Scotts Valley High graduates Danica Kelley, left, and Ashlyn Boothby were named the Press Banners' Girls co-Athletes of the Year for the 2023-24 school year. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)

In a way, Scotts Valley High graduates Danica Kelley and Ashlyn Boothby are on a collegiate path similar to a pair of former student-athletes who once ruled the campus.

Boothby is set to compete for the Stanford University cross country and track teams, following in the footsteps of former Falcons and Cardinal standout runner Vanessa Fraser—who previously held a majority of the running records at Scotts Valley.

Kelley will continue her wrestling career like Dom Parrish—a two-time CIF State champion for Scotts Valley and 2024 Olympian for the upcoming Paris Games. The only difference is Kelley will stay closer to home at Menlo College in Atherton, while Parrish ventured off to Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

And, not only will Kelley and Boothby be sharing the same collegiate journey, both will be down the street from each other on the El Camino Real, which is walking, or running, distance.

“[It’s] been a really cool journey to have somebody, especially not even in wrestling, that is on a similar path and has a similar goal,” Kelley said. “To know that there’s somebody out there that’s also trying to kind of achieve really similar things to me, it’s picturesque, like a perfect movie storyline. I’m super grateful for it and excited for college.”

Boothby and Kelley can now add another scene to their already remarkable movie storyline after both of them were named the Press Banner’s Girls co-Athletes of the Year for the 2023-24 school year.

Kelley—who will attend Menlo College in the fall—won her second straight Central Coast Section Wrestling Championship and brought home a California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championship gold medal in the 135-pound weight class.

“It makes me pretty grateful to our area. I think that our whole area, even though it’s small, has a pretty good connection. Feels like everybody’s rooting for each other,” Kelley said about winning the Press Banner’s AOY award. “It’s actually just kind of a really cool historical event.”

Boothby delivered another masterful performance on the dirt track after she captured her fourth straight Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title and third straight CCS Division IV cross country championship.

The Falcons’ decorated runner said winning the Press Banner’s AOY award is also a nice testament to a town both Boothby and Kelley grew up in and competed together for in high school.

Boothby—who will attend Stanford University in the fall—added there’s nobody else she’d rather share this honor with than Kelley.

“[Kelley’s] honestly such an inspiration to me and there’s such a bright future for her, I’m so excited,” Boothby said. “This award has been such an honor and I know there’s a lot more to come from both of us, we’re both very driven athletes.”

Kelley dominates on the mat

After two straight failed attempts of placing atop the podium at the CIF State tournament, the third time became a charm for Kelley.  

Kelley finished 5-0 with four wins by fall in the three day tournament Feb. 22-24 at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield. She pinned Alex Maday of Whitney High in the first round, becoming the second girl in Santa Cruz County to win a state title since Parrish won back-to-back state titles in 2014-15. 

As of May 11, Kelley is ranked No. 23 in the National Girls High School Wrestling Rankings and is top wrestler in California at the 135-pound weight division on the FloWrestling website.

Having that sense of community is what drove Kelley throughout her high school wrestling career. She said Scotts Valley athletes always want to represent and prove to bigger schools they’re just as talented. 

“I have all these people that are putting work into me or our high school community,” she said. “I want to show them thank you, and I think that’s been a big motivator for me.”

Kelley mentioned just because they come from a school that doesn’t have the biggest facilities doesn’t mean they can’t compete with the best of them. She is a three-time Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League champion, won back-to-back section titles and most recently a state championship. 

However, Kelley said something lacking in her wrestling career was her mental focus. 

“I had never had the big downs of ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can go out there and compete in this match.’ I want to be scared for things, but I want to be going out there and aiming with ‘I’m gonna win,’” Kelley said.

Going into the CIF State Championships, Kelley had coaches talking to her a lot about positive affirmation. She bought into it.

“I would just go into matches being like, ‘I’m the best. I’m a champion. I will win this’, which was totally not my style before this,” she said. 

Kelley said she was incredibly focused and very singular driven throughout her state-title run. She added it’s something she’ll attempt to replicate again at Menlo College.  

“I think that’s what elite athletes, professional athletes, they’re very good at doing and that makes up so much of wrestling,” Kelley said. “I think it just overall was a good life experience. That’s something I can apply outside wrestling, too.”

