Sharing the spoils: David, Merkley named South Tahoe Boys Athletes of the Year
Kirby David and Stone Merkley share so many similarities that it was only fitting for them to add something else in common. The senior two-sport athletes were named STHS Boys Outstanding Athletes of the Year for 2014-15 during a ceremony May 24 — and the friends were more than happy to share the honor.
“We both deserved this and I didn’t know who was going to win the award at first, but when they said it was going to be two people — immediately I knew it was me and Stone,” David said. “I’m proud of both of us and what we accomplished.”
“I’ve known Kirby since I was a little kid and we’ve always played sports together — since Kiddie Kickers up at Kahle,” Merkley added. “It’s so great because he’s one of my best friends and it’s awesome that I get to share it with him.”
The award chosen by school administrators is typically reserved for one athlete, but has been split multiple times. In the case of the duo that played prominent roles on the Vikings’ football and basketball teams, it was simply too close to give it to one over another.
“They’re both leaders, they both put up big numbers and they both are known for their athleticism — but they’re also known for being captains and taking charge,” South Tahoe athletic director Tony Sunzeri said. “We’d rather not pick a guy than have to choose between them — they were that even.”
In the fall, David and Merkley each started both ways for the South Tahoe football team. David was a second team All-League selection at both receiver and safety while Merkley earned honorable mention at linebacker.
David had a breakout senior season on the gridiron while emerging as the Vikings’ top offensive threat. He led the team with 979 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, and closed out the season with five straight 100-yard performances.
“I grew into it and I started to love it — I didn’t understand the sport growing up, but throughout high school I understood it more and more,” David said of football. “Throughout my senior year, I really did all I could do and showed my true colors out on the field.”
Merkley started at linebacker and tight end, and also handled the punting for South Tahoe. He had 19 receptions and a touchdown offensively, and provided a physical presence for the Vikings on both sides of the ball.
“I like to feel dominant over someone else when it comes to sports,” Merkley said. “I like to be able to light someone up or steal the ball from someone.”
During basketball season, the 6-foot-3-inch Merkley led the Vikings in scoring. The versatile forward averaged 12.3 points per game, and finished the season with six double-digit performances in the last eight contests — including a season-high 30 at Fernley on Feb. 7.
Merkley said he prefers basketball to football, and played both with physicality and passion. He said he aimed to lead by example on the court and the field, much in the way that past South Tahoe two-sport stars Cale Backinger, John Cefalu and Kyante Wilson showed him the way.
“I wanted to do that and leave a legacy where I’ll have friends that I know the rest of my life — and they’ll truly know how hard I work, how competitive I am and that I always want to win,” Merkley said.
David was fourth on the hoops team in scoring during the 2014-15 campaign, and averaged a team-high two steals per game. His energy offensively and defensively embodied the Vikings’ uptempo pace — and represented his tireless work ethic.
“I’m a guy that wants to work hard, I’m a winner and when it comes down to it I’ll put my life on the line for my team,” David said. “I’m always willing to go the extra mile and team always comes first.”
For David, the top moment of his senior year was South Tahoe’s win over Dayton during football season. The Vikings beat the Dust Devils 28-2 on Homecoming, delivering their first win of the year in emphatic fashion.
“I’m just proud of my team on that one,” David said. “That’s the most effort I’ve seen put out on the field by anyone wearing Vikings’ colors and I was just so fired up that game.”
Merkley’s favorite memory came during South Tahoe’s trip to the Gold Dust Tournament during basketball season. It came after the tournament, when the Vikings unanimously voted team manager and multiple-time cancer survivor Bailey Johnson as their all-tournament selection.
“It was just so special — I still remember the chill I got down my back when they called his name,” Merkley said. “It was really amazing.”
Merkley plans to attend junior college next fall, and hopes to continue his hoops career at the next level. David is headed to San Diego State, where he plans to study business with a marketing emphasis — and hasn’t yet ruled out playing football for the Aztecs.
“Watching the senior class graduate with all the wonderful people that did participate in athletics, I’m really sad to see people like (girls’ winner) Ally King, Kirby and Stone leave,” Sunzeri said. “It’s hard for me to let them go because they added so much to my first year as athletic director.”
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