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John Cooper Sports: Cooper Student-Athletes Honored As Traditional Event Returns

By: Lynn Boeding
| Published 05/30/2022

Tillie Claggett and Vaughn McKeever
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THE WOODLANDS, TX -- After a two-year online hiatus, The John Cooper School resumed the traditional in-person year-end athletic awards ceremony on May 13. The Celebration of Champions athletics awards ceremony in Glenn Performing Arts Center honored the year’s student-athletes and highlighted the personal and team successes of the 2021-2022 Dragon athletic programs. Athletes, family members, coaches and faculty gathered in person and also viewed by livestream.

“The 2021-22 athletic season was a remarkably memorable one for Cooper’s athletes, teams and school,” Cooper Director of Athletics John Hoye said. “It has been a couple of years since we have held this awards evening so to say the coaches are excited is an understatement.”

The event featured team and individual recognitions, highlight videos, Athlete of the Year and Leadership Award winner presentations as well as top male and female performers, newcomers and team performances as chosen by Dragon coaches.

Junior Vaughn McKeever and senior Tillie Claggett were named Athletes of the Year. Seniors Blake Pitts and Abby Mendenhall were each presented with The Dragon Booster Club Athletic Leadership Award.

ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

Athletes of the Year are chosen for their proven success and recognition in athletics, as well as for demonstrated leadership through performance and actions.

Junior Vaughn McKeever earned Male Athlete of the Year recognition for his all-conference performances on the football and baseball fields where he earned individual team awards. As a leader on the football field, quarterback McKeever helped his team to the school’s first-ever 3-A SPC football championship. On the baseball field, this starting pitcher earned the team’s Pitcher of the Year honors.

Senior Tillie Claggett earned Female Athlete of the Year honors as a two-sport athlete. In the pool, she was a force for the Dragons, swimming the 100 breaststroke, sprint freestyle and 200 medley relay, where she was a member of the second place team at the SPC Championships. She also holds the school record in the 100 breaststroke and was named her team’s MVP. On the golf course, she won every match and tournament she entered to become the SPC champion, and set a two-day total SPC record. Claggett is a high honor roll student, editor-in-chief of the yearbook, member of the school’s Cum Laude Society, and was elected class speaker for graduation. She has committed to continue her golf endeavors at Vanderbilt University while she pursues studies in communications and psychology. This is Claggett’s second time earning this award, the first during her freshman year.

THE DRAGON BOOSTER CLUB LEADERSHIP AWARD

Recipients of The John Cooper School Leadership Award, sponsored by the Dragon Booster Club are selected by the Athletic Department for having demonstrated excellence in leadership, sportsmanship, citizenship, competitive spirit and dedication as a varsity athlete. Seniors Blake Pitts and Abby Mendenhall were each honored with a 2022 Leadership Award.

Male Leadership Award recipient, Blake Pitts, is an honor roll student and a two-sport athlete, excelling on the football and baseball teams. In football, Pitts was all-conference helping to lead the team to the school’s first-ever championship. Pitts is a Cooper pioneer, meaning he has attended since kindergarten and he has committed to play baseball for Fairleigh-Dickinson University in the fall.

Abby Mendenhall received the Female Leadership Award for her performances on the track and cross country teams. Mendenhall is a high-honor roll student, a key leader in student government, a keynote speaker and member of the school’s Cum Laude Society. Mendenhall plans to study math at The University of Chicago in the fall.

In addition to individual team awards by coaches voted distinctions to honor the following athletes and teams.

• Team Performances of the Year. For female teams, it went to the varsity softball team for their upset win over Greenhill, 16-1 which propelled them to the second round of the SPC tournament where they finished 2-1. For male teams, the honor went to both Dragon SPC Champion teams– the boys’ tennis and the football team. Both teams brought the first championship trophy home in their respective sports.

• Performers of the Year included senior Jaxson Pierce who scored five touchdowns in the SPC Championship game, leading the Dragons to the title. And freshman Julianne Hon for her SPC championship performance where she not only placed first in the pole vault but set a school record.

• Newcomers of the Year honors went to freshman diver Diego Burgos who placed first at the SPC championship meet, ahead of second place by 150 points. And, to freshman Erika Olsen, who was a starting point guard on the basketball court and played line one singles for Dragon tennis.

“This year has provided infinite successes, victories and triumphs for our student-athletes and teams,” Hoye said. “We applaud all challenges overcome and hope the lessons learned in competition will remain with you in the future. Hoye thanked the students for their “resilience, drive, passion and efforts.” “Collectively, you made this year, truly remarkable, one we will never forget.”

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