The Richard Peña Golf Foundation named its boys and girls senior athletes of the year Wednesday night during an awards ceremony at the Belen High School auditorium.
Jace Rivera and Katherine Archuleta each received the honor and a $500 scholarship from the foundation. Both athletes had their names engraved on the athlete-of-the-year trophy that will be displayed in the trophy case at Belen High School.
Archuleta, a three-sport standout for the Lady Eagles, received all-district honors in volleyball, basketball and softball this season. She earned first-team honors in softball and volleyball and honorable mention in basketball.
Archuleta said she is going to use her scholarship at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, but she doesn’t expect to play sports in college. “I haven’t really thought about playing in college,” she said.
Archuleta was surprised that she was chosen as the female athlete of the year. But she said she was very grateful of the honor.
“I didn’t know that they were going to pick me. I was very surprised,” Archuleta said. “It’s so exciting. It’s a great feeling to see that all of my hard work paid off.”
Archuleta played on mostly-losing teams as a Lady Eagle athlete. But she doesn’t regret going through the experience.
“It was really a great season,” she said. “I love all of my teams, and, even though some things didn’t turn out how we wanted them to, I know my teams tried their hardest.”
Rivera, a four-time state shot put champion and current state record holder in the discus and shot put, was also very honored by the award.
“I knew they were going to give out an award, but I didn’t know it would be me getting it,” he said.
Rivera broke through a barrier this season when he was able to win the state championship in the discus for the first time. He placed second each of the last two years.
Rivera dominated throughout the season in every meet the Eagles attended. He threw the shot put 57-7 at the state meet to break his own Class 4A state record from the previous year. He established the state record in the discus with personal best throw of 171-9.
Rivera was also a member of the Eagles football team, but his season was shortened by an ankle injury. As a junior, he earned all-state honorable-mention honors in football.
“It’s a really big honor,” Rivera said. “I mean athlete of the year — that’s kind of self explanatory.”
Rivera is throwing in the Great Southwest Classic track and field meet on Saturday, which includes the top track and field athletes from seven states (see story below). He will continue his track and field career at Colorado State University.
“Both of the two athletes are great students as well as great athletes,” Jason Peña, a representative of the Richard Peña foundation, said. “We definitely wanted their classroom records to be a part of the criteria. It is very important to us that the athletes excel both on the field and in the classroom.”
Both Archuleta and Rivera had grade point averages over 4.0 in addition to their excellence on the field.
The Richard Peña Foundation is currently taking application from student athletes, who think they would qualify for any grants, to help them in any future athletic endeavors they wish to pursue. Applications can be sent to the Richard Peña Foundation at P.O. Box 712 Belen NM 87002.