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Cooper Student-Athletes Honored at Annual Athletic Awards Evening

THE WOODLANDS–Athletes from The John Cooper School joined family members, coaches and faculty at the annual Athletic Awards Evening held on May 17 in the Glenn Performing Arts Center on campus to recognize individual and team athletic accomplishments for the 2018-19 athletic season.

Cooper Director of Athletics John Hoye opened the ceremony with the theme of the evening, "championship expectations, effort, attitude and support," by thanking the coaches and parents for their support throughout the year before recognizing the honorees. "All these pieces combine to build championships and more importantly, they combine to build championship people and teams," Hoye said. "Congratulations to all who have made this a championship year."

Freshman Tillie Claggett was named Female Athlete of the Year, and senior Evan Minarovic and junior Thomas Elkhoury were named Co-Male Athletes of the Year. Seniors Ava Minarovic and Christopher McDonald were each presented with The John Cooper School Athletic Leadership Award. Three-sport athlete Elkhoury was also presented with the school's first-ever Iron Dragon Award for exceptional performance and all-conference honors in each sport.


INAUGURAL IRON DRAGON AWARD

As a three-sport, all-conference athlete, Thomas Elkhoury earned the inaugural Iron Dragon Award.

"We had one student athlete this year who not only participated in three sports, but also earned All-SPC (Southwest Preparatory Conference) recognition each season. This is the first time in school history this has happened," Hoye said. "After discussion, the Cooper coaches agreed to establish a new award for any future athlete who earns All-SPC in three seasons."

Elkhoury earned recognition for his performance on the track team and on the football and soccer fields.

Named All-SPC 3A in football as a wide receiver and defensive back, Elkhoury was the team's Most Valuable Offensive Player on Cooper's runner-up team. The team finished 9-1 overall and went to the school's first-ever SPC playoff. Elkhoury broke several school records on the football field: interceptions in a season, receptions in a season, receiving yards in a season, touchdowns scored in a season, and receiving touchdowns in a season.

"Thomas Elkhoury was an explosive player for us in 2018," Football Coach Josh Childers said. "He would rately come off the field, starting at both corner and receiver, and played both at an extremely high level."

Elkhoury was also a member of the SPC runner-up soccer team, where he received all-conference honors and was the team's Offensive MVP. "Thomas is an outstanding young man who also happens to be a tremendous athlete.," said Head Soccer Coach Bryan Sherman. "I am excited to see what his senior year holds."

On the track team Elkhoury earned all-conference honors as a member of the 4x400M relay team and was a member of the 4x100M relay team, that set a school record. An honor roll student, Elkhoury holds a board position in the Entrepreneurship Club and is a member of the Sports Club. He is considering pursuing football at the college level.

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. "Our male and female Athletes of the Year have been named to seven all-conference teams in their respective sports," said Hoye. "They were named their teams' most valuable player …and offensive player of the year. Tonight's winners helped set school records for the teams as well as individual records. Above all, they are regarded by their peers and coaches as team leaders."

Senior Evan Minarovic joins Elkhoury as co-Male Athlete of the Year. Minarovic earned recognition for his performance on the football and baseball fields.

As quarterback and captain on the football team, he earned All-SPC and MVP honors and broke school records for passing yards in a season and career, passing touchdowns in a season and career and rushing yards in a season while leading the team through the best season in school history.

"The first time you see Evan Minarovic throw a football, you know he is a special talent," Coach Childers said. "Evan did a phenomenal job leading the football team to our first-ever winning season, undefeated regular season, and SPC Championship game appearance. He set records in every category possible for a quarterback during the 2018 season and during his football career at Cooper. Evan's leadership, character, love of teammates, and the fact that he makes everyone better around him that makes him such a truly special athlete and young man."

On the baseball field as short stop, Minarovic earned all-conference honors and was the team co-MVP, to help lead the team to a third-place conference finish. He hit a team high .374 average, a team high in doubles with 11 and team high with 35 runs scored.

"I've had the privilege of knowing and coaching Evan for the last 10 years," said Head Baseball Coach Mike Williams. "At a young age he had all the tools to be great which is very rare. He could do it all from hitting to fielding to pitching and he would always dominate in everything he did."

Minarovic is an honor roll student and a Cooper Pioneer, meaning he has attended Cooper since kindergarten. He has been a member of The East Shore Investment Club since eighth grade and is now one of the club's officers. Minarovic has committed to play baseball at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in the fall.

