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Honors keep pouring in for Gardner
SOS Club honors Hawk running back
JaQuan Gardner won multiple awards for his outstanding play in football, including SOS Male High School Athlete of the Year. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

Ceres has a rich sports history.

Ja'Quan Gardner became the first athlete from Central Valley High School to be named the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club's Male High School Athlete of the Year.

The standout running back was recognized on April 30 in Modesto.

"I didn't expect to win to be honest," said Gardner, a gracious winner. "Everyone was deserving of the award."

Gardner, a three-year starter, broke the Stanislaus District's single-season rushing yards record this year.

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 also ranks first on the district's career rushing yards list (6,014). 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 topped four other nominees, including Modesto High's Israel Saavedra, Central Catholic's Spencer Stark and Matt Ringer, and Oakdale's Bryce Dyrda.

"It was pretty nerve racking," he said. "All that was running through my head was I had to say something into the microphone. I didn't have anything planned to say. I winged it. I thanked everyone."

Gardner arrived just in time for the SOS Club's Outstanding Athlete Award Banquet.

Ja'Quan placed first in the 100 and ran the second leg on the Central Valley varsity boys track and field program's 4x100 relay team against crosstown-rival Ceres High earlier in the day at Bulldog Stadium.

Assistant coach Anthony Castro provided transportation to Modesto.

Gardner changed in the club's locker room.
"I didn't get to finish all of my races," Ja'Quan said.

Ceres High garnered SOS Club prep athlete of the year recognition seven times in a 10-year span. Omaira Estremera (2002), Brianne Ferguson (2001), Reshundra Smiley (2000), Shannon Donnelly (1999), Vanessa Morris (1996), Kari Abbey (1995) and Sara Norwood (1993) were among the winners.

The face of Central Valley's program for three seasons, Gardner remained humble while rewriting the Stanislaus District record books.

More importantly, Ja'Quan helped the Hawks reach their team goal of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time.

Central Valley also secured its first-ever winning record (6-5).

"A lot of great athletes have come through Ceres," Gardner said. "It's an honor to be recognized for all the hard work I've put in. It puts our school on the map. It's pretty cool."