LOST SEASON: Three-sport standout Reese Wheeler named Albert Ali Award winner after stellar prep career at NU
Reese Wheeler isn’t used to all this extra free time.
For the majority of her high school years there has been little of it to spare as the Nevada Union senior shines in the classroom, excels in athletic competition and spends countless hours volunteering in the community.
“(The past four years) were pretty busy,” she said, adding the current situation is, “really crazy.”
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, Wheeler would be busy competing alongside her friends and teammates on the Lady Miners softball team. But the pandemic has cancelled high school sports across the nation, making for an anti-climactic end to prep careers for many student athletes.
“I’m definitely going to miss seeing my team every day, we have a lot of fun on the field together,” Wheeler said. “I’m going to miss the sport because this was my last season playing it.”
Nevada Union’s softball team was just digging into its schedule when the season was cancelled. Wheeler, a second baseman, was an all-league selection a year ago and was batting .474 with nine hits and two doubles through seven games when the 2020 season was halted.
“She was amazing,” said NU softball coach Dennis Houlihan. “When she first came out to the varsity level she was a quiet, sneaky batter. Her on base percentage was like 80%. It was amazing what she could do. She’s very smart. She could bunt, she could slap (hit), she could put the ball in play. Every time she was up, she made something happen.”
Softball was just one of several sports Wheeler excelled in. She was also a standout on NU’s basketball and tennis teams.
In the fall, she was the No. 1 singles player for the tennis team, and in 2018 helped the squad win the Foothill Valley League title.
During the winter season, Wheeler helped the girls varsity basketball team reach the playoffs and was selected for the All-FVL team.
“Reese is one of those players that goes under the radar,” NU basketball coach Jenn Krill said during the season. “She never has a big stat line, but she plays a ton of minutes for me because she does everything. When we need someone to bring the ball up the court when it’s getting a little frantic, she’s the one that brings it up. When we need someone to cover a certain player on the other team, it’s Reese.”
All her athletic exploits along with her work in the classroom and in the community led to her receiving the Albert Ali Award and scholarship, which goes to Nevada Union’s top male and female student-athletes.
“She is absolutely committed to not only succeeding on the court and the field but also in the classroom, and in the community,” said NU Athletic Director Daniel Crossen. “She’s a great kid, a great teammate, a model student and a model young woman.”
Wheeler said she’s honored by all the accolades, but they are no substitute for the time lost with her teammates.
“Just playing with the team,” is what Wheeler said she will miss the most. “I really love playing with all the girls and I know it would have been a lot of fun.”
The abrupt end to the season also concludes the time on NU sidelines for Wheeler’s faithful companion and medical alert dog, Rover.
Wheeler is a type 1 diabetic, the two were paired together through Dogs4Diabetics at the end of her sophomore year. Rover’s been by her side ever since.
“He comes to all my practices and games and he alerts on rapid drops in my blood sugar, or whenever it’s too low or too high because I cannot feel those drops anymore like most people can,” Wheeler explained. “He’s very helpful with that and alerts on me so I can stay in games, as long as I don’t drop too low.
“I’ve definitely had to take him out on more walks to get his energy out because we haven’t been able to do things,” Wheeler added. “He’s still doing pretty well, though.”
In addition to the awards and memories collected during her time at Nevada Union, Wheeler said she’s also taking with her several life lessons learned through athletic competition.
“I definitely learned communication skills, especially with coaches,” she said. “And, definitely team work. On the basketball court, if you’re not working together, the plays won’t work.”
Wheeler is still mulling over where she will continue her education, but has narrowed her choices down to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and University of California, San Diego. She wants to one day be a bio-medical engineer. She also plans to play intramural sports in college.
“I’d like to thank all the coaches I’ve had,” said Wheeler. “They’ve been super helpful and, of course, all my teammates on all my teams. They’re amazing. I’ve found a lot of friendships in them.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User