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Courtney Clayton closes out her career with another player of the year award

Perhaps Courtney Clayton could have taken her senior year at half-speed, or at least run through the motions a bit.

As good as she is, it still would have been a year most high school kids would be happy about, and doing so would have been understandable. After all, what do you do for an encore performance — with your college softball scholarship already in hand — a year after playing for a state title and being named the Class 6A state player of the year?by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Glencoe senior shortstop Courtney Clayton tracks a ground ball during a Pacific Conference softball game.

If you are Courtney Clayton, you go about closing out your high school career by being just as good as you’ve ever been.

“Now that softball’s done, it’s just a surreal feeling, but it really makes me feel thankful for everyone that I’ve gotten to meet through my high school experience, and the coaches that I’ve gotten to play under in both basketball and softball. I feel so blessed for the opportunities that I got at Glencoe, and it’s crazy talking about it that it’s over now.

“I just couldn’t be more thankful for everything that’s happened over my four years at Glencoe. It was an amazing experience for me.”

Clayton’s remarkable high school career ended late last month with Glencoe’s one-run loss to South Medford in the state quarterfinals. That career has indeed been a decorated one — to the degree that Crimson Tide coach Jacy Jukkala would rank Clayton in the top three among the parade of softball stars that have passed through the school during her coaching tenure.

Remarkably consistent on the softball diamond, Clayton was a .500 hitter from the get-go as a freshman, and she just kept going from there, playing a key role in Tide runs to three league titles as well as a Class 6A state championship game appearance in 2013. The star shortstop capped that career by repeating as Pacific Conference player of the year.

She also excelled on the basketball court, guiding Glencoe to a league runner-up finish and the Class 6A state playoffs. And for good measure, on the academic side, she walked in Glencoe’s commencement ceremonies last week as one of her class salutatorians.

That is one special kid the UTEP softball program is getting this fall.

“You don’t come across people who have the athletic ability that she does, that work as hard as she does, and that are such good people. I mean, very rarely do you,” Jukkala said. “She is just kind of that all-around special type of kid.”

So how exactly did her senior softball season stack up to the superlative one she posted in 2013? A year ago, when she was voted the top player in the state, Clayton batted .523 to go along with 56 hits, 40 RBIs and 34 runs scored.

Remarkably, playing in the same number of games this year, Clayton matched her 2013 statistics practically down to every hit, run and RBI. She posted a .524 batting average, 55 hits — including 21 for extra bases — 41 RBIs and 35 runs scored. She also drew 11 walks and struck out just four times.

“That definitely speaks to what a consistent player she is,” Jukkala said. “She’s not super-flashy in that she’s not going to go out and belt 15 home runs a year, but she’s such a workhorse.”

Clayton also shined on defense, routinely making the tough plays look easy. She recorded 65 assists and 35 putouts compared with only four errors for a .962 fielding percentage.

Not surprisingly, that added up to repeat league player of the year honors, and Clayton surely was on the short list again for an all-state spot. (Results were not available at press deadline.)

“Honestly, it’s just trying to (be) the best you can be, working hard, and going out and doing the extra things — like going to hitting,” is how Clayton attributes her consistency. “Just doing anthing that you can that will help the team in the long run is definitely very important.”

Clayton’s production at the plate and play-making ability in the field were perhaps even more important this season than they were a year ago, when the Tide had all-state pitcher Katie Sutherland-Finch on the mound. This season, Glencoe needed to score runs to win games while a mostly young, raw pitching staff gained experience.

With Clayton leading the way, the Tide delivered, running up a 22-8 record, pushing Tualatin to the brink before settling for second in the conference, and falling just short of a state semifinals appearance.

In basketball, Clayton picked up first team all-conference honors as a guard. She averaged 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds per game on a low-scoring, defensively tenacious Tide team. She was also the squad’s top sharp shooter with 23 3-pointers. Glencoe finished 15-10 overall and 10-4 in league play.

But beyond the awards and accolades, Clayton said she will cherish the lessons she learned from her coaches and the friendships she formed with teammates. And she will be able to carry those with her to a sunny softball field in Texas, where she will fulfill a childhood dream of playing at the next level.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “I just feel blessed that I get the opportunity to go and get to play in college.”

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