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Times' 2021 Girls Athlete of the Year: Payton List, Beaver Area

Beaver County Times logo Beaver County Times 7/1/2021 Noah Hiles, Beaver County Times

BEAVER — A three-sport athlete has become rare in today's world of high school athletics. Instead of switching to a new game as the seasons change, young athletes are more likely to now direct all attention and focus toward one sport year round, in hopes to earn an opportunity to play at the next level. 

Beaver Area's Payton List doesn't buy into that mentality. Despite committing to Virginia Tech to play softball in September, List never considered being a one-sport athlete. Three different Beaver Area teams benefitted from List's year-long dominance, which makes her the Times' 2021 Girls Athlete of the Year. 

"Playing three sports has never been hard for me," List said. "I just enjoy going out and playing everything. I like always having something to do. I'd much rather play than sit and watch someone else play." 

List loves to compete; she also hates to lose. In the 2020-21 high school sports season, List participated in 57 total PIAA athletic contests. Only two of them ended in losses. 

"It's crazy how good all of our girls teams were this year," List said. "Even the sports I didn't play, like tennis and track, had a really good season. I think in a few years people will look back and be really impressed with what we accomplished." 

Her impressive run started in the fall, when the 6-foot List used her height and raw athleticism to help the Beaver volleyball team to a perfect 12-0 regular season record and a Section 4-3A title. A loss to Franklin Regional in the WPIAL semifinals ended the Bobcats' season one game shy of the District 7 title match. List used the heartbreak as fuel in the winter. 

a group of people playing a game of football: Beaver's Payton List (8) and Eden McElhaney (4) try to block a shot in front of the net against North Catholic. © Andrew Chiappazzi Beaver's Payton List (8) and Eden McElhaney (4) try to block a shot in front of the net against North Catholic.

Just months after falling short of gold in volleyball, List played a significant role in helping the Beaver girls basketball team win the first WPIAL championship in school history. Paired with all-state point guard Emma Pavelek, List served as a reliable secondary scoring threat for the Bobcats, averaging 14.3 points per game. 

a group of baseball players standing on top of a dirt field: Beaver High School pitcher Payton List jumps up in the air as the final out is made after the Bobcats defeat Tunkhannock 5-4 in the PIAA 4A championship at Beard Field at Penn State University.[Lucy Schaly/For BCT] © Lucy Schaly, Lucy Schaly Beaver High School pitcher Payton List jumps up in the air as the final out is made after the Bobcats defeat Tunkhannock 5-4 in the PIAA 4A championship at Beard Field at Penn State University.[Lucy Schaly/For BCT]

On top of scoring, List also helped her team in the area that it shined brightest: defense. Head coach Greg Huston said List's combination of speed and length allowed her to be used in multiple ways to keep opponents from getting clean looks at the basket. 

"She can do a little bit of everything defensively," Huston said. "Sometimes we play her in the middle of our zone while other times we put her out on the three-point line because she was so good at stopping shots. Her length, athletic ability and size makes her so tough on both ends of the court." 

a group of people playing a game of basketball: Beaver's Payton List goes up for a layup against Knoch during their game Tuesday at Beaver Area High School. © Lucy Schaly/For BCT Beaver's Payton List goes up for a layup against Knoch during their game Tuesday at Beaver Area High School.

With five experienced seniors on the team, List's production on the stat sheet would've been more than enough of a contribution. However, Huston says she also provided value as a leader.

"Emma [Pavelek] was for sure our leader, but Payton really emerged this year as a co-leader," Huston said. "By the end of the year, their stats were very similar. They were feeding off of each other both on the floor and in the huddle.

"It was fun to see her grow into that roll over the past few years. She was always a really good player, but this year she took the next step." 

a baseball player holding a basketball: Quaker Valley's Corinne Washington attempts to shoot over Beaver's Payton List and Kenzie Weiland during the WPIAL Class 4A championship at Peters Township High School. © Sally Maxson/For BCT Quaker Valley's Corinne Washington attempts to shoot over Beaver's Payton List and Kenzie Weiland during the WPIAL Class 4A championship at Peters Township High School.

Beaver's quest for a perfect season on the hardwood came to an end in the PIAA 4A quarterfinals in a 29-28 overtime loss to Villa Maria Academy. For List, this defeat was more painful than the one she experienced in the fall. 

In the final seconds of overtime with her team down by one point, List broke toward the hoop looking to sink a go-ahead shot. As she drove the right side of the lane and banked a floater off the glass, it looked as though List had sent her team a step closer to the state championship; that was until she was called for a charge. 

The basket was called off and both the game and season were over. To this day, List still disagrees with the call. She acknowledges that there is nothing she can do to change it. Instead, she channeled all of her energy into her top sport, softball. 

a man standing on a baseball field: Beaver pitcher Payton List reacts after getting the last out and defeating Elizabeth Forward, 5-3 during the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal game at Norwin High School. © [Sally Maxson/For BCT] Beaver pitcher Payton List reacts after getting the last out and defeating Elizabeth Forward, 5-3 during the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal game at Norwin High School.

Although she had only been bested twice, List was determined to never again experience the feeling of defeat. As it turned out, she was successful. 

This spring, List delivered one of the best individual efforts in the decorated history of Beaver County high school sports. Her excellence in all areas of the game helped lead the Bobcats to their first PIAA softball championship in school history. 

In Beaver's 21 victories, List went 19-0 in the circle, striking out 233 batters in 120 innings pitched while positing a 0.64 ERA. List was also the Bobcats' top threat at the plate, hitting .409 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. 

When the pressure was on, List proved to be a clutch player. In the WPIAL 4A championship, she delivered a one-hit, complete-game victory. A few weeks later in the PIAA playoffs, List started offensive rallies with big hits in both the quarterfinals and semifinals that led to her team taking a lead late in the game. 

a group of football players posing for a picture: The Beaver Bobcats greet Payton List at home plate after she hit a home run in the second inning during a PIAA Class 4A playoff game against Eastern York, at Norwin High School. [Sally Maxson/For BCT] © [Sally Maxson/For BCT] The Beaver Bobcats greet Payton List at home plate after she hit a home run in the second inning during a PIAA Class 4A playoff game against Eastern York, at Norwin High School. [Sally Maxson/For BCT]

On the biggest stage, List was at her best. The junior struck out 16 batters in Beaver's 5-4 win over Tunkhannock in the Class 4A state championship. She also scored the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning, thanks to a heads up play on the bases. 

Beaver Area softball coach Amy Haggart had a front-row seat for the entirety of List's season-long tear. She says week by week, her star player never failed to amaze her. 

"That kid doesn't quit. She never has an ounce of doubt in her mind," Haggart said. "There will be times where she gets tired. She was getting tired toward the end of [the state championship] but she never gives in. Challenge after challenge, she always finds a way to come through." 

List ended her junior year with three section titles, two WPIAL gold medals, a state championship and a plethora of accolades. In just a few months, she will aim to achieve even more, as a senior. 

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Times' 2021 Girls Athlete of the Year: Payton List, Beaver Area

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