Girls Athlete of the Year: Kyla Ross

Diminutive freshman Team USA gymnastics phenom, who is headed to London with a good chance to being back more than one medal, is voted best for 2011-12 school year.

This is one of those years in the decision-making process regarding the Cal-Hi Sports Girls State Athlete of the Year in which there is one group of girls from individual sports that we don’t often cover – such as gymnastics and swimming – and then another group from the more traditionally popular CIF sports like volleyball, basketball, softball and track.

In the history of the honor in the all-time state record book, there are examples of the State Athlete of the Year among girls being from the first group – such as swimmer Jessica Hardy of Long Beach Wilson for 2004-05 and figure skater Peggy Fleming of Pasadena for 1964-65. There also are many examples of girls selected who did not compete for their school teams, such as Mary Decker of Orange for track and field for 1973-74.

Team USA gymnast Kyla Ross just completed her freshman year as a student at Aliso Niguel of Aliso Viejo so she was deemed eligible for this year’s honor. And since Ross also happens to be one of the best young talents in the world in her sport – something that none of the other top candidates that were considered could really say – she is the one that has been named as this year’s winner.

At the recent USA Olympic Trials in San Jose, Ross was leading in the all-around competition after the first day and although she was surpassed by others on the second day she still was an obvious selection to make the Olympic team. Her fifth-place finish in the all-around was helped by her winning the uneven bars competition and coming up with a third-place finish on balance beam.

As a 13-year-old and 14-year-old, Ross won back-to-back U.S. junior all-around titles and only began competing in senior-level international events last March. In her first competition, at the Pacific Rim championships in Everett, Wash., she won a gold medal on balance beam and added two more medals in uneven bars and floor exercise.

At the London Olympics later this month, Ross will be the youngest member of the U.S. team and one of the youngest among all of the 268 females from all sports. The U.S. has not won a gold medal in team scoring since 1996 – the year Kyla was born – but with stars Jordyn Weiber (the reigning all-around world champion) plus Gabby Douglas (who won all-around at the trials) the Americans are regarded as favorites. Ross also could sneak into medal contention herself in uneven bars and perhaps in one other apparatus.

Another member of the U.S. team is 16-year-old vaulting specialist McKayla Maroney, who is a resident of Laguna Niguel. She also is a world champion in the vault, but unlike Ross she doesn’t attend a California high school (she’s home-schooled) so she wasn’t considered eligible to be State Athlete of the Year.

Ross and Maroney, in fact, describe each other as best friends since they were little girls growing up doing gymnastics together at the Gym-Max center in Costa Mesa. What are the odds that both of them would make an Olympic team together in just a few years? We’re just glad to be able to recognize one of them as the 2011-12 State Girls Athlete of the Year.

Note: Another U.S. Olympic athlete for the girls that we also decided would be ineligible for these honors is Ariel Zhing, the 16-year-old leader of the U.S. table tennis team from Valley Christian of San Jose. The difference between gymnastics and table tennis is that gymnastics is a recognized CIF sport with section championships in San Diego and in the Central Coast Section. As correspondent Steve Brand wisely pointed out, “If you choose a table tennis player, you would then need to open it up to others in sports like skateboarding, sailing and more.” This would prevent us from ever choosing another figure skater again, but does keep swimmers and gymnasts and tennis players – as long as they attend a California high school – in the mix.



(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

2011-12 - Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)

2010-11 - Maggie Steffens, Danville Monte Vista (water polo)

2009-10 - Ashton Purvis, Oakland St. Elizabeth (track)

2008-09 - Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track)

2007-08 - Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track) Jr.

2006-07 - Alix Klineman, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (volleyball)

2005-06 - Jayne Appel, Concord Carondelet (water polo, basketball)

2004-05 - Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson (swimming)

2003-04 - Candice Wiggins, La Jolla Country Day (volleyball, basketball)

2002-03 - Allyson Felix, North Hills L.A. Baptist (track)

2001-02 - Julia Pitts, Torrance North (volleyball, basketball, track)

2000-01 - Lashinda Demus, Long Beach Wilson (track)

1999-00 - Monique Henderson, San Diego Morse (track) Jr.

1998-99 - Rometra Craig, San Jose Mitty (basketball, tae kwon do, track) Jr.

