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Four Seniors Recognized For Sports Contributions
Receiving the coveted Cougar Lloyd C Engel Outstanding Senior Athlete Award were Alana Kualapai, left, participating in cross country and soccer; and Ben Hood, a three-sport athlete for four years, participating in football, basketball and baseball. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

Top honors went to four Escalon High School seniors for their standout efforts in the sports arena.

The awards came as part of the Spring Sports Awards Night on Tuesday, June 3 and included the presentation of both the Lloyd C. Engel Outstanding Senior Athlete honors and the Hall-Loureiro Most Inspirational Senior Athlete award.

Chosen for the Engel award were Ben Hood and Alana Kualapai, with Dominic Freeseha and Logan LaRossa the winners of the Hall-Loureiro honors.

Hood, a true three-sport, four-year competitor, said he feels that definitely played a role in his receiving the award, since he had multiple seasons in which to make an impact.

“It’s hard to pick a favorite memory,” he said. “There are a couple of games in each sport that stand out, where you really got that adrenaline rush.”

Hood was quarterback for the varsity football team, played basketball and was one of the varsity pitchers for baseball.

As hard as it was to juggle athletics and academics, he wouldn’t change it.

“I’m really glad I did all that stuff,” he said, noting that it made for a busy, but satisfying high school career.

He now is headed to Oregon State, planning to study psychology.

Kualapai was a soccer standout for the Lady Cougars and also did cross country in the fall for the past two years. She was on the varsity roster all four years for soccer, though was injured in her freshman year but battled back for a stellar sophomore season and a memorable, high scoring junior campaign before having her senior year cut short by another injury. Still, the impact was made and she remained on the sidelines all season this year, helping serve as a mentor for the younger players.

“I didn’t expect to get it, really,” she admitted of the honor, since she has had playing time interrupted by injury. “It’s an honor, and a real big surprise.”

Her exploits on the soccer field got her noticed by outside interests as well, and Kualapai will attend Menlo College on a soccer scholarship. She was pleased to sign on with the school and will study sports management.

Freeseha made his mark on the football field and on the wrestling mats, including some top individual honors for wrestling. He did both sports all four years at Escalon, participating in football in the fall and wrestling during the winter season.

“It feels excellent,” Freeseha said of receiving the Hall-Loureiro award. “One of the best feelings of my life.”

He said he didn’t anticipate being an ‘inspiration’ to other players when he suited up for his sports but feels his passion for the competition may have prompted others to look up to him and try to follow his example.

“The most fun was wrestling,” he admitted. “But I have great memories from both sports.”

He will head first to Fresno City College and is expected to wrestle there, then hopes to transfer to Fresno State, where he wants to study criminology.

LaRossa was also a three-sport, four-year athlete at Escalon, running cross country, playing basketball and soccer.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said of receiving one of the top senior honors. “But it’s a lot of work.”

The three-sport athlete is not as common now as it used to be, but LaRossa said it is possible, if you really want to do it. She enjoyed running cross country, liked suiting up and getting on the court for basketball and especially liked minding the net as the varsity soccer team’s goalie in their run to the Trans-Valley League title this season.

“It comes down to time management,” LaRossa explained of fitting everything in. “Practices and homework, just prioritize and know what you are going to put first.”

She plans to attend Point Loma in San Diego.