Pajaro Valley High alumnus Jayleen Solorzano rose up to the challenge during her senior year as she helped guide the girls’ basketball team into uncharted waters.
The Grizzlies captured their first Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia Division title. They also won a Central Coast Section Division III playoff game.
Solorzano has been part of the cross country team for the past four years and established herself as a leader.
Finally, Solorzano put her name in the record books after setting three school records for the track and field team that should stand for quite some time.
Solorzano also became the first basketball player, boy or girl, from Pajaro Valley to sign a letter of intent to play for a college program.
The long list of accomplishments was more than enough to name Solorzano this year’s Register-Pajaronian Female Athlete of the Year.
“It’s pretty surprising and it feels great getting recognized,” Solorzano said. “It makes me feel all the hard work eventually paid off.”
Solorzano will be on partial scholarship for Notre Dame de Namur, an NCAA Division II team out of Belmont and expects to study psychology.
PV cross country coach Christina Guerrero said she believes Solorzano definitely deserve the honors, especially after watching her grow as an athlete and a student.
“(Solorzano) has been one of the best, if not the best, female athletes that PV has ever had,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero, who’s in her third year coaching at PV, said she watched Solorzano play basketball and said her work ethic was unlike any other that she’s ever seen.
“(Solorzano’s) the hardest working athlete I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching,” Guerrero said.
Solorzano averaged 28.8 points per game, which was the most for any high school girl in California this season and the 21st most in the nation. (Tony Nunez — Register-Pajaronian)
Solorzano said she joined the cross country team as a way to stay conditioned for the basketball season. But, she fractured her foot during the last summer and was going through physical therapy.
“I had to take over a month off, which was really hard because after you’re injured you don’t know how good you’ll be when you return,” she said.
But the basketball standout bounced back in time for the season.
Solorzano put in extra time and asked her coaches, including Guerrero if they could open the gym at 5 a.m. — a half hour earlier than usual — to get some extra shots in.
“If the bus wouldn’t leave for another half hour, she’d go shoot in the gym for that half hour,” Guerrero said. “She was just super dedicated.”
In basketball, Solorzano averaged 28.8 points per game, which was the most for any high school girl in California this season and the 21st most in the nation. She also averaged 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 steals per game
Plus, she had extraordinary ball-handling skills and a team-first attitude.
The Grizzlies finished with a 21-5 overall record, which included a perfect 10-0 record in league play.
Solorzano also helped PV advance to the second round in CCS D-III playoffs with a win against Hillsdale High. She was named to the Cal-Hi Sports Second Team for Division III.
Solorzano said she’ll remember this season for a very long time.
“Just everything we were able to do and I think our record is probably going to remain untouched for a while,” she said. “And when I look back, I’m gonna think the stuff we did was just incredible.”
Pajaro Valley basketball coach Lupe Quintero commended Solorzano for staying on top of her school work.
Solorzano, who was a 4.1 grade point average student, was on the honor roll at Pajaro Valley and ranked among the top five in her class.
“She’s got a lot going for her and she pushes herself,” Quintero said.
Solorzano received interest from several schools, including a few on the East Coast but she decided to stick closer to home.
Quintero said Solorzano was a player who plays the game with a lot of determination and she’s definitely well deserving of the award.
“(Solorzano) works harder than probably all those other girls,” Quintero said.
Jayleen Solorzano was a leader on the Pajaro Valley girls' basketball team. (Tony Nunez — Register-Pajaronian)
Quintero mentioned Solorzano made a huge leap in terms of producing on the court.
Quintero said her former all-star player has all the great qualities of being a team leader and a great teammate.
“The turnaround and dedication was more than ever,” Quintero said. “I think there was more of a leadership and bond between all the girls this last season. And a lot had to do with (Solorzano).”
But the leadership role and record-breaking season didn’t just develop overnight.
Quintero said she knew Solorzano had all the qualities to become a leader and compete at a high level since she joined the team.
“I can tell you that from last season that you knew she was going somewhere,” Quintero said. “She just didn’t get any recognition the season prior.”
Solorzano would wake up at 4 a.m., go workout in the gym, go to school and then go to practice in the evening. She was also busy playing on a travel team out of San Jose.
“I’d be picking her up at 4:30 a.m. and we’d be at the gym a half hour early before everybody else,” Quintero said.
Solorzano set the bar high for the next year’s team but Quintero said the players are already starting to instill the same type of work ethic.
“(Solorzano) was something else,” Quintero said. “I’ll probably never coach another kid like that again.”
Solorzano set the school record in the 100 meters by finishing in 13.32 seconds in 2017. She also has the best times in the 200 (28.24) and the 4x100 (54.80).
PV track and field coach Andre Avila said they gave her the name “PV’s Fastest Woman” because of her accomplishments.
“I know basketball was the sport she focused on the most but in terms of track, she’s still the fastest girl in the history of PV High,” Avila said.
Avila said one thing that stood out to him about Solorzano was how coachable she was, especially during a meet or basketball game.
“She has this rare ability to where you can tell her to fix or correct one little thing, sometimes more than one, and she’s able to take what you’re saying and apply it right away,” Avila said.
Guerrero said she was also impressed with how much Solorzano cares about the other athletes.
“As much as she didn’t realize it, they all looked up to her and would be the one to motivate everybody,” Guerrero said. “She was like a born leader… she could’ve let it get to her head but she was a role model to all the other girls.”
Solorzano said she cares a lot about her community and wants to see everyone do their best, no matter what it is their doing.
“I feel like there’s challenges we face that many others don’t, especially for the better schools,” she said. “There’s the lack of facilities. We’re barely getting a field how many years later? But it shows that with hard work you can do it all.”