By Ray Hamill — He had to overcome more adversity than most of his peers this year, but no one had a bigger impact on multiple H-DNL sporting fronts than Arcata’s Carson Tucker.
And that makes him our 2021/22 Big 5 Boys Athlete of the Year.
In fairness, this was the toughest of all six high school awards categories to call this year, with three outstanding frontrunners who were three-sports stars and little to separate them. (More on that a little later.)
According to the Thesportsinstitute.com, “Young athletes who play more than one sport into their adolescence appear less likely to develop overuse injuries or to burnout from sports. They may also have more fun, develop into better athletes and enjoy longer sports careers.”
That’s good news for Tucker, who was a legitimate standout in three sports this year and an MVP candidate in two.
“That’s not easy,” Arcata boys basketball head coach Kellen Maynard said. “You’re literally going from before the first day of school till the end of the year.”
In addition to being a busy athlete, the Arcata senior also overcame plenty of adversity on his way to success in football, basketball and track and field.
Tucker was electric on the football field in the fall, teaming with quarterback Shane Purcell and fellow receiver/QB Alex Jioras to light up the scoreboard on the way to a league title.
The season, however, ended in heartbreaking fashion.
The Tigers were North Coast Section and even state contenders but were robbed of a chance at both after having to forfeit their section semifinal against Justin-Siena because of COVID protocols.
A couple of weeks later, Tucker and Purcell were robbed of league MVP awards after the league coaches opted not to name an offensive MVP when Arcata head coach Jamal Jones was unable to attend the meeting.
That double disappointment carried over on to the basketball court for Tucker, who had to endure a tough start to the season and didn’t even earn a starting spot until right before league play.
But when he got going, the senior played a pivotal role in leading the Tigers to a league and Dick Niclai championship double and was named first-team all-league after an MVP-caliber campaign on defense.
“He came to practice and everybody loved him and he worked hard,” Maynard said. “He never complained. He’s a great kid and he’s just a natural leader, and he was definitely one of the top defensive players on our team. He never backed down from taking any defensive assignment.”
After winning league championships in football and basketball, Tucker capped an outstanding all-around year with a big spring in track and field.
In his first year competing in the sport, the multi-talented senior had three top-three finishes at the H-DNL championships.
Tucker will now take his talents to Contra Costa College, where he will reunite with Purcell on the football field, with eyes on eventually playing at a four-year school.
“I feel like it gives me the greatest chance to get to the next level,” he said of his decision to play for the Comets. “I’ve got Division-I aspirations.”
The ceiling should indeed be a high one for Tucker, who never played football before high school and had only three and a half seasons at Arcata.
The long-time basketball player says he always thought he would eventually play that sport in college, but that changed in his junior year, right around the time he began to explode as a devastating receiver.
As a senior, he finished the football season with more than 1,000 yards receiving and more than 20 TD receptions (final official stats were unavailable), including an incredible six TD catches in one game against Ferndale.
He also pulled in four TD catches in the Tigers’ lone playoff game against San Lorenzo, which they won.
But that’s not what he will remember the most from his days competing for Arcata High.
“I’ll definitely remember the rivalry games with McKinleyville,” he said. “They were definitely the most emotional games I played in.
“And I really enjoyed winning the Niclai tournament, and the homecoming game. That was the most people I ever played in front of.”
Tucker credits former Arcata football coach Jamal Jones as the biggest influence on his career, as well as the support of his parents.
He added that one of the things he likes about sports is all the connections and friends he has made through competing.
An honorable mention in this award goes to both Del Norte senior Edwin Zepeda and Eureka junior Hans Chalmers, who along with Tucker were the best three-spot athletes in the H-DNL this year.
Chalmers was an all-league selection in football and basketball and also enjoyed a big spring in track and field.
Zepeda was an all-league selection in soccer and basketball, and was the Warriors’ most dangerous and consistent player on the court.
He capped an outstanding year with a huge spring in track and field, where he was arguably the best boys athlete in league competition, all in his first year ever competing in the sport.