In her first year at Cooper, freshman Tillie Claggett earned Female Athlete of the Year honors for her efforts on the swim and golf teams.

On the swim team, she was team MVP and earned All-SPC honors in the 100 Breaststroke which also broke a school record.

"Tillie is one of the hardest working, most coachable athletes that I have ever worked with," said Head Swim Coach Sara Bany. "She competes at a very high level in two completely different sports and manages both with maturity and ease. She helped the team individually on relays and broke, then re-broke, her 100 Breaststroke record. She is not only All-SPC in the 100 Breaststroke, she is one of the top-ranked breaststrokers in the state, earning her All-State honors as well. I'm looking forward to watching her grow as an elite athlete over the next three years."

On the golf course, Claggett was team MVP and was 3rd Place All-SPC Medalist.

"It is a privilege to coach and watch a player of Tillie's caliber," Head Golf Coach Rod Gold said. "She is strong mentally and physically. It will be fun watching her progress, keeping in mind she has just finished her freshman year."

A high honor roll student, Tillie is on the yearbook staff and a member of Model United Nations Club.

THE JOHN COOPER SCHOOL LEADERSHIP AWARD

The John Cooper School Leadership Award is sponsored by the Dragon Booster Club and selected by the Athletic Department, to recognize students who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, sportsmanship, citizenship, competitive spirit and dedication as a varsity athlete. Seniors Christopher McDonald and Ava Minarovic were each honored with a 2019 Leadership Award.

Christopher McDonald is a nationally ranked golfer and four-year member of the varsity golf team. He led the team to a third-place conference finish as the 2019 SPC Golf Champion. He was also the team's MVP and co-captain.

"Christopher exudes the true definition of a student athlete," said Coach Gold. "He is able to balance an extremely busy extracurricular calendar and perform at an extremely high level on the golf course. He treats everyone with respect and was an absolute joy to coach throughout his high school career."

A Cooper student since kindergarten, McDonald is a high honor roll student and member of the Cooper chapter of The Cum Laude Society. As the Co-chair of the school's Habitat for Humanity Project, he is likely one of the most visible leaders in the school as he spearheads completion of a Habitat home, from fundraising to construction. Last year he coordinated Pars and Birdies FORE Habitat, a project which secured pledges for each par and birdie he and his teammates made. He chairs the Ambassador Committee of the Student-to-Student organization, which welcomes new and prospective students to Cooper and is Co-President of the Entrepreneurship Club. In the fall, McDonald will study finance in the Business Honors program at The University of Texas at Austin.

Runner Ava Minarovic excels in cross country and track, leading as captain of both teams. In cross country, Minarovic was one of the top five finishers for Cooper at SPC, earning her All-SPC honors and MVP honors. On the track, she was a member of the 4x400M relay team that broke a school record and earned All-SPC honors for a third-place conference finish in the 4x800M relay. She earned the track team's Dragon Award for her spirit and determination.

A Cooper Pioneer, Minarovic is a high honor roll student and member of The Cum Laude Society. Minarovic is founder and lead board member of the school's STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Society. She is an active leader on the Women and Equity Club and is team captain of the Science Bowl. A board member for Fellowship of Christian Athletes Minarovic is also a member of Cooper's Aerial Silks and Dance programs. She will attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in the fall to study chemical engineering with a focus in biology.

Jorge Calderon's soccer play helped put Pflugerville Hendrickson on the map the last few years, and resulted in a strong end to his high school career. One example of this was his VYPE Austin Public School Boys Soccer Player of the Year poll win, which followed 10,162 of the 23,155 total votes.

"I feel honored," said Calderon. "It feels amazing to know that I received around 10,000 votes. The support that I get from my friends and family is unbelievable. I'm truly blessed and grateful for everything."

Another example of this was his all-state honorable mention honor as a junior and his second-team all-state nod as a senior.

"I would've not been able to do it without my teammates, Coach Stern, and assistant coaches Maddux and Castro [because they] always push me to do my best and give my everything in the field," said Calderon.

While Hendrickson soccer is thankful for Calderon's performances, he will also think highly of his time with the high school program.

"It's really hard to pick a special moment from my time in Hendrickson High School because, with the team I had, it was always fun," he said. "But for me, something I'm going to miss is the bus rides before and after the games and tournaments. That's probably something that is always going to stay with me. There was such an amazing vibe between everyone in the team [and] every moment was incredible with them."

Now that Calderon's graduated, he's refocused for the next stage of his career. One of the more exciting opportunities ahead is his college soccer commitment.

