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Local athletes earn NIAA’s top honor
by Dan Eckles
May 22, 2013 | 3141 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photos — Reed wrestler Spencer Empey (above) is a three-time state champion and Spanish Springs volleyball star Lyndsey Anderson (below) is a two-time Division I North player of the year.
Tribune file photos — Reed wrestler Spencer Empey (above) is a three-time state champion and Spanish Springs volleyball star Lyndsey Anderson (below) is a two-time Division I North player of the year.
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Every spring the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association releases its Top 10 Student Athletes of the Year for northern and southern Nevada. Each year that list of standout student athletes seems to top the prior year.

A pair of Sparks-area student athletes have been named to the 2013 northern Nevada list and both are well deserving. Spanish Springs senior Lyndsey Anderson and Reed senior Spencer Empey garnered the distinction and will be honored at a banquet tonight hosted at the Peppermill.

“Certainly the community of Sparks is well represented by Lyndsey and Spencer,” NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “This program recognizes what we deem to be the very best. It takes into account what a student athlete should be. It includes things from the periphery, community service, student government and other activities. We’ve got a committee that goes through each and every application. The committee makes some difficult decisions because there are a lot of quality applicants. We are extremely proud of these student athletes and their accomplishments.”

Nelson said the NIAA received around 160 applications for this year’s program. With just 20 winners, 10 from northern Nevada and 10 from southern Nevada, those chosen are indeed the cream of the crop.

Winners receive commemorative awards from the NIAA and its sponsors. The awards include a $1,500 scholarship courtesy of the Farmers Insurance Group, a souvenir portrait and dinner for eight courtesy of Lifetouch Photography, a Top Ten souvenir newspaper edition courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal, and an NIAA Courtesy Card. Winners are asked to invite seven guests, free of charge courtesy of the NIAA and Lifetouch, to share in the banquet.   

At Spanish Springs, Anderson has been an all-league volleyball and basketball player all four years of her prep career. She was named the Division I North player of the year, for the second straight season, during her senior volleyball campaign last fall and led the Cougars to a state championship. In the winter, Anderson was a first-team High Desert League pick for the third straight year and helped the SSHS crew to a second-straight 20-win season and into the D-1 North regional semifinals before they fell to eventual state champion Reno.

“I was really excited to win,” Anderson said. “It’s a good award to be recognized for. I think I had a lot of the qualities they were looking for. I played many sports. I was involved in a lot of teams and had good grades in all four years of high school. I think that all added up and made a good combination for the award.”

Anderson was named the SSHS female athlete of the year after both her sophomore and junior years and is set to win the honor again. She is ranked 33rd of 555 students in her class. Last fall she signed her letter of intent to play volleyball for Nevada.

Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson said the local school nominates one boy and one girl annually toward the Top 10 list, but noted Lyndsey Anderson is just the school’s fourth honoree in its 12 years of existence. The Cougars administrator added it was a no brainer to nominate the school’s current standout.

“This is a huge honor for the school, too,” he said. “I believe this list is firmly reserved for the great, kids that excel in the classroom and on athletic field. This group is truly the best of the best.

“We knew we had a special kid in Lyndsey. She’s somebody we knew we’d promote for the award but when you hear from people outside your school that you’d better make sure you get her submitted, you know you’ve got somebody special.”

The well-rounded criteria is what makes athletes, coaches, administrators and parents proud to see their athletes and loved ones honored.

“We are just thrilled for her,” said Lyndsey Anderson’s mother Lisa, a former University of Nevada volleyball player and current GM at Reno’s Montreux Golf and Country Club. “Being around her, she has an exceptional attitude and work ethic in everything she does. She’s not a complainer. She just does what it takes to get it done, but I think she’s a caring person as well. As a parent, you hope that you instill that in your children. This is really an honor.”

At Reed, Empey has been one of the most accomplished high school wrestlers in Silver State history. The stellar athlete did not lose a single match in his sophomore, junior or senior seasons, racking up 136 straight wins and a trio of state championships.

“I had heard about the award in years past and seen the people that won,” Empey said. “I thought I kind of fit that mold, played sports and involved in community service with high academics, a well-rounded kid. So I’d shoot for it. Obviously the money is nice if you’re lucky enough to get it.

“It’s definitely some recognition. It’s always good to be well rounded. You don’t want to only be known as a good athlete. It’s nice when people acknowledge you for other stuff, too.”

Empey is ranked 18th in his graduating class of 476. He’s earned six varsity letters at Reed and has committed to wrestle collegiately for Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo. Reed athletic director Ron Coombs said Empey was an easy choice as a nominee for the east Sparks school.

“To have a kid on this list is always an honor,” Reed athletic director Ron Coombs said. “Kids like Spencer represent your school so well. To have him recognized in the Top 10 speaks to the type of person he is. Athletics are part of it, but there’s more. It’s about being a good student and your volunteer work as well. When we sent in his application, we felt pretty confident he’d be accepted.”
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