By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
A burning desire to be the best. That’s what separated Dane Elkins and Chelsey Gipson from their peers and earned them the Palisadian-Post Cup Award as the 2016-17 outstanding senior athletes at Palisades High.
The two dynamic Dolphins were presented their trophies at an awards banquet last Wednesday in Mercer Hall and will have their names etched forever on a gold-plated plaque in the main office alongside past Pali High sports legends.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by the Post for my accomplishments,” said Elkins, the first racquetball player to receive the school’s oldest and most prestigious athletic honor. “To me, this is a reminder of how much I’ve accomplished.”
There is little Elkins hasn’t accomplished on the court over the past year. In March, he became only the second player (male or female) in 30 years to capture the top singles, doubles (with Jared Anwar) and mixed doubles (with Atossa Rejaei) titles at the USA Racquetball National High School Championships in St. Louis. His “trifecta” helped the Dolphins finish eighth in the overall team standings and sixth in the boys standings. He was at his best in the finals of the singles 1 gold draw, beating Cayden Akens of Timber Creek, Texas, 15-2, 15-2.
Later that month, Elkins took first place in the Boys 18s singles division at the CNRA Southern California Junior State Championships in Fountain Valley. He is the highest-ranked 18-year-old on the International Racquetball Tour and proved he is one of the best players in the world in his age group at the USA National Junior Olympic Championships in Minneapolis last June. He made the U.S. indoor team for the second time after winning the 16s gold division doubles title with Ricardo Diaz of Stockton and took third place in singles. In all, he has won 21 national junior titles–not too shabby for a kid still in high school.
One day after receiving the Post Cup Award, Elkins was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.” Elkins lives in Brentwood and will attend Santa Monica College in the fall.
Gipson, meanwhile, has done nothing but win since stepping foot in the Dolphins’ gym after transferring from Windward, where she made the All-State girls basketball team as a freshman. The 5-foot-6 guard wears No. 1 on her jersey and it fits her quite well. In three seasons in blue and white she has led the Dolphins to three City Section Open Division finals (winning twice). In March, she was seconds from becoming the first player to win four CIF section crowns in the Open Division.
Her team’s success has garnered Gipson her share of individual accolades as well. She is a three-time All-City first team selection and two-time City Player of the Year.
The Loyola Marymount signee played in all 35 of Palisades’ games, averaging 24.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.6 assists per game and scored a career-high 45 points against Westchester in January.
She finished her senior campaign ranked second in the country in three-pointers made with 147 (two behind Destiny Littleton of La Jolla Bishop’s) and third in scoring among Division I players in California with 856 points. She was chosen the John R. Wooden Award’s City Player of the Year and made the American Family Insurance All-State second team.
“I get tired but that adrenaline kicks in and you don’t really think about it,” Gipson said after playing all 32 minutes and finishing with 27 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals in the championship game of the Cantwell-Sacred Heart tournament in January. “I’m always trying to improve my game and the thing I’m focusing on this season is rebounding.”
Gipson is the third girls basketball player to win the Post Cup, joining fellow guards Leilani Estavan (who led the Dolphins all the way to the state finals in 1999 and went on to play at Oregon State) and Ashlie Bruner, who guided Pali High to back-to-back City Division II titles in 2011 and 2012 and is now a junior at Texas Wesleyan.