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Journal North top female athlete: Carly Gonzales

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Choosing the Journal North female athlete of the year didn’t really take a lot of thought.

Excelling in three sports over two sports seasons during her abbreviated senior year, Peñasco’s Carly Gonzales was pretty much unstoppable.

Perhaps the toughest thing is where to begin since Gonzales readily admits she doesn’t have a favorite sport.

“Growing up around all four sports, I can’t really choose,” she said of cross-country, volleyball, basketball and track. “Each of them has their own individual up side about them.”

So, perhaps it is best to take them in chronological order.

As an eighth-grader, and as a freshman and sophomore, Gonzales won the individual state championship in cross-country and helped the Panthers win the team championship.

By the time her senior year rolled around, however, Gonzales was still trying to recover from an ankle injury that hampered her all fall. She slid all the way to 13th.

“Her dedication and hard work,” Peñasco cross-country coach Ben Sanchez said of her success. “She sets a goal and she works for the goal that she set. It’s her determination, and her hard work and willingness to work.”

And in that, Gonzales was a role model for the squad, which took third this past season.

“For me, it meant that I had somebody that could be a leader, somebody that the rest of the team could model off of,” Sanchez said. “And the rest of the team did follow her lead in a lot of ways as far as running and pushing themselves further.”

Gonzales credits her success to Peñasco local Chris Sanchez, who early on believed in her ability.

“It took somebody from around the community that was able to see that I wanted to compete with the best and someone who wanted us to be better,” she said. “That was the biggest moment for me. And being able to achieve things like I never imagined. I would never have believed to be able to accomplish anything like a state championship and he took time out of his day every day in the summer to help me train and be the best.”

In volleyball, the 5-foot, 10-inch Gonzales was a rarity in that she played across all formations on the floor. Although primarily a setter, she also went to the net to spike it or block it as needed, helping the Panthers reach the final eight.

As a senior, she racked up 205 kills with 262 assists and scored 316 points as a server – including a memorable 15-point whitewash in the deciding fifth game against Escalante.

“Carly, she’s a natural born leader, but doesn’t realize it,” coach Maxine Abeyta said. “She’s quiet. She’s soft-spoken and she’s humble, but she’s fierce when she’s doing anything athletically. But she’s one of the nicest kids, very approachable.”

Gonzales learned to play volleyball with a cousin out in the nearby fields.

“I’ve always grown up around it because me and my cousin would play around in our field,” she said. “It’s always been fun to do. I enjoyed doing it in the summer and fell in love with it.”

Then there is basketball.

The career points leader at the school, even though the books from her eighth-grade season are missing, Gonzales was again an across-the-board stats stuffer. She averaged 21.7 points per game, with 12.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.6 blocks as Peñasco reached the championship game.

“Where do I begin?”, coach Mandy Montoya asked. “I still don’t think she actually knows how good she is. She has the best footwork that I’ve coached in the post. If she excluded herself to where she was just a basketball player, who knows how good she could be?”

That, however, was never an option, Montoya said.

“Her work ethic is amazing,” she said. “This is a kid that puts in so much time outside of practice. That’s what separates her from the competition.”

This season, she had six 30-point games, including a career-high 37 in the state tournament quarterfinals.

“The thing about Carly is nothing has been given to her,” Montoya said. “She outworks everybody. In school, on the playing field in whatever sport she does. That’s just who she is. And you don’t see it very often.”

The overall excellence is something that comes from within, but Gonzales said she has had tremendous help from her family.

“I get just great family support,” she said. “I have a really great older sister (Charlyna Gonzales), who laid out the foundation for me and all my sisters, showing how much effort it takes to be where you want to be. Having that actually taught me to work and have a good work ethic. And having great coaches really helped.”

In addition to her general excellence in sports, Gonzales also was the Peñasco salutatorian this year, and completed an associate’s degree in general liberal arts, attending classes at both Northern New Mexico College and University of New Mexico-Taos.”

She is currently sifting through DII and NAIA offers to play basketball in college, but academics will rule where she finally decides to attend.

“I’m looking at the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) areas, probably some sort of science, that I’ll major in,” Gonzales said. “Biochemistry or computer science, but I haven’t decided yet. Just being committed to something you love makes it that much easier. I was real passionate about academics and athletics, so that’s what I think really helped me.”