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Mirror's Male Athlete of the Year — Nick Tanielu
It seems like Nick Tanielu has been at Federal Way High School forever. That’s because the now-graduated Tanielu started having an immediate impact inside the Eagle athletic department during his first year on campus as a freshman.
The impressive performances as a shortstop on the baseball field and a three-year starter at quarterback on the football field continued during his entire four-year career at Federal Way. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder led both teams to the state playoffs during his tenure, while also being named to multiple All-South Puget Sound League and All-State teams.
Tanielu will also be able to add the title of the Mirror’s 2010-11 Senior Male Athlete of the Year before he enrolls at Washington State University in the fall to play for the Cougar baseball team.
“It took us about five minutes to know that this kid is probably going to play for us as a freshman,” Federal Way baseball assistant Joe Haworth said earlier this year. “That doesn’t happen a lot. Without a doubt, Nick is the best hitter I’ve seen since Travis Ishikawa, who won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants. I’m hoping someday I will be saying the same thing about Nick.”
Tanielu grew up in Alabama before transferring to Federal Way during his freshman year in high school. The family came to the area to take care of his grandma in the hospital. After she passed away a month later, they decided to remain in Federal Way.
In baseball, Tanielu had a stellar four-year career for the Eagles and will go down as one of the better players in the rich history of the school. He was voted all-league during all four seasons and all-state the last two.
As a senior, Tanielu hit .488 and led the league in RBIs with 25 in just 16 games, stole a league-leading 11 bases, slugged .930 and finished with 40 total bases. Tanielu also tallied 15 runs, had five doubles, one triple and four home runs.
He hit .548 as a junior, led the SPSL in runs (26), walks (17) and stolen bases (12). As a sophomore, Tanielu finished with a .488 average and led the SPSL North with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.
But baseball isn’t the only sport Tanielu excelled at during his time at Federal Way. He was also a three-year starter at quarterback for the Eagle football team and led Federal Way into the postseason twice. During the last two seasons, Tanielu threw for over 2,700 yards and 15 touchdowns and was the first-team, All-SPSL North quarterback as a junior.
“He is a special athlete,” Federal Way football coach John Meagher said.
Other senior nominees:
Troy Peterson, Beamer
Peterson joined his older sister, Nicole, as being named Beamer’s Athlete of the Year. The midfielder on the Titan soccer team is heading to the College of Charleston in South Carolina after being one of the top recruits in the nation.
Peterson finished his senior year with 19 goals and 16 assists for the Titans. He scored at least one goal in 13 games this season and scored the only goal during Beamer’s win over Kentwood in the SPSL title game.
T.J. Esekielu, Beamer
In his first full season starting at quarterback at Beamer, the senior had a historic year. Esekielu finished with 1,604 yards on the ground and 1,402 through the air, giving him 3,006 yards of total offense. He was the first quarterback in SPSL history to rush and throw for over 1,000 yards during the regular season.
He was also named the SPSL South’s co-Offensive Back of the Year and was a first-team selection by the coaches in leading the Titans to their first postseason appearance in the school’s history.
Esekielu was also a standout on the Beamer track team as a sprinter and jumper.
Meron Simon, Federal Way
The University of Washington-signee was a star in cross country and track for the Eagles. Simon finished up in ninth at the Class 4A Cross Country Championships as a senior and helped the Eagle team qualify for the state meet for the first time since 1999.
In track, he shattered the Federal Way school record in the 1,600 meters and never lost an SPSL dual meet during his four years on the team. He finished third in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200 at last month’s state meet.
Beyond his athletic accomplishments Meron is a member of the Ignite Leadership team and graduated with a 3.62 grade-point average.
Chase Braxmeyer, Jefferson
Braxmeyer was a rare three-sport athlete at Jefferson, competing in cross country, basketball and track. He will continue his running career at Bellevue Community College in the fall.
In cross country, Braxmeyer led all Federal Way athletes by finishing in eighth place at the state championship meet. On the basketball court, he was the Raiders’ second-leading scorer at 9.9 points a game, including 18 points in a win over Beamer. In track, Braxmeyer had an impressive sixth-place finish in the 1,600 meters at the state meet last month.
Jerron Smith, Decatur
Smith was a scoring machine for the Decatur basketball program during his four-year career. The numbers are staggering. In that stretch, Smith started 113 games, including 33 in the postseason, won four West Central District Tournament trophies, played in four state tournaments and scored an eye-popping 2,034 points, which is the most every scored by a Decatur basketball player.
The 6-foot-3 guard, who graduated with a 3.8 grade-point average, is moving on to Portland State University in the fall. Smith averaged 27.5 points this season and was named the Class 3A Player of the Year by the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association, All-Area by The News Tribune and is now The Mirror’s 2011 All-City Boys Player of the Year.
“Next year will be very strange, especially in the fourth quarter when we need a clutch basket,” Decatur head coach Kevin Olson said. “I’ve always been able to run a play to get him a shot knowing he’ll knock it down. We’ll have to try and find someone to knock down those shots, to be the go-to guy in our sets. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. He will be missed.”