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Gardner an OAA winner
JaQuan Gardner

Ja'Quan Gardner received a FaceTime call from Central Valley learning director Kristen Cole and a host of other supporters following the conclusion of the 50th Outstanding Athlete Awards banquet last Wednesday in Modesto.

Gardner, a 2014 Central Valley grad and star running back at Humboldt State, was named the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club's College/Open Men's Division OAA winner.

He was also a finalist the previous year.

"I was planning on going," Gardner said. "My class schedule didn't allow me to come back. There were a lot of great athletes nominated for the award. I was proud to be one of them. I want to thank the SOS Club. It's an honor they still follow me to this day."

Ja'Quan had a host of representatives at the OAA banquet, including his mother (Stacey), brother (Jamarea) and sister (Roneesia).

"Everybody still supports me," Gardner said. "It feels great. I'm making Ceres, family members and friends proud. Ultimately, that's what makes me happy. That motivates me."

Ja'Quan became the first athlete from Central Valley High School to be named the SOS Club's Male High School Athlete of the Year in 2014.

"I don't like being in the limelight," Gardner said. "I really don't like public speaking. I get really nervous. Of course, it's nice to win awards. But you can't win every year."

Gardner starred at running back while helping Humboldt State secure its third straight winning season (6-5).

Ja'Quan was named to the NCAA Division-II Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) All-America Team for the second year in a row.

The second-team pick rushed for a Great Northwest Athletic Conference-leading 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Ja'Quan ranked 10th in Division II in TDs and total rushing yards, 13th in rushing yards per game (118.2) and 14th in all-purpose yards per game (159.9).

He also caught 42 passes for 324 yards and one TD.

Gardner had 1,759 all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns.

Ja'Quan earned CCA Super Region Three First Team honors for the second straight season.

He garnered first-team all-GNAC recognition for the second consecutive year.

Gardner ran for a program-best 313 yards and scored two touchdowns on a career-high 43 carries during the Lumberjacks' 28-14 win over Western State Colorado.

Ja'Quan also set a GNAC record with 375 all-purpose yards.

Gardner has already cemented his place in history as Humboldt State's greatest running back by shattering 10 team records, including rushing yardage in a career (4,121), rushing yardage in a season (2,266), rushing yardage in a single game (313), touchdowns scored in a career (53), touchdowns scored in a season (25), touchdowns scored in a game (5), points scored in a career (318), points scored in a season (150), points scored in a game (30) and longest rushing play (87).

"I haven't put any thought into it," said Ja'Quan, who prefers to focus on his team's accomplishments instead of his individual legacy. "We had a successful spring. We have a lot of goals set for ourselves. We should be able to do what we want (this upcoming season)."

Gardner, a three-year starter at Central Valley, broke the Stanislaus District's single-season rushing yards record during his final season with the Hawks.

He totaled 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games. Homer Garza set the previous mark (2,195) in 1997 with Hughson.

Ja'Quan was voted USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year.

He was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports medium schools' first-team offense.

He was named to the MaxPreps All-Northern California and All-Sac-Joaquin Section first teams.

He also won the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player award.

Ja'Quan ranked first on the Stanislaus District's career rushing yards list (6,014) when he graduated from Central Valley. He eclipsed Central Catholic star Louis Bland's all-time record. Bland (2004-07) piled up 5,140 yards in 47 games.

Gardner tallied a program-best 67 TDs.

Ja'Quan helped Central Valley reach its team goal of qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in 2013. The Hawks also posted their first-ever winning record (6-5).

Recent Ceres High grad/University of Washington freshman softball standout Nicole Bates was a finalist for the SOS Club's Female High School Athlete of the Year award.

Nicole filled a major role in leading Ceres High's varsity softball program to 85 victories, one section championship, three Western Athletic Conference titles and four playoff appearances from 2013-2016.

Bates helped guide the Bulldogs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown this past spring.

Nicole batted .571 from the plate with five homers, four triples, nine doubles, 33 RBIs, 45 runs and 14 stolen bases while striking out just five times in 113 plate appearances with Ceres High in 2016.

She made just one error on defense.

Bates posted an impressive batting average of .625 with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs as third-seeded Ceres High won five of six playoff games.