Shiloh's Jacqueline Harris (left) and Meadowcreek's Elias Castro received the top scholarship awards at Monday night's Gwinnett County Public Schools Outstanding Senior Athlete Banquet.
DULUTH — Monday night's celebration was a chance for Gwinnett's teachers and coaches to brag about their student-athletes.
The fourth annual Gwinnett County Public Schools' Outstanding Senior Athlete Banquet at the Gwinnett Place Marriott honored the most well-rounded athletes in the county, putting them in the spotlight for an evening that featured former Brookwood, Georgia and current professional football player Rennie Curran as the guest speaker. Being a star athlete wasn't a requirement to earn one of the prestigious awards, which place equal emphasis on success in academics, community service and life.
Each student was showered by praise by a chosen teacher or coach, while Mike Emery watched proudly from the side of the stage. He is thrilled with the event's growth — 220 people packed a ballroom Monday night — but more excited about the caliber of student-athletes honored there each spring.
"Every year surpasses the other," said Emery, the director of athletics, activities and community schools for GCPS. "For everything negative that's portrayed about the youth today and about education, sit through this banquet and you're not going to come out with something negative. The positive things that go on in our schools every day, not just athletically, but in the classroom and the communities where these kids are involved. This just showcases what our kids do every day that doesn't get the publicity it deserves."
Each GCPS school honored one boy and one girl as its top student-athlete, with a new twist added this year. The honorees entered a competition for a pair of $500 scholarships thanks to Titan Team Sports and Scholastic Images/Balfour, the latter of which named its grant in honor of longtime Gwinnett coach and educator Mike Strickland.
The inaugural two winners were Shiloh's Jacqueline Harris and Meadowcreek's Elias Castro. Harris, who has a 3.929 GPA and ranks fourth in her senior class, will attend Alabama, while Castro, with a 3.89 GPA and a No. 13 class ranking, will attend Oglethorpe.
"I think the addition of scholarships was a nice touch," Emery said. "It's hard to select two from this group. This doesn't just pick the best on the athletic field, it's the best all the way around. It takes into account their other activities in school, their community service, their academic success. Out of this select group of 36 kids, for one female of 18 and one male of 18 it's a pretty select group of top-notch kids to get a scholarship."
Here is a look at the award-winners from Monday night:
Outstanding Female Senior Athletes
Archer: Marissa Jordan (basketball, soccer)
Berkmar: De'Ondra Fletcher (basketball)
Brookwood: Taylor Allen (golf)
Central Gwinnett: Lexus Travis (volleyball, basketball, soccer)
Collins Hill: Payton Wilson (softball, track and field)
Dacula: Katie McMillian (softball, basketball)
Duluth: Ali Cole (lacrosse)
Grayson: Taylor Denton (softball, lacrosse)
Gwinnett Heat: Trintney Whitsel (handball, basketball), Keitra Douglas (handball, basketball, football)
Lanier: Andrea Araya (soccer)
Meadowcreek: Courtney Fields (basketball, golf)
Mill Creek: Tori Windom (lacrosse)
Mountain View: Kaitlin Long (cheerleading)
Norcross: Javonne Stanfield (basketball, volleyball)
North Gwinnett: Kristina Stinson (volleyball)
Parkview: Riley Weyher (volleyball, track and field)
Peachtree Ridge: Sam Pierannunzi (softball, lacrosse)
Shiloh: Jacqueline Harris (volleyball)
South Gwinnett: Kaleigh Gross (cheerleading, swimming)
Outstanding Male Senior Athletes
Archer: Brett Self (football, baseball)
Berkmar: Bradley Holmes (basketball)
Brookwood: Colin Cotter (football, basketball, baseball)
Central Gwinnett: Eman Westmoreland (football, basketball, track and field)
Collins Hill: Mitchell Blanchard (football, swimming)
Dacula: Brandon Goodson (football, basketball)
Duluth: Myles Campbell (football, track and field)
Grayson: Austin Meadows (football, baseball)
Lanier: Taylor Grant (football, baseball)
Meadowcreek: Elias Castro (swimming)
Mill Creek: Andrew Klemm (wrestling)
Mountain View: Ty McRae (football, basketball)
Norcross: Joseph Wilber (football, baseball)
North Gwinnett: Jalen Brooks (football, wrestling)
Parkview: Rob Youngblood (baseball, football)
Peachtree Ridge: Josh Brickell (cross country, track and field)
Shiloh: Kyle Lewis (baseball, basketball)
South Gwinnett: Mason Hart (football, baseball)