Athletes of the Year: Poly’s Merryman, Miller top jocks.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR RESUMES
HUNTER MERRYMAN
Football: Northwest Division semifinalists, first team All-CIF, first-team All-Prep League, second team Star-News All-Area quarterback, three-year letterman.

Basketball: Division 5A semifinalists, first team All-CIF, first team All-Prep League, second team Star-News All-Area center, Tribune/Star-News All-Star, three-year letterman

Baseball: Division 6 champions, Prep League champions state-record 16th consecutive year, first-team Star-News All-Area infielder, first-team All-CIF, Prep League MVP, three-year letterman.

MICHELLE MILLER
Volleyball: Division 3AA finalists, first-team All-CIF, second team Star-News All-Area.

Basketball: Division 5A champions, Prep League champions, second consecutive Star-News Player of the Year, Division 5A Player of the Year, Prep League Player of the Year, ESPN Rise Player of the Week.

Swimming: Division 2 prelims in 50 freestyle, competed in four events during the year (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 200 medley relay).

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of Pasadena Poly as a sports powerhouse.

The pristine school across from Caltech known for its rigorous academic programs is also home to Hunter Merryman and Michelle Miller, the 2011 Star-News male and female Athletes of the Year.

The three-sport standouts are the first pair from the same school to win the award.

Merryman, a senior, and Miller, a junior, helped their respective teams bring home a CIF-Southern Section championship.

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Merryman, who’ll play basketball at Division III Middlebury College in Vermont, earned first-team All-CIF in football, basketball and baseball. He led the Panthers football team to the semifinals of the Northeast Division playoffs, completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,804 yards and 21 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also earned second-team Star-News All-Area honors and was voted first-team All-Prep League.

As a basketball center, Merryman averaged 20.7 points and 8.9 rebounds. He’s a two-time All-Area selection and earned first-team All-Prep League and first-team All-CIF honors after leading the Panthers to the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 5A playoffs.

He completed the trifecta in the spring after leading the Pasadena Poly baseball team to a CIF-SS Division 6 championship, earning Most Valuable Player honors in the Prep League, and All-CIF and All-Area first-team honors after batting a whopping .512 with 44 hits, 42 RBIs, 15 doubles and nine home runs.

“I would say it was almost a perfect year,” Merryman said. “In football we got further than I thought we would. In basketball I expected to get to the semifinals, maybe even a little further, but I didn’t expect (our) division to have La Verne Lutheran.

“Baseball, not much else to say other than to end the high school career on a win – doesn’t get better than that.”

It’s not as if Merryman produced those numbers against cupcake teams. Pasadena Poly, in all three sports, challenged itself with a rigorous nonleague schedule that was complemented by a tough playoff schedule.

Such was the case in basketball, playing in the same division as powerhouse La Verne Lutheran.

In baseball, the Panthers challenged themselves by playing against local powerhouses such as Arcadia, San Dimas and Monrovia.

“I think it’s definitely safe to say that we are a powerhouse,” Merryman said. “In basketball, for sure; you can see us going to the semifinals two straight years, losing to two teams that have high, major Division I recruits in it that are ranked in the ESPN Top 100 list. Then in baseball, for sure. We tied and beat Monrovia; we played San Dimas and only lost 2-1.”

As for the award, Merryman was surprised.

“I was really happy and I was a little surprised,” he said. “I thought (Monrovia’s) Nick Bueno was an amazing athlete and we all know that. I thought he would get it. I guess it shows that a small school can still get some love.”

In the fall of 2010, Muir girls basketball coach Gary Johnson was spotted at a football practice, where he pulled aside a reporter to deliver a bit of news.

“We scheduled that Miller girl,” he said at the time. “We’re going to see if she’s the real deal.”

Five months later, Miller dropped a game-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Muir drubbed Poly 71-34, but the answer was clear: Miller’s legit, if her ESPN RISE player of the week honors earlier that month hadn’t already proved it.

Johnson more than agreed, to say the least.

“I think that’s definitely a compliment if you have someone whose team is in a higher division that wants to play you and challenge you,” Miller said. “Individually, I met that challenge. As a team we definitely struggled, but it says a lot about our team, (being) willing to take on that challenge.”

In fact, Miller’s more than legit. She’s a young phenom who’s on pace to finish second all-time in Southern California scoring behind Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller, whose legendary resume includes scoring 105 points in one game for Riverside Poly.

Last season, Michelle Miller averaged 33 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks en route to a CIF-SS Division 5A championship and CIF State playoff appearance. She also earned, for the second consecutive year, Star-News Player of the Year honors. She also was voted Prep League and Division 5A Player of the Year.

With one goal down, Miller has two more to go. She helped the Panthers volleyball team reach the CIF-SS Division 3AA finals, where they lost to league rival Chadwick. Miller earned first-team All-CIF honors and second-team All-Area.

In swimming, Miller competed in the 50 freestyle in the CIF-SS Division 2 prelims and helped the Panthers compete in the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 medley relay. She competed in four events during the season but was limited because of a sprained ankle suffered during a basketball camp.

“Next year my goal is to make it to finals for swimming,” Miller said. “For volleyball, we feel we have a chance of winning CIF. We only lost a couple seniors, and I think we’re still going to be really good.”

Merryman and Miller each credit their coaches for allowing them to play different sports, unusual nowadays, when specialization seems rampant.

Miller’s relentless determination stems from accomplished parents in father Michael, an ophthalmologist, and mother Jeri, an occupational hand therapist at Pasadena’s Huntington Memorial Hospital. They were also the ones who pushed Miller as a young girl to jump from sport to sport.

“When I was younger, I didn’t want to necessarily do everything, but when I didn’t want to, they made me go,” Miller said. “In the long run it’s definitely paid off. They’ve been very encouraging my whole life. Also, for an award like this, a lot of credit goes to my school. I really like that you’re allowed to play three sports. If I went to a basketball school, you’re playing basketball year-round. I do enjoy playing different sports, and Poly is very supportive of that.”

Merryman echoed those sentiments.

“All my coaches were very supportive, from (boys basketball coach Brad) Hall to (football coach Brendan) McGrail and (baseball coach Wayne) Ellis,” he said.

“They were all wonderful and patient with me playing all these sports. I know that if I wasn’t on their team, they would have been supportive wherever I played.”

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com