St. Francis High graduate Aaliysah Gomez was named The Pajaronian's Girls Athlete of the Year for the 2023-24 school year. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)

St. Francis High graduate Aaliysah Gomez had an incident when she was 2 that had doctors saying she would be blind and never able to see out of one eye.

Years later, she managed to overcome that obstacle and never let her foot off the gas pedal when it came to competing in sports.

Gomez continued the trend during her senior year as a member of the girls’ flag football, basketball and track and field teams, and was one of the student athletic trainers for the football team.

She was also a member of the Suncats Jimenez travel softball team that sometimes played up to six games in places such as Los Angeles and Arizona. Gomez batted a .400 average in a huge qualifier to help Suncats Jimenez advance to the nationals in November.

That’s not counting the four days during the week that she spent with personal trainers at Guerilla Underground Performance in Watsonville. 

Her motor never seemed to stop, which is why Gomez was named The Pajaronian’s Girls Athlete of the Year for the 2023-24 school year.

“I was happy because last year I was Honorable Mention, so it was nice to know that my hard work paid off this year,” she said. 

St. Francis Athletic Director John Ausman said Gomez has meant so much for the community and other areas, as well. 

“You can’t ask for a better example for our young women on campus of someone who is competitive. And when she puts her mind to something, she excels at a high level,” he said. 

Ausman said it wasn’t just Gomez’s three years on the Sharks’ softball team. She drastically improved in just two years with the track team, helped with the success of the girls’ basketball program and laid the foundation for the girls’ flag football team. 

St. Francis High graduate Aaliysah Gomez was a huge contributor on the Sharks girls’ basketball team during the winter season. (contributed)

“I think it says a lot about her and her work ethic, and her competitiveness. And when she is all in, she’s pretty amazing,” he said. “It’ll be exciting to see what happens down the road.”

On top of her gifted athletic abilities, Gomez was deep in the textbooks. She graduated with a 3.85 grade point average and was offered a scholarship to play softball at South Dakota State University. 

While at St. Francis, she was part of a program called Project Lead the Way that helps students prepare for careers such as in the medical field. 

The program gave her a jump towards her nursing degree with getting a head start on classes such as human anatomy.  

“I feel like I’ll already have that step above other people,” she said. “I need that because I’m going to be doing softball and nursing at the same time, so that’s going to be a struggle.”

Gomez took a chance by taking a course in athletic training. She instantly got the hang of it and it wasn’t long before she found herself on the football field.  

“It was fun. We’re not the ones that, obviously, tell them what they have but get to watch it. It shows us what we should do if someone’s injured and learn how to tape,” she said.

Gomez managed to juggle between her hectic schedule, yet there were times she missed practice to focus on softball. Especially because she hadn’t committed to a college at that point. 

The biggest challenge was balancing everything from grades to time management because she went from football to softball, and finally homework. 

“It was mostly the first semester of school which was hard, but I tried to make sure I had that routine,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for four years, so it’s not anything new. I just have to have good work habits and study habits.” 

Gomez accounted for more than 70 touchdowns in the inaugural season for the Sharks girls’ flag football program. They finished with an 18-4 overall record and ranked No. 5 in the Central Coast Section in 2023.

She didn’t have any expectations going into the new sport. But as the season went on Gomez realized how good they were and continued to build a strong bond with her teammates.

As the Sharks’ starting quarterback, Gomez wanted to make her first and only season an unforgettable one, while setting a mark and expectation for the years to come.

“It just meant setting a tone for the future,” she said.

St. Francis flag football coach Frank Galvan said they could have easily gone undefeated if Gomez hadn’t missed a couple of games due to softball commitments.

“She’s talented, a fast learner, very coachable, easy to get along with and she has great leadership skills,” he said. 

At one point in the fall season, Gomez turned into Deon Sanders after she went from playing softball in Vegas to competing in a flag football tournament in Watsonville during a weekend.

“What impressed me the most was the fact that she was able to switch gears, even if she came from a softball game right into a flag football game,” Galvan said.

Gomez—a three-year starter on the girls’ basketball team—earned All-Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division First Team Honors for the 2023-24 season that included back-to-back triple-double performances. 

She had an average of 8.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 5.9 steals per game for the Sharks—who captured the Cypress Division crown by going 14-0 in league play and qualified for the CCS D-V playoffs.  

Gomez admitted she wasn’t at the top of her game going into the season, and was relying on her teammates to pick her back up. 

“The chemistry we had within the team was what kind of pushed me through and helped me to be able to do that because I know if I mess up, it’s OK,” Gomez said. “Last year I scored more. This year, I didn’t need to do that as much so I could rely more on my strengths which was defense.”

St. Francis did not field a softball team this year due to a lack of participants, preventing Gomez from capping off her senior year playing the sport she has a passion for the most.

Instead, she tested her speed in the 100-meters dash and was a member of the 4×100 relay team that featured Malia Madrigal and fellow basketball teammates Peyton Orradre, Neveah Litel and Julie Lopez.

The track season benefited Gomez because she said there was a notable difference in speed going into last year’s travel ball season. 

“I didn’t notice when I was in track because everyone there’s already fast,” she said. “But when I got into softball, I can just tell how much quicker I was. It was noticeable.”

However, it was her ability to leap against the competition that made her a star on the track team.

She dominated the triple jump event in the Santa Lucia Division, going undefeated in league cluster meets and winning the division finals with a jump of 30 feet, 11 inches. She also placed sixth in the long jump with a jump of 13-1 3/4.

At the PCAL Masters Meet, she took eighth in the triple jump with a leap of 31-5 and capped off her senior year with a jump of 30-8 at the CCS Championships at Gilroy High on May 18. 

“I was just trying to make it a memorable senior year,” Gomez said. “I had good success last year, but I was trying to do better this year, which I did.”

Honorable Mention

Ella Shoemaker (Sr.), Aptos – soccer, track

Ava Churchill (Sr.), Aptos – flag football, soccer, track 

Kyra Driscoll (Jr.), Monte Vista Christian – lacrosse

Kayla Fullalove-Silveira (Jr.), Monte Vista Christian – softball

Giselle Quintero (Sr.), Pajaro Valley – volleyball, basketball

Ellie Moore (Jr.), Pajaro Valley – tennis, basketball, track

Peyton Orradre (So.), St. Francis – volleyball, basketball, track

Maya Calfee (Fr.), St. Francis – flag football, basketball, track

Joselyn Gutierrez (Sr.), Watsonville – flag football, wrestling, track

Katelynn Ruiz (Jr.), Watsonville – cross country, track

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