was second in assists. The stats changed just a bit as a senior, leading the team in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, but second in points. However, it all led to Vander Ploeg garnering the most points and rebounds in Cheyenne Mountain history for both boys and girls.
"Janae is phenomenal with her wisdom and maturity," wrote basketball coach and chemistry teacher Janie Mueller. "She has a gift of optimism and constant joy. Rarely does one find Janae without a smile on her face. She leads her teammates by example with hard work and dedication and she simply enjoys every moment and experience of life."
Vander Ploeg has been selected All-Conference in soccer since she was a freshman helping to lead the Indians to a third-place finish in state her freshman and sophomore seasons and fifth as a junior. She was the leading scorer on the team as a freshman and currently second in scoring this past season as a senior. It's been a season in which the Indians were ranked No. 1 in the state in 4A.
Yet excellence has not been just on the athletic fields for Vander Ploeg. She has been a member of the academic Honor Roll throughout her career with a weighted 3.84 grade point average and graduates Cumme Laude.
She has served on Cheyenne Mountain's Student Council, has been involved in Colorado Springs Care and Share Food Drives, a member of Younglife Christian Youth Group, Eco Defense - recycle for Schools and has been coaching in camps for elementary students in all her athletic endeavors.
"In my seventeen years that I have taught, I believe Janae is one of the best and brightest students that I have had the opportunity and pleasure to teach," wrote history teacher Lawrence Lawson. "Unlike many young people, Janae realizes how precious life is and tries to live her life with meaning and purpose. She is humble and possesses a great sense of humor. She is a very special young woman, the epitome of the student-athlete."
Vander Ploeg has also been highly involved in club volleyball playing in the Junior Nationals as a captain of her club teams over the past four seasons.
"Perhaps Janae's strongest asset is the caliber of person she is," writes Cheyenne Mountain Principal John Weishaar. "She exhibits maturity and insight beyond her years. She displays integrity beyond reproach; empathy; and a sense of community service only seen in a small percentage of the population. She can take command of a large group like Student Council or work one-on-one with a struggling student. She treats both with care and a commitment to excellence."
2012 FRED STEINMARK AWARD FINALISTS
OLIVA ANDERSON, CHERRY CREEK -- Oliva will be headed for Duke University in the fall to continue her track and cross country careers. And, the state champion in the 300 hurdles and 800-meters will be a welcome addition for the Blue Devils as she is ranked sixth in the nation in the 800. She has also helped lead the Bruins to state track title in the 3,200-meter relay. Yet she can also go that ’extra mile’ proving that remark when she won the girl’s Open Mile at the Arcadia Invitational last season. She has been named Cherry Creek’'s Most Valuable Runner the past three seasons in cross country as well. She has also exceeded academically and will graduate with a 4.422 weighted grade point average. Yet she has a busy schedule outside of sports, in-school and out. She is active with the school wide President’s Club that correlates diverse school events, works with the Adams Camp Foundation that offers a variety of programs for children with special needs, has a pet care service in the summer and also performs landscaping services during the summer.
LUCY DIKEAU, KENT DENVER -- Lucy graduates from Kent Denver with a 4.0 grade point average and will be headed to Stanford University as a dual-sport recruit in Field Hockey and Lacrosse. She was the state’'s Player of the Year in Field Hockey and was also named as a 2012 Sportswoman of Colorado winner. She earned All-State honors in Field Hockey four years and is the only player in Colorado history to earn All-State and All-Conference laurels all four seasons in the sports history. As a result, she also picked up All-American honors while leading her team to a pair of state titles. She was a two-time All-State selection in Lacrosse and is one of 12 identified athletes for the USA Futures Elite Academy 2012 USA Olympic Training Center at Chula Vista, California. Off the playing fields - and among her many projects - she is involved with a tuition free, year around educational non-profit program that provides increased educational opportunities for at-risk middle school students from the Denver Public Schools, tutors science and is a Science Teacher during the school year for over 140 middle school students.
KARLI JELDEN, EATON -- Karli is certainly unique when it comes to her athletic abilities. Not only is she a standout in softball, basketball and track during the school year, but she is a nationally ranked water skier. She earned All-State honors in basketball while leading the Reds to the 3A, state runner-up trophy in 2011 and 2012. She has been the conference champion in the pole vault in track the past three seasons and capped 2010, 2011and 2012 seasons off with the state title in the event.Her 2012 pole vault effort of 11' 2" set a new class 3A state record. She also placed sixth in the discus twice and helped her 4 X 100 relay team take second in last year’'s state meet. In water skiing, she placed seventh in the USA National Championship Girls 3 level and was the 2011 Rocky Mountain Area Female Skier of the Year. She graduates with a 4.031 grade point average and has been quite busy as a member of the Student Council, the Yearbook staff, a NCMC Blood Drive Chairman the past four years, is a basketball camp and water ski mentor for youth. She is an accomplished young sportswriter, as well, finishing first in the 3A Yearbook Sports Writing/Best of Colorado for 2012.