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JaQuan Gardner, Lexy Cordova named Central Valley High Schools top athletes
JaQuan Gardner, pictured left, and Lexy Cordova both earned nine varsity letters during their prep athletic careers with the Hawks. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ja'Quan Gardner and Lexy Cordova both had phenomenal prep athletic careers.

The Central Valley seniors joined elite company on May 14 when they were presented Golden Hawk awards.

Gardner and Cordova were recognized as the school's top athletes.

A point system taking into account athletic and academic achievement, and community involvement for the past four years determined male and female winners.

"It took me by surprise when I heard my name," Gardner said. "My hard work paid off. I'm just thankful for all the support everybody has given me."

"I made a goal list at the beginning of my senior year," Cordova said. "This was my biggest goal. I've worked hard to accomplish this."

Central Valley athletic director Greg Magni announced the winners.

"As soon as he said wrestling, I knew it was me," Lexy stated. "I'm the only girl wrestler at the school. I was overcome with joy. I wanted to cry. It's been a dream of mine and my parents since I was a freshman."

Cordova earned nine varsity letters during her prep athletic career, including four in softball, three in wrestling and two in volleyball.

"I'm going to miss my teammates the most," she said. "Everybody I played with became a family member."

Lexy qualified for the CIF Girls State Wrestling Championships during her final season with the Hawks. She won five of six matches while finishing in third place in the 121-pound weight division at Regionals. She compiled an impressive 30-12 record on the year.

"I made it to state and held my own," she said. "Wrestling is my favorite sport. I love everything about it. You have to push yourself to the breaking point just to succeed."

Lexy earned second-team, all-WAC honors in softball this past year.

Cordova, Central Valley's ace pitcher, totaled 57 strikeouts.

She batted .262 with eight RBIs, eight runs and four stolen bases for the Hawks, who posted a 9-9 overall record and placed fourth in the league standings (5-7).

Central Valley dropped out of playoff contention during the final week of the regular season.

Lexy started for two seasons in volleyball. The Hawks posted a 5-7 record on their way to a fourth-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference during the fall sports season.

Cordova plans to play softball and wrestle at Modesto Junior College.

She wants to transfer to Fresno State, which is considering creating a woman's wrestling program.

"I'm very sad it's all over," Cordova said. "It went by too fast. Now, I'm on to bigger and better things. Hopefully, continuing sports in college."

Gardner earned nine varsity letters as well, including four in track and field, three in football and two in basketball.

"I'm going to miss being able to play all the sports," said, Ja'Quan, who will continue his gridiron career at Humboldt State. "I was busy every day. I just like to go out and have fun."

Gardner was recognized multiple times for his dominance in football during his final season with the Hawks.

The star running back was voted USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year.

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

He was selected to the MaxPreps 2013 All-Northern California and All-Sac-Joaquin Section first teams.

Gardner won the Western Athletic Conference MVP award.

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

"I like them all the same," Gardner said when which award was his favorite. "I'm thankful for every single one of them."

Gardner, a three-year starter in football, broke the Stanislaus District's single-season and career rushing yard records.

He rushed for 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns in the fall.

Ja'Quan totaled 6,014 yards and 67 TDs in 31 career games.

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).

Ja'Quan placed 14th in the 100 (11.17 seconds) at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track & Field Championships this spring.

The Hawks' 4x100 relay team of Gardner, Alex Vazquez, Angelo Bermudez and Kendel Johnson finished 15th (43.97).

Gardner took second in the 100 (10.96) at the Division IV-V meet. He improved his school record while taking first in the event (10.83) during trials. Central Valley's 4x100 relay team set a program record (third place, 43.11).

Ja'Quan captured the 100-meter title (11.01) at the WAC finals. Gardner, Vazquez, Bermudez and Johnson also teamed up to win the 4x100-relay event (45.56).

Gardner was a key contributor in basketball. A defensive standout, Ja'Quan logged playing time at guard as the 2013-14 Hawks qualified for the postseason for the first time, posted a 22-7 overall record and finished second in the WAC standings (9-3).

"I'm going to miss it all," Gardner said. "I enjoyed it all."

The names of Golden Hawk Athlete Award recipients are displayed on a banner inside Central Valley's gymnasium. Past winners include Abraham Navarro (2013), Malynda Lomeli (2013), Daniel Ochoa (2012), Drucella Miranda (2012), Tyree Jones (2011), Alyssa Long (2011), Vince Lopez (2010), Amanda Lopez (2010), Trevor Mew (2009), Julie Calderon (2009), Mike Tubera (2008) and Latrisha Jordan (2008).

"Ja'Quan is an amazing athlete," Cordova said. "I'm up there with him. That makes it even more special."