Boothby blazes past the competition

Boothby’s historical cross country career was capped off with a fourth straight SCCAL championship at Pinto Lake Park in Watsonville on Nov. 2. She won the three-mile race in 17 minutes, 14.0 seconds to help Scotts Valley capture its third league title in a row.  

Boothby followed up by winning the CCS Division IV race with the best overall time of 17:52.2 in a field of 450 runners at Crystal Springs course in Belmont on Nov. 11. In the process, she also helped the girls’ team capture its third straight team section title.

Her cross country career was capped off with a third straight trip to the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 25. She took sixth in 17:50.0 in the D-IV girls championship race to help the Falcons place eighth as a team.

Boothby said one thing that sets Scotts Valley apart from other high schools in this area is the athletic community they build. For her, it’s not just being part of a team but it’s a family who supports each other.

“Which is a big motivator. I always like to be a part of that,” she said. 

But more than anything, Boothby also enjoys the process because it’s not always about the medals and the awards. 

“It’s mainly coming out every day to the track, or the wrestling room, putting in the work and doing what we love doing and enjoying that sport with people that we love,” she said. “That’s what really motivates me the most because what’s the point if you’re not having fun?”

Boothby said she was tested this year with injuries, including a stress fracture on her foot in November. Yet, she still raced on it at the CIF cross country finals—which she mentioned was not a great idea. 

Boothby sat out for eight weeks and was limited to cross training. She said it was a rough time and stayed mentally prepared for her return to the track team.

After weeks of rehab, Boothby progressed during the track season and won the 800-meters race at the CCS Top 8 in Los Gatos on April 20. 

However, she reinjured herself and it turns out Boothby’s old stress fracture never healed. The pain limited her from performing at the highest level for the remainder of the season. 

Boothby placed second in the 800 in 2:17.30 at the SCCAL Track and Field Championships on May 6, and sixth (2:16.77) at the CCS Track and Field Championships on May 18.

“I’ve accomplished a lot in high school,” she said. “I didn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to do, but that’s just a problem that I have, just not being satisfied with myself.” 

Her resume is still quite impressive. Boothby was a league champion in the 1600 in 2023, a two time CCS champion in ‘22 and ‘23, and a two time state meet qualifier. 

Boothby placed fourth in the 800 at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in 2023, and holds the Scotts Valley High school records in the 800 (2:09.03), 3200 (10:26.12) and 1600 (4:39.45)—which is also a CCS and Santa Cruz County record. 

She was also part of the 4×800 distance medley relay team that set a school record.

“Ashlyn is one of the best runners ever in our county,” Scotts Valley coach Todd Hoffman said. “Her high school running career doesn’t tell the whole story. She was not only a great runner and teammate, but she also inspired athletes around our league, section, and state with her kindness and sportsmanship.”

Hoffman added that Boothby’s senior season didn’t go as planned but she still worked hard, did her best and had a good season.

“Stanford is getting a great athlete and person,” Hoffman said. “I”m so proud of her and all of her accomplishments.”

Boothby said she’s excited to see some action in college, along with having a lot more resources and opportunities to do amazing things. 

“Putting it simply, I really want to do a lot in college. I have big things in mind,” she said. “I’m just gonna keep at it and I know Danica is going to do the same thing. I know Danica has huge goals, as well, and I’m excited for us both to go out there and see what we can do.”

Boothby’s current plan is to heal up in time for her new quest at Stanford because continuing to run on her injured foot could jeopardize it. At the moment, she’s doing various cross training such as rock climbing.

After that, Boothby is hopeful to start running again in a little less than a month. 

“I’m still out here trying to enjoy the process,” she said. 

Honorable Mention

Sofia Niklaus (Jr.), Scotts Valley: Niklaus finished with a team-best 69 goals to go along with 24 assists in the spring to help the Falcons girls’ lacrosse team place second with an 8-2 record in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division final standings. She also helped the girls’ tennis team place second in the SCCAL with a 5-3 record in league play during the fall season. 

Alyssa Struthers (Sr.), San Lorenzo Valley: Struthers finished with team-best 32 hits, including seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and 13 RBIs for the Cougars softball team that placed third with an 11-4 record in the SCCAL final standings. She was also a member of SLV’s girls’ tennis team during the fall season.  

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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