Big 5 Girls Athlete of the Year finalists have plenty in common

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill —Narrowing down the field of athletes to seven finalists for the 2023 Humboldt Sports Big 5 Girls Athlete of the Year was no easy task with at least 20 worthy candidates considered.

But we still had to choose our top seven for the award and all of the finalists are more than deserving of inclusion after each made a substantial impact in more than one sport.

As with our Big 5 Boys Athlete of the Year, all five schools are represented among the girls finalists, including three standouts from one school.

And that’s not all.

All seven finalists are multi-sport stars who have excelled in all of their chosen sports.

In fact, all seven received all-league recognition in multiple sports this year.

A big shoutout to Mendes Supply, DelReka Distributing and The Stove Doctors in McKinleyville for helping to sponsor this year’s awards and pay for the trophies.

Thanks to their generosity, all of our award winners this year — including Big 5 girls and boys athletes of the year, Little 4 boys and girls athletes of the year, and H-DNL coach of the year and team of the year — will receive a trophy or plaque to commemorate their achievements.

We’ll be announcing the rest of our category finalists in the coming days, and after that we will begin announcing the winners in all six categories.

Here then are our finalists for the 2023 Humboldt Sports Big 5 Girls Athlete of the Year.

Five are seniors and two are juniors who may very well be back on this list 12 months from now.

Kylee Fennell,

Fortuna, Senior

A rare three-sport all-league first-team selection, Fennell is coming off a phenomenal senior year after leading the way for the Huskies in volleyball, basketball and softball.

She was named one of two Fortuna female athletes of the year at the recent Husky ESPYS — along with Lonna Torrez — and will now take her talents to College of the Redwoods, where she will play both volleyball and softball for the Corsairs.

Sydney Hassselquist

Arcata, Senior

The fastest girl in the H-DNL this year, Hasselquist was more than just a speed demon.

The Tigers graduate was named all-league in volleyball — a year after she was league MVP — and she took home three league titles in track and field.

She saved her best for last, setting PRs in both the 100 and 200 meters at the league championships and then again at the North Coast Section meet the following week.

She also placed third in league in the long jump.

Kaitlin Giacone

Eureka, Junior

A Big 5 MVP in basketball and an all-league selection on the Loggers’ NCS champion soccer team, Giacone would have been all-league in softball as well were it not for a season-ending injury suffered just before the spring sports began.

An inspirational leader on all three of her teams, this outstanding athlete continues to develop in all three sports and should be back better than ever next year.

Kira Morris

Eureka, Senior

Morris played just two sports this year and was named MVP of the Big 5 in softball while also receiving an honorable mention in soccer.

She could very well have been the Big 5 MVP in basketball had she opted to play this year instead of focusing on softball.

Morris has excelled in several sports during her time at Eureka and received the prestigious Jay Willard Award as the Loggers senior athlete of the year.

Mariah Napoleon

Eureka, Senior

Another multi-sport standout, Napoleon was a huge contributor for the Loggers in volleyball, basketball and softball.

The Eureka graduate could have gone on to play any of those sports at the next level but has opted to play volleyball at Simpson University.

She was a key presence on all three Eureka teams, including helping the Loggers to a league and Dick Niclai double championship on the basketball court.

Lili Nunez

Del Norte, Junior

Like the other finalists, Nunez is a multi-sport standout and was this year’s Humboldt Sports Girls Player of the Year in basketball.

The athletic Nunez also was an all-league selection in volleyball and basketball and a league champ in track and field on the Del Norte 4x100m relay team.

She’s also one of the top high school javelin throwers in the state.

Camryn Pinard

McKinleyville, Senior

Pinard was an all-league selection in basketball and softball and an honorable mention on the volleyball court.

More than that, the Mack graduate played a key leadership role on all three teams, consistently leading the way and setting the tone for some of her younger teammates, both with her play and her drive.

The Panthers will have their hands full replacing such a key senior.

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