1997-98 - Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica (volleyball, soccer, baseball)

1996-97 - Tayyiba Haneef, Laguna Hills (volleyball, basketball, track)

1995-96 - Kerri Walsh, San Jose Mitty (volleyball, basketball)

1994-95 - Marcy Crouch, Huntington Beach Marina (soccer, softball)

1993-94 - Suzy Powell, Modesto Downey (basketball, track)

1992-93 - Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track)

1991-92 - Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track) Jr.

1990-91 - Marion Jones, Oxnard Rio Mesa (basketball, track) Soph.

1989-90 - Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside (basketball, track)

1988-89 - Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming)

1987-88 - Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming) Jr.

1986-87 - Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia (softball)

1985-86 - Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma (basketball, track)

1984-85 - Elaina Oden, Irvine (volleyball, track)

1983-84 - Wendy Brown, Woodside (basketball, track)

1982-83 - Wendy Wyland, Mission Viejo (diving)

1981-82 - Denean Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)

1980-81 - Cheryl Miller, Riverside Polytechnic (basketball)

1979-80 - Sherri Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)

1978-79 - Cynthia Woodhead, Riverside Polytechnic (swimming)

1977-78 - Tracy Austin, Rolling Hills (tennis)

1976-77 - Linda Fratianne, Van Nuys Valley Professional (figure skating)

1975-76 - Jill Sterkel, Hacienda Heights Wilson (swimming)

1974-75 - Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian (basketball, softball)

1973-74 - Mary Decker, Orange (track)

1972-73 - Keena Rothhammer, Santa Clara (swimming)

1971-72 - Mable Fergerson, Pomona Ganesha (track)

1970-71 - Laura Baugh, Long Beach Wilson (golf)

1969-70 - Cathy Rigby, Los Alamitos (gymnastics)

1968-69 - Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)

1967-68 - Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)

1966-67 - Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)

1965-66 - Charlotte Cooke, Compton (track)

1964-65 - Peggy Fleming, Pasadena (figure skating)

1963-64 - Sharon Stouder, Glendora (swimming)

1962-63 - Donna de Varona, Santa Clara (swimming)

1961-62 - Carolyn House, Los Angeles Marshall (swimming)

1960-61 - Billie Jean Moffitt, Long Beach Poly (tennis)

1959-60 - Chris von Saltza, Los Gatos (swimming)

1958-59 - Karen Hantze, San Diego Mission Bay (tennis)

1957-58 - Sylvia Ruuska, Berkeley (swimming)

1956-57 - Barbara Ann Roles, Arcadia (figure skating)

1955-56 - Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)

1954-55 - Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)

1953-54 - Carol Tait, Atherton Menlo-Atherton (swimming)

1952-53 - Barbara Stark, Lafayette Acalanes (swimming)

1951-52 - Paula Jean Myers, Covina (diving)

1950-51 - Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)

1949-50 - Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)

1948-49 - Marlene Bauer, L.A. unknown (golf)

1947-48 - Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)

1946-47 - Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)

1945-46 - Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)

1944-45 - Nancy Chaffee, Ventura (tennis)

1943-44 - Jean Doyle, San Diego Point Loma (tennis)

1942-43 - Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)

1941-42 - Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)

1940-41 - Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)

1939-40 - Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)

1938-39 - Esther Williams, L.A. Washington (swimming)

1937-38 - Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)

1936-37 - Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)

1935-36 - Peggy Graham, Beverly Hills (golf)

1934-35 - Margaret Osborne, S.F. Commerce (tennis)

1933-34 - Florence Chadwick, San Diego Hoover (rough water swimming)

1932-33 - Dorothy Poynton, L.A. Fairfax (diving)

1931-32 - Evelyn Furtsch, Tustin (track)

1930-31 - Alice Marble, S.F. Polytechnic (tennis)

1929-30 - Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)

1928-29 - Gloria Russell, Berkeley (track)

1927-28 - Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)

1926-27 - Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)

1925-26 - Helen Jacobs, Berkeley Miss Anna Head's School (tennis)

1924-25 - Eleanor Garatti, San Rafael (swimming)

1923-24 - Helen Jacobs, Berkeley (tennis)

1922-23 - Helen Wills, Berkeley Miss Anna Head's School (tennis)

1921-22 - Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)

1920-21 - Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)

1919-20 - Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)

Note: All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.

Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com or markjtennis@gmail.com.