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Escalon High Salutes Top Senior Athletes
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Year-end honors were handed out at the June 1 spring sports awards and Escalon Sports Boosters barbecue at Escalon High, with four graduating seniors singled out for the prestigious awards.

The Lloyd C. Engel Outstanding Senior Athlete awards went to Jesse Miguel and Melissa Nickas, with the Hall-Loureiro Most Inspirational Senior Athlete honors presented to Jon Norton and Lyndsey Johnson.

Miguel and Nickas, tapped as the outstanding senior athletes, have both been active in sports throughout their high school careers as Cougars.

Miguel played football and baseball for four years and played basketball for two years in an Escalon uniform.

On the playing fields, Miguel made a name for himself in football, always a threat to burst free for a touchdown run or breaking up a play on defense. He was also a quick player on the basketball court, able to maneuver around opponents and drive in. On the baseball field, he hit his stride this season, leading the Cougars in hitting and stolen bases while anchoring the infield at his second base position.

"Football by far was my favorite but I'm growing to love baseball," Miguel said.

As he prepared to leave the school that was the scene of so many victories, league titles and a championship football run, Miguel said those memories will stay with him forever.

"Exciting, fun," he said of his high school athletic career. "It was a blast, it was a ride."

Miguel plans to attend either Delta College, where he would play football, or go to Modesto Junior College, where he would play baseball. He plans a career in firefighting.

"Jesse is one of the most athletic individuals to ever go through Escalon High School," said Athletic Director and head football coach Mark Loureiro. "He is a complete package, he has speed, knows the strategy, has the love for the has been a true pleasure to coach him, now it will be a true pleasure to pay and watch him play at the next level."

Varsity baseball coach Bob Loureiro watched Miguel blossom this season as a team leader for the Cougars, serving both as leadoff hitter and inspirational leader.

"Jesse has natural talent but he's such a humble, dedicated, hardworking kid," noted Bob Loureiro. "He's worked hard to make up for what he lacks in size, he did that with speed and determination, he's as deserving of the award as any athlete we've ever had."

Joining Miguel in the Lloyd C. Engel award winners circle was Melissa Nickas, also a three-sport athlete. She played volleyball and softball for four years at EHS, basketball for three and was a team leader in all of them.

"She was truly an outstanding player in volleyball and softball," said Mark Loureiro. "She's intense, physical and plays with a passion."

The new graduate will be going to Stanislaus State on a volleyball scholarship and plans a career in nursing.

"I can't even put it into words, there's nothing like it," she said of her high school days. "I'll never forget anybody I've met, the friends I've made."

Volleyball coach Rusty Fachner said Stanislaus State is getting a good one in Nickas.

"She's not only a great athlete physically, but also one of the fiercest competitors I've ever met," Fachner said. "She despises losing, hates to lose, and with that attitude, she can will others around her to play better...she pushes herself so hard that others follow behind her."

As a senior on the volleyball court this year, Fachner said, Nickas made strides in both the physical and mental aspects of the game.

"The scary part of it is I think she can get even better," added Fachner. "Stanislaus State is the perfect place for her, she'll get some outstanding coaching there and she'll have a tremendous impact on their program."

The Hall-Loureiro awards, given to Jon Norton and Lyndsey Johnson, are presented to those senior athletes who best exemplify an outstanding work ethic, dedication to their sport and serve as an inspiration to athletes around them.

Mark Loureiro, who coached Norton on the football field, said he couldn't think of a better student to receive the recognition.

"In my estimation, the most intense athlete ever to play at Escalon High," Loureiro said. "He brings 150 percent to practice, gives 150 percent effort to the game...he is the definition of inspirational."

A three-sport athlete, Norton played football, basketball and baseball for the Cougars.

"It's nice," Norton said humbly after receiving the honor. "I didn't think it would be me."

Baseball coach Bob Loureiro agreed with his son Mark's description of Norton.

"I coached him only in baseball but I saw him at school a lot, he was dedicated to his football and basketball and worked hard for me in baseball, his personality just grows on you," Bob Loureiro said.

Also surprised and pleased with her selection as the female athlete Hall-Loureiro award winner was Johnson.

"It's exciting," she said, noting that she had been asked to attend the ceremony even though she didn't play a spring sport this season. During her high school career, she participated in cross-country and track and field for the Cougars, as well as played basketball.

"Lyndsey came to us with a great determination to practice each and every day," Mark Loureiro said. "She's a hard worker and very team-oriented."

Girls varsity basketball coach Gary Ball said the honor went to a deserving student.

"That award exemplifies the work she's put in over the years," Ball pointed out. "She'd be the first one to tell you, she had to work for her ability but she was always ready to practice, work, she was very conscientious and if more kids could be as responsible and communicate as well as Lyndsey does, it would make my job a lot easier."

Ball said Johnson made the most of every opportunity to play and made sure she was ready to go when called upon.

"She did the best she possibly could, all the time," Ball said. "That's what this award is all about."