Nayeli Pelayo’s eyes welled up with tears when she found out she was the recipient of the Central Valley High School Golden Hawk Female Athlete of the Year Award this past month.
She always envisioned earning the major honor.
Pelayo set the lofty expectation for herself in the ninth grade.
“Winning the award was one of my main goals in high school,” she said. “I’m very competitive.”
Past winners include Blanca Espinoza (2017), Mikayla Mabie (2016), Heaven Simon (2015), Lexy Cordova (2014), Malynda Lomeli (2013), Drucella Miranda (2012), Alyssa Long (2011), Amanda Lopez (2010), Julie Calderon (2009) and Latrisha Jordan (2008).
“It feels great to know I’m one of Central Valley’s greatest athletes,” Pelayo said. “All my hard work has finally paid off.”
Nayeli earned eight varsity letters, including four in softball, three in wrestling and one in cross country.
Already considered Central Valley’s all-time greatest female grappler, Pelayo added to her resume by becoming the girls program’s first state medalist.
She posted a 4-3 record en route to a sixth-place finish in the 189-pound bracket at the CIF State Championships in February.
“I met my goals in wrestling,” Nayeli said. “All I wanted was to be standing on that podium. Coach (Rob Beckhart) always pushed me when I didn’t want to continue wrestling. He was always there telling me that I was good enough and I could do anything if I worked for it.”
Pelayo qualified for state three times and captured back-to-back Western Athletic Conference individual titles.
She filled a key role as the Hawks reached unprecedented heights by winning the 2018 WAC tournament and dual-meet titles.
“We were lucky to have Nayeli on the team,” Beckhart said. “She was the heart of our program. It’s difficult to find someone that dedicated. She’s humble and respectful. She’s a good person. She was instrumental in us winning the WAC title this year. She recruited other girls to wrestle for us. We’re going to miss her.”
Pelayo accomplished a first in Central Valley softball history by being named a second-team all-league selection four times.
She had a career batting average of .369 with two homers, one triple, 12 doubles, 26 RBIs, 16 runs and seven stolen bases.
Pelayo struck out just once in WAC play this year.
“I had lots of fun being a part of the varsity softball team for four years,” said Nayeli, a standout catcher. “I think I did pretty well individually but I know I could’ve done better.”
“Ny is extremely comfortable and confident behind the plate, which is why she is so successful,” Hawks’ head coach Regina Selfridge said. “She is the best catcher in the league in my opinion. She is excellent at framing the ball for the pitcher. Very few balls get by her. She has made some incredible plays over her four years on varsity.”
Pelayo has yet to finalize her college plans.
“As of right now, I will be attending Stanislaus State, but I still have a whole summer of softball left so we’ll see what happens,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind playing softball or wrestling in college. I love both sports.”