Nearly 150 gifted high school athletes from around the Redwood Empire won Press Democrat All-Empire Athlete of the Year awards Wednesday night at the Friedman Event Center in Santa Rosa.

A crowd of more than 800 student athletes, their families and coaches attended the 22nd annual awards.

Eight overall winners — four boys and four girls from both large and small schools — won college scholarships for either their athletic prowess or scholar-athlete talents.

“This was as strong a group of nominees as we’ve had,” said Press Democrat Sports Editor James Barger. “Choosing the winners was very difficult with so many accomplished athletes and impressive students.”

The overall winners were:


Large school: Maria Carrillo soccer phenom Madison Gonzalez, who will attend Santa Clara University and study public health; and Anthony Spallino of Windsor, who excelled in football and wrestling. He will attend Colorado School of Mines on scholarship.

Small school: Rylee Bowen of Sonoma Academy, who is only a sophomore but impressed the judges with her already established national profile as a distance runner; and Cesar Soto of Anderson Valley, who played football, basketball and baseball for the Panthers and will attend San Jose State University to study business administration.

Scholar athletes

Large school: Delaney White of Santa Rosa High, the first four-time winner of the North Bay League cross-country championship who carried a 4.4 grade-point average and will attend the University of Nevada on an athletic scholarship; and Edwin Reyes of Sonoma Valley, who was team captain in track and soccer and defensive player of the year in basketball, while serving as student body president and carrying a 4.18 GPA. He will attend Macalester College in Minnesota.

Small school: Chloe Colbert of Sonoma Academy, who thrice won the soccer player of the year award and played basketball until she broke an ankle, while earning a 4.0 GPA she’ll take to college; and Payton Rockwood of St. Helena, who won awards as a football and basketball player while making the National Honor Society and keeping a 4.3 GPA. He will study business at UCLA.

The Press Democrat received a total of 143 nominations from schools in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties, encompassing the NBL, Sonoma County League, the North Central Leagues I, II and III and the Small School Bridge League.

The nomination forms included information about their athletic and academic achievements, their hobbies and interests and their involvement in school and community activities.

From that information and feedback received from people who know the athletes well, a committee of Press Democrat employees — primarily the people who regularly cover high school athletes — selected the eight overall scholarship winners.

Those eight received $500 scholarships to use as they begin their college sports and academic careers.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or On Twitter @loriacarter.