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Former Ceres High athlete Austin Stiles remembered for selflessness, work ethic
Austin Stiles funeral
Ceres High School grad Austin Stiles was laid to rest at Lakewood Memorial Park on Dec. 13 in Hughson. Stiles, 24, died in a car accident on Dec. 1 in Acampo. - photo by DALE BUTLER/ Courier file photo

Former Ceres High School multi-sport athlete Austin Stiles was laid to rest on Dec. 13 at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.

Stiles, 24, lost his life in a car accident on Dec. 1 in Acampo.

He leaves behind his loving family, including parents Sam and Meliesa, and siblings Ramon, Ashlee, Alyssa and Allison, and countless friends and admirers.

“How do we go on without you?” mother Meliesa stated in an Instagram post. “My heart hurts and I miss you dearly already. Today was such an amazing tribute to you. I hope you saw all the lives you touched and the people that were there for you. Your LOVE was felt today and I am so blessed to be your mom, and I am so proud of who you were. The world can be a better place if we just learn to love like you did. I know I will do whatever I can to be a little better every day. Rest easy my boy!!!! I love you Austin Dale Stiles.”

“The love you shared with everyone around you was so deep,” longtime friend Kindra Hackbarth Valencia wrote. “You helped anyone and everyone near you no matter where they came from. You were and always will be a role model to not only (my nephew) Aidyn but every little boy and girl. You saved me through a really hard time and I’m forever grateful for you. Thank you for blessing me and everyone with your amazing soul. So much love for you and your family. Until we meet again, give heaven some hell.”

A moment of silence was held for Stiles prior to tipoff of the Ceres High-Central Valley boys basketball game on Dec. 10. Stiles’ family attended the game. 

Ceres High remembered Stiles before playing Vanguard College Prep on Dec. 8 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

Current Bulldogs’ leader T.J. Walker Jr. didn’t coach Stiles on the hardcourt but knew who he was and remembered how hard he worked.

“I met him when he was in junior high,” Walker said. “He was always in our gym. He came in one day and looked totally different. There were muscles everywhere. He had muscles coming out of his eyebrows.”

Julio Marquez was Stiles’ basketball coach for three seasons at Ceres High School.

“Being the top athlete at the high school, Austin didn’t let that affect him,” he said. “He was cool with everybody. He always looked out for people. He was such a good kid. He was fun to be around. He was very passionate about everything. That’s what I admired about him.”

“He was with me early in my coaching career,” Marquez added. “He’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever been around. He was on another level. After practice, he’d go work out again and shoot more shots. He did that on a regular basis. There were times I had to tell him to slow down.”

A longtime friend of the Stiles family, Brian de la Porte coached boys basketball at Ceres High for 13 seasons (2000-13). Brian’s departure came a year before Austin entered high school.

“I’ve known him his whole life,” de la Porte said. “His dad played basketball for my dad. He coached with me at Delhi for one season three years ago. Austin never changed. He was a kid with a big heart. He was friends with everybody. It didn’t matter who you were.”

Chris Lubinsky met Stiles at Mae Hensley Jr. High and they played one season of football together at Ceres High.

“I just saw him at Panera in Turlock a couple weeks ago,” Lubinsky said. “He was with his grandparents. He was happy. I gave him a hug. We got to chat. It’s hard to think about him being gone. He was so young. He had so much more life to live.”

Lubinsky and Stiles made up one of the top quarterback-receiver duos in the Stanislaus District during the 2015-16 school year.

“He was such a great athlete,” Lubinsky said. “He was the best player on the field. You couldn’t do too much to stop him. You couldn’t match his work ethic. He was so driven. He carried himself like a pro. It was incredible to watch. I looked up to him. He was a role model. He made me want to be a better version of myself. He was a super generous, thoughtful, humble, loving guy. He made people feel they were important to him.”

Brett Johnson coached Stiles for a combined six seasons in football and track and field during his prep athletic career with the Bulldogs.

“I’ve been at Ceres High School for a long time,” Johnson said. “He’s the best all-round athlete we’ve had. He was extremely coachable and very humble. He was an ultimate competitor. That elevated the people around him.”

Les Bonsu of Bonsu Elite Athletics (BEA) in Ceres trained Stiles.

Stiles spent so much time at BEA he formed a friendship with Bonsu and his wife Yvonne. 

He was in their wedding party.

He was at the hospital when their daughter London was born.

Stiles also volunteered at the BEA training facility as he relished providing advice to and working with younger athletes.

“I’ve known Austin since he was in the seventh grade,” Bonsu said. “You won’t find anyone that has anything bad to say about him. If you knew him, he’d do anything for you. He was a great person. He inspired a lot of people.”

Stiles graduated from Ceres High School in 2016.

He starred in football, basketball and track and field.

Stiles earned all-Western Athletic Conference honors in all three sports during his senior year.

A first-team all-WAC receiver, Stiles caught 64 passes for 1,015 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games. He led the conference in receptions, yards and TDs. Stiles earned an invitation to play in the 43rd Annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game.

Stiles averaged 11.8 points per game on his way to earning second-team all-league accolades in basketball. He helped lead the Bulldog to their second straight Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance and a third-place finish in the WAC standings (8-4).

Stiles won the high-jump title at the 2016 WAC Track & Field Championships.

He cleared a personal-best 6 feet, 6 inches while finishing first at County Clash IV event.

He also took first at the Stanislaus County Meet.

Stiles’ football career came to an abrupt end at College of San Mateo in 2017 due to a spinal condition.

He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis after having multiple surgeries to repair hip and groin injuries.

“I’m just focused on taking steps forward and trying to make the situation better for myself,” Stiles said while being interviewed by the Courier in January.  “I can’t thank my family enough and all the coaches that helped me. I started to live life again and have fun. There’s more to life than sports and being in the gym.”

Austin Stiles family
Austin Stiles had a special bond with each of his four siblings. Pictured (clockwise): Austin, Allison, Ashlee, Ramon and Alyssa.