Jesuit's Elizabeth Brenner may be Oregon's best-ever high school female athlete
BEAVERTON - No. 1?
For most of her senior season, there was no question that Jesuit's Elizabeth Brenner was No. 1.
After all, she was named Oregon's Class 6A Player of the Year in volleyball a second straight time and took her team to a second straight championship appearance. In basketball, she led her team to its first-ever girls state championship and also won Class 6A Player of the Year honors there. And finally, in track, she won her second straight Class 6A shot put title and helped the Crusaders claim a second consecutive Class 6A team crown.
She was also an all-league and all-state softball player as a sophomore, and has a slew of national-level racquetball titles to her credit.
Now, discussions are underway about whether Brenner might be the best female high school athlete ever in Oregon history.
For those reasons and many others, Brenner has been named the Valley Times' Female Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 school year. Brenner shares the award, given annually to the top graduating senior from the Beaverton Valley Times' coverage area, with fellow Crusader Annamarie Maag. The profile on Maag, a star in cross country and track, appeared in last week's edition of the Valley Times.
While discussions about Brenner's standing among Oregon's greats may continue unabated for some time to come, she definitely made believers of her coaches.
'Elizabeth is a great athlete, and what sets her apart is her level of athleticism,' said Jesuit volleyball coach Teresa Zimmerlee. 'Her level of strength sets her apart from the others. I believe she is the strongest all-around athlete since (St. Mary's great Anna Maria Lopez).'
'She's got to be up there somewhere (among Oregon's greats),' said Jesuit girls track coach Brian Valley. 'She's such a talent as a female athlete. She's a physical specimen.'
Brenner, who will play volleyball for the University of Oregon next year, put her considerable talents to use big-time during her senior volleyball season. A 6-foot-2 middle blocker, Brenner led the Crusaders to another unbeaten Metro League season - indeed, Jesuit went 40-0 in league during her four varsity seasons - and back to a second straight Class 6A state championship appearance.
While the Crusaders fell short to Central Catholic a second straight time - a result that obviously sticks in Brenner's craw - she said she was still satisfied with her senior campaign.
'It went really well,' she said. 'But Central was loaded. I thought we performed at our highest level and we fought to the end. We did all we could - they just had more firepower.'
'She has great balance and coordination to go with her natural strength,' Zimmerlee said. 'And when you add a good work ethic to those skills - as you have seen, she is hard to beat.'
By season's end, Jesuit had gone 38-4 and Brenner had averaged 5.2 kills, 3.1 blocks and 4.9 digs per game. That success helped her win a second straight Metro Player of the Year award, second straight Class 6A Player of the Year award, and a berth on the All-American first team.
As great as all that was, Brenner left her senior volleyball season focused on her team, her teammates and the relationships that were forged during her final season.
'This year's team, we were all really good friends,' she said. 'We had sleepovers, we hung out, went to lunch - that made it a lot of fun. I definitely think how close we were helped us succeed.'
Coming off a long and challenging volleyball season, Brenner jumped immediately into her senior basketball campaign and back into the middle of it all.
Despite facing constant double-teams from opposing defenses, Brenner made the 2010-11 season her best, averaging career-best totals of 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field and 72 percent from the free-throw line.
'Liz is as competitive as any player I've ever coached,' said Jesuit coach Jason Lowery. 'That natural-born, high-level competitiveness sets her apart from the competition nearly every night.'
Along with a slew of talented teammates, Brenner and the Crusaders were able to fly higher than any Jesuit girls team before it. The Crusaders won the Metro League title with Brenner named Metro Player of the Year for the first time, then blazed a new trail in the Class 6A state playoffs, winning five straight games and their school's first-ever state championship in basketball, finishing their year at 27-1.
It wasn't easy, though. After racking up a 25-12 halftime lead against championship opponent Clackamas, Brenner and the Crusaders saw the Cavaliers battle back into the lead midway through the fourth quarter. In the process, they raised the specter of Jesuit's loss to Southridge in the state championship a year earlier.
But Brenner and the Crusaders didn't crack. Brenner led her team down the stretch, helped beat Clackamas 42-39, and got to hoist her school's first-ever state championship trophy in girls basketball.
'There was no thought that we were going to lose,' she said. 'We just needed to regroup, refocus and do the things we needed to win.'
In the 'fourth quarter of the state title game, it was tight and the game was in the balance,' Lowery recalled. 'After a timeout, I remember watching Liz walk on to the floor, and I simply thought to myself 'I'm glad she's on our team. I think we're going to be OK here.''
Staying on Track
Coming off a long and challenging basketball season, Brenner jumped immediately into third senior sport - track and field - and right into the middle of it all again.
Already the state's reigning Class 6A state shot put champion, Brenner left nothing on the table during her last go-round in high school sports.
She won her second straight Metro League title in the shot and took second in the Metro javelin to help the Crusaders run away with another league title, going unbeaten in the dual-meet season and easily winning the district meet.
Brenner was far from done, either. She came back strong at state, throwing 45 feet, 4.75 inches to defend her state shot put title, and throwing 154-3 to take second in the javelin. As was true at district, Brenner's efforts helped lift the Crusaders to a second consecutive Class 6A team title, finishing with 96 points while runner-up Gresham was far behind at 48.
'I just wanted a really good and fun way to end my high school sports career,' she said. 'I knew I had a good shot in the shot put, and I knew we were going to win as a team. We were awesome.'
While nothing is set in stone yet, it's possible that
Brenner's track and field career isn't over either.
'As soon as I walked off after winning the shot, (Oregon's) throws coach came over to talk to me,' she said. 'They'd love to have me throw, but there's spring volleyball too so we'll have to see.'
'The honest truth is she looks like a Division 1 track athlete,' said Jesuit track coach Tom Rothenberger. 'She has a lot of talent. It's just a matter of where she wants to use it.'