The Sierra Sun’s co-Male Athlete Athletes of the Year from North Tahoe High School vary vastly in appearance — but not value.
One is big and powerful, the other wiry and lean. Both are tough, extremely athletic and served as invaluable members of their respective Laker teams.
To be sure, Colin Spencer and Sean McDermott will be missed.
“Coaching Colin the last couple years was really great. He’s a tremendous athlete, and a tremendous leader,” said North Tahoe baseball coach Matt Drury. “You couldn’t ask for more as a coach. He always did what he was told and was able to set an example for the younger guys to follow. He’s a great kid.”
About McDermott, “He did a lot of great things,” said North Tahoe basketball coach Frank Wright. “He had so much natural speed, and his endurance was incredible. We always could rely on him.”
Both were three-sport athletes for the Lakers, with McDermott competing in cross-country, basketball and track and field, and Spencer in cross-country, basketball and baseball. Spencer played football prior to his senior year, when he joined longtime North Tahoe cross-country coaching legend Warren Mills and crew.
“Colin worked as hard as any of the state runners,” Mills said of the big senior, at 6-2 and 200-plus pounds. “He was fully committed and ran with great heart. Although a very large heart! His attitude was that of a fine athlete who wanted to excel. He might have been top seven if our team was not so strong.”
While Spencer worked hard and posted respectable times during the regular season, McDermott was instrumental in helping lead the Lakers to the Division III state championship, which they dominated with the second-best score in NIAA history. McDermott finished sixth overall in the race, shortly after returning from an injury. It was a testament to his toughness.
“He was injured early into the season and went into water workouts while being at practice with the team each day,” Mills explained. “Our goal was to have him ready for state and he wanted to race much sooner than that. We felt his improvement and recovery was not worth the chance. He continued to be with the team in every way, guiding the younger runners and supporting the team.
“We knew that the state race would be an all-or-nothing affair for him. The results speak for themselves.”
Wright got a taste of McDermott’s toughness as well.
“Sean, bar-none, is the toughest kid I ever coached,” Wright said. “He dislocated his shoulder, and I thought we had lost him for the season. And then he came back a week later with a doctor’s note. It was pretty incredible.”
McDermott and Spencer helped lead a resurgent North Tahoe basketball team that enjoyed its best season in years, as the Lakers played into the Northern regional tournament before falling to Pershing County.
Spencer was co-team captain, anchoring the Lakers in the post while also developing an accurate touch from outside.
“Colin was one of the biggest physical specimens to ever walk through North Tahoe,” Wright said. “He’s one heck of an athlete. It doesn’t matter what sport he goes into, he’s going to succeed. He’s just one of those gifted people. He has so much natural ability, and then he’s taken it and worked his butt off and became very good. He didn’t cut any corners.
“He’s probably the biggest reason for our success this year, as far as counting on him for rebounds and putting the ball in the basket. We relied on him for a lot of things.”
In the spring, McDermott helped lead the Laker boys to a third-place team finish in the Division III state track and field championship. Along with his brother Noah, McDermott teamed up with Brandon Hackett and Peter Holmes to win a state title in the 4x800-meter relay, establishing a new state record in a time of 8:32.05. McDermott also earned a second-place medal in the 800.
Spencer feasted on his competition come spring.
After a solid junior season on the mound and at the plate, he raised his game to another level his senior season. The Mount Rose League’s Division III MVP, Spencer was dominant on the hill, finishing with an 8-2 record and a 1.88 ERA. He fanned 125 batters in 67 innings, which, according to the NIAA Record Book, ranks fifth all time in Nevada history.
He could swing it too, as he hit an even 500 and slugged .734.
“As a pitcher he throws hard and has a lot of confidence in himself to make good pitches,” Drury said. “He wanted the ball in the big game and the big situation. He wanted to be the one to take care of business. And as a hitter he hit .500, so obviously he had a tremendous year with the bat.”
Aside from his physical ability, Spencer served a valuable role as team captain, always leading by positive example. The co-valedictorian will attend Saint Mary’s College in the Bay Area in the fall. He’s already been in contact with the head baseball coach, who instructed him to develop a changeup this past season in addition to his hard fastball, which he did.
“He’s got tremendous talent, he throws hard and he now has a changeup. He’s a big, fun kid, and he’s a baseball nut. I have a lot of confidence that he’ll be playing baseball next year,” Drury said.