"My plan now that I'm done with high school is [to] go to Concordia University Texas and play soccer, get my business degree, and why not try to get into a pro or semi-pro soccer team," he said. "I'm excited for what's next!"

Soccer obviously keeps Calderon busy, but he also enjoys himself away from the game.

"During my free time, I'm always spending time with my friends," he said. "We like to go play volleyball a lot, [we're] always doing something active, and they like to try beating me on FIFA, but they never can."

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With the 2019 football season drawing near, here are our top five preseason private school football teams in Louisiana:

5) Lafayette Christian Academy

After closing last season by scoring 42 points in a half to lock up its second consecutive state title, Lafayette Christian has plenty of momentum heading into its 2019 campaign. The powerful Lafayette offense—which averaged over 54 points per game in the state tournament—will once again feature speedy four-star athlete Sage Ryan. With weapons all over the field, the Knights look ready to capture the three-peat in 2019.


4) Notre Dame

Notre Dame went on a blistering state championship run in 2018, scoring over 40 points in every tournament game and ousting Catholic High-New Iberia 42-21 in the final. Following last year's undefeated season, the Pioneers bring back quarterback Ben Broussard, as well as a solid running back in C.J. Thibodeaux. Notre Dame has played to a consistently excellent standard—having won 51 of its past 53 games—and should continue to do so this upcoming season.


3) Catholic (Baton Rouge)

Catholic has made the state finals three times in the past four years, and its success will likely continue in 2019. Despite losing in a lopsided affair against Curtis in last year's state championship, the Bears are set up to bounce back strong. With All-Metro running back Josh Parker returning, the Catholic offense can rely on a strong ground game.


2) University Lab

University Lab's devastating offense brought the Cubs their second consecutive state championship last season. At the state tournament, the Cubs never scored less than 43 points in a game. Now in pursuit of a three-peat, U-Lab looks to continue its dominance. The Cubs will likely continue to score at a high clip, as they boast the state's most prolific receiver duo in four-star Theodore Knox and three-star Reginald Johnson. The U-Lab defense, featuring four-star defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy, is also staunch.


1) John Curtis Christian

The defending state champions were utterly dominant in their 2018 campaign, capping off a perfect season with a 49-7 rout of Catholic in the Division I final. With a strong cast of returning players, the Patriots show no signs of slowing down. Versatile three-star athlete Corey Wren is a proven playmaker with game-breaking speed. On defense, three-star defensive end Angelo Anderson is a stalwart on the strong side.

With the 2019 football season drawing near, here are our top five preseason public school football teams in Louisiana:

5) Destrehan

Despite falling short of the state finals last season, Destrehan is dangerous. The Wildcats' 2018 season ended with a 67-57 barnburner against eventual champions Zachary in the state semifinals, but they come into 2019 with firepower on both sides of the ball. Four-star running back Kyle Edwards and four-star wide receiver Quincy Brown are game changers on the offensive end while three-star defensive end Noah Taliancich will be terrorizing quarterbacks from the strong side edge.


4) Warren Easton

As the returning 4A state runner-ups, Warren Easton comes into the 2019 season with top-end talent. Four-star recruit and first team All-State center Sedrick Van Pran will be paving the way for fellow four-star recruit, running back Ashaad Johnson, all season long. Competing with 4A rival Edna Karr is no easy task, but the Fighting Eagles have cemented their position as a worthy contender.


3) West Monroe

After losing to Zachary by just three points in the 2018 state final, 17-time state champion West Monroe will look to reclaim its title this year. The Rebels are equipped to do so, with yet another talented squad slated to hit the field in 2019. The redoubtable defensive unit—led by second team All-State safety Brooks —will be crucial to WM's success next season.


2) Edna Karr

Edna Karr, a 4A dynasty and the defending state champions, will return a loaded line up in 2019. Riding a 26-game win streak, the Cougars will be chasing a four-peat. Three-star cornerback Jamie Vance will anchor the secondary while wide receiver Destyn Pazon—who recently clocked a 4.5 second 40 yard dash at the Rivals Combine—has the potential to be a major difference maker on offense.


1) Zachary

The defending state champions are poised for another title run in 2019. Matching their 2018 championship season should not be a problem for the Broncos, as they return a formidable defense and the 2018 Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Keilon Brown. Zachary's aerial assault will continue throughout 2019, as Brown will be throwing to five-star wide receiver Chris Hilton. Also look for wide receiver Jeremiah Grimes and tight end Jalen Bolden to shine as targets for Brown this year.

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