When Taylor Pitz and Chris Paul heard their names called out toward the end of Laguna Beach High's General Athletic Boosters All Sport Banquet on Tuesday, both said it was unexpected.
Pitz — who starred on the surf team — and Paul — who book-ended a record-setting senior year in football l and baseball — finished the night, and their prep careers at Laguna Beach High, by being presented with the school's Female and Male Athlete of the Year honors for the 2010-11 school year.
"Both Chris and Taylor exhibit all of the traits that we feel are important to have as young adults," Laguna Beach Athletic Director Mike Churchill said. "They are well-rounded as excellent students and athletes. We are very proud of their current accomplishments and look forward to sharing in their future successes."
The swell just keeps rising higher for Pitz, who had a stellar senior year and four-year career at Laguna. In addition to being named Female Athlete of the Year, Pitz was named surf team MVP, top grade-point average (4.43) for the surf team and also received the Mike Roche Female Athlete of Character award.
"I was really stoked and surprised to be named Female Athlete of the Year," Pitz said. "There are so many really, really great athletes at this school. Jessie Holechek, who is a close friend of mine, was crazy good in water polo and is going to Princeton. Emily Writer was breaking records in basketball and is a great player. I'm thrilled with the honor."
A whirlwind year has seen Pitz win an individual league title and capture her second straight High School Varsity Women's title at the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. State Championships at the Huntington Beach Pier. She is a four-year member of the Laguna Beach High surf team and is a three-time league champion. She's also a four-year member of the Billabong girls' team and a three-year member of the USA Surf Team and has competed with the team at the International Surfing Assn. World Jr. Surfing Championship in Ecuador and New Zealand.
She's been a competing member of the NSSA since age 7. This year, she finished the Southwest Open season as the Women's division ratings champion. In December 2010, she was featured as Surfer of the Month in Surfing magazine.
Pitz also secured her future in March when she selected UCLA as her choice of college. She said she selected Westwood over Stanford and also had been accepted to USC, UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego. She said she will enter UCLA as an undeclared major, but is "looking into studying environmental science or economics."
"This year really has been an amazing ride," she said. "These past few weeks have been crazy, but in a good way. I've loved going to school here and am looking forward to going to UCLA. I'll continue to compete in the NSSA at the college level."
The Male Athlete of the Year award was the final award to go out Tuesday and Paul ended what he said was an "unforgettable" senior year by being bestowed with the honor.
It was the third award of the night for the 18-year-old, who also received accolades as MVP of both the football and baseball teams.
"It was an amazing night for me," Paul said. "It really is an honor for me to be named Male Athlete of the Year because there are some really good athletes in every sport at this school, and they also are deserving. I feel privileged and honored to receive these awards."
Paul's final athletic year at Laguna started with a bang in the fall as he set several new standards for the football program. As a multi-use player who saw action as the team's top receiver, kick return specialist and defensive back, he set the following records on he gridiron:
•Touchdowns, career (44)
•Receptions, single game (15)
•Receptions, career (151)
•Receiving yards, single game (241; holds three of top 10 spots)
•Receiving yards, career (2,545)
•Touchdown receptions, single game (5, twice)
•Touchdown receptions, season (19)
•Touchdown receptions, career (42)
•Points, single game (30, twice)
•Points, career (276)
•Two-point conversions scored, single season (4)
•Two-point conversions scored, career (6)
This spring, he helped lead Laguna to its best season in the 73-year history of the baseball program. The Breakers went 27-3, won a league championship for the first time in 48 years, set nearly every offensive record for the program, won their first home CIF playoff game and reached the quarterfinal round of the Division 4 playoffs.
Paul's individual records on the diamond were:
2011 season: games played (2010, 2011 seasons; ties record held by seven other players; only player to do it twice); batting average (.495); hits (50); runs batted in (49); pitching wins (10; 10-2).
Career records: games played (113); plate appearances (433); at-bats (374); batting average (.439); hits (164); doubles (49); runs batted in (127); runs scored (114).
He's the Orange Coast League's two-time MVP and is the school's first four-year all-league player. He's also Laguna's only two-time All-CIF baseball player (2009, 2010).
The 2011 All-CIF team has yet to be announced.
"To be honest, I never envisioned any of this happening, really," Paul said of his records. "Still, it's been really exciting to have it happen. Austin (Paxson) did a great job at quarterback and none of this would have happened if it weren't for my teammates around me. I just really wanted to go out there and make myself a better player and be a good teammate. I also wanted to have fun with all the guys, because this was my final year at this school.
"I just want to thank my coaches for all their help and support both, on and off the field, and my parents (Ron and Mara), teammates and friends for their support, as well."
Paul had given a verbal commitment to UC Berkeley last year, but the Golden Bears dropped their baseball program. Instead, he signed in November with UC Santa Barbara. Cal has since reinstated its baseball program and this week is in the Super 16 Regionals of the NCAA tournament. Paul said he asked for his release from UCSB and the Gauchos granted that request. He said he signed the release last week, but that the release still needs to be cleared by the NCAA.
Paul, who said his goal is to get back with Cal, is currently playing on the Elite Baseball 18U club team.