It’s something that rarely happens - a small, rural high school having not one, but two athletes with state and national rankings for specific skills in their respective sports - but it’s happening at Yosemite High School with the talented basketball player Grace Fries and soccer standout Peyton Garner.
To date, Fries has made 96 three-point shots this season which ranks her No. 2 in the state and No. 13 in the nation according to maxprep.com. Very impressive considering there is an estimated 14,000 girls playing basketball in public and private high schools in California and 10 times that many playing around the country.
The 5-foot-6 Fries trails senior Allison Ayala of Covina High who has 146 three-pointers, ranking her No. 1 in both the state and the nation. Ayala has taken more than 500 3-point shots, making 30% of them, nearly 200 more attempts than Fries who has made 33% of her 3-point attempts.
Fries is just four away from surpassing Yosemite High’s Katie Menton (class of 2007) and Karras Blate (class of 2005), each with 99 , and 12 away from setting a new Yosemite single-season record for made 3-point shots currently held by Sydney Fipps (class of 2011) at 107.
Fries largest 3-point is 7 made in the Badger’s 66-45 win at Sierra in the Jan. 12 league opening game.
The soft-spoken Fries started playing basketball when she was 11, when her mother, Jane Fries, coached her fifth grade AAU travel team. Three of her teammates at the time - Sophie McGoldrick, Hailey Rich and Linnea Leinau - are still playing with her on the Yosemite team that is 20-6 and undefeated in North Sequoia League after seven games.
“My mom gave us a lot of encouragement back then and I liked basketball from the start,” Fries said.
“Grace didn’t get a lot of playing time on varsity her freshman year (six 3-pointers),” said Head coach Gary Blate. “But she became the starting shooting guard as a sophomore making 56 3-pointers on the season.”
Fries will also be the sixth girl at the school to join the 1,000 Point Club, needing just 49 more points.
Fries said the rankings are just numbers.
“To me its been about the experience, and the memories and the whole team getting better - I couldn’t do any of this without my teammates,” said the humble Fries.
The team is currently undefeated in North Sequoia League play and looking for its 14th league championship (outright or shared) since 2003.
Fries, who carries a 4.3 GPA, played water polo this past season, and after the team went undefeated in league play and getting to the second round of the Central Section D-III play-offs, she was named to the NSL All-League first team. Playing water polo limited her preparation time for basketball season.
“Her work ethic is contagious so it is exciting to think how good Grace and the rest of the Badgers can be next season,” Blate said..
While Fries is leaving her mark on the court, another YHS athlete, senior Peyton Garner, has been building her impressive resume on the soccer field.
Not only does Garner own the single season and career points scored records for both boys and girls in the history of the school, Garner is currently No. 1 in the state and tied for No. 10 in the country this season with with 46 goals in 17 games (4.2 goals per game average).
Skye Davis, a junior at New West Charter School in Los Angeles is two goals behind Garner with 44 (in 13 games). The number one scorer in the nation is Lee Ducharme of P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville, Florida, with 90 goals in 17 games (10.6 goals per game average).
Garner has scored three or more goals in eight games this season. She scored five goals in back-to-back games last month - against Sunnyside on Jan. 4 and against Fowler on Jan. 5.
Garner first played soccer at the age of 12.
“I have always had a passion for the game and I love the athletic drive you must have to play the game,” Garner said.
Garner said it feels “amazing” to break the school records and be ranked nationally.
“To be nationally ranked is incredible, especially playing for a small school,” Garner said. “I never thought I’d be able to reach those record numbers, and I can’t thank my teammates enough for supporting me and trusting me to do my job. I have gotten there with that support.”
Head Coach Vanessa Jasper said Garner has been beyond dedicated to soccer.
“Peyton has put the time and effort in. I’ve watched her from her freshman year grow as a player on the varsity team,” Jasper said. “I admire her keeping her goals these last four years and making this happen for her and the team.”
Garner, who has a 3.3 GPA, has made a verbal commitment to play soccer at Fresno Pacific College next season.
The YHS girls soccer team is currently 12-5-1 overall, 5-2-1 in the NSL, still playing for a chance to be in the Central Section D-IV playoffs.
Garner has also been a member of the Yosemite varsity track team since she was a sophomore competing in sprints, long-jump and triple-jump.
YHS Athletic Director Rusty Oetinger said it is not often that a small school has one, let alone two athletes with a national ranking in their sport.
“Grace is a fine young women that is very dedicated to the sport of Basketball,” Oetinger said. “She has spent many hours practicing to be the best and it has really begun to show. We are very proud of her.”
“Peyton is a special young lady that has excelled at YHS, not only in soccer but in track as well. We look forward to watching her continued success at Fresno Pacific.”