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N.M. Sports Hall of Fame announces annual award winners

For more than seven decades, the Fulgenzis of Las Vegas, N.M., have been serving, volleying and winning.

In recognition of their unbroken pattern of excellence and their continued contributions to tennis in the state, the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame is awarding the Fulgenzi family its Award of Distinction for 2019.

Other NMSHOF annual award winners, announced this week:

■ Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith (Dexter, Roswell), Pro Athlete of the Year

■ La Cueva volleyball player Brie Mortensen, High School Female Athlete of the Year.

■ Taos track athlete Jonah Vigil, High School Male Athlete of the Year.

■ La Cueva football coach Brandon Back, High School Coach of the Year.

■ The Class 6A state football champion La Cueva Bears, High School Team of the Year.

■ University of New Mexico cross-country runner Weini Kelati, College Female Athlete of the Year.

■ Former UNM middle-distance runner Josh Kerr, College Male Athlete of the Year.

■ Lobos cross-country and track coach Joe Franklin, College Coach of the Year.

■ The New Mexico State University baseball team, College Team of the Year.

■ The Kevin McGrath Burger Time Golf Tournament, Promotion of the Year.

■ The Albuquerque Isotopes, Special Recognition.

The Fulgenzi name first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal connected to tennis in April 1947, when Gene Fulgenzi lost a singles match for the Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals against Albuquerque High. Just a sophomore at the time, he would win the state singles title the next two years.

Last spring, some 71 years later, cousins Brandelyn, Jenese and Lauren Fulgenzi led Robertson to its fifth consecutive Class A-AAAA state team title. Brandelyn was the state singles champion.

In between, according to a NMSHOF news release, at least 14 Fulgenzis have won titles at the high school level and beyond.

Nor is the Fulgenzis’ athletic prowess limited to tennis.

Gene Fulgenzi starred in basketball for Robertson, and later for New Mexico Highlands University in his hometown, in the late 1940s-early ‘50s.

Warren Fulgenzi Sr. and his son, Warren Jr., played basketball for the Cardinals. In 2016, Warren Jr. — a two-time state singles tennis champion — scored 22 points and hit five 3-pointers in a 63-45 victory over crosstown rival West Las Vegas.

Brandelyn Fulgenzi (tennis, volleyball, basketball) was the Journal North Female Athlete of the Year in 2016.

Regardless, the Fulgenzis’ athletic endeavors begin and end with the serve and the volley.

“The sun is going to rise and you’re going to play tennis,” Warren Fulgenzi Sr., the Robertson tennis coach, told Journal North of his message to younger family members. “When it comes to other sports, I step back and I say you do what you want.

“But tennis is my way of teaching work ethic, of passing on the torch.”

The Hall of Fame award winners will be honored along with this year’s inductees at the annual NMSHOF banquet, scheduled for April 7 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

The 2019 inductees, as announced on Dec. 15, are:

n Los Lunas’ Chuck Aragon, a middle-distance star at Notre Dame and the first New Mexican to run a sub-4-minute mile.

n Longtime Albuquerque Academy boys basketball coach Mike Brown.

n Former New Mexico Highlands and Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Charley “Humps” Cowan .

n Former UNM softball coach Susan Craig.

n Former Clovis and Texas Tech basketball star Brooks “Bubba” Jennings.

n Hope Christian boys basketball coach Jim Murphy.