Dedicated to their sports, a rallying point for their teammates and outstanding representatives of their school. Common ground for all four of this year’s top senior athletes, members of the Class of 2013 at Escalon High School.
Just graduated, the foursome capped their high school careers with a variety of academic and athletic awards, the highest honors coming at the final Spring Sports Awards Night.
Phillip Kimble and Illiana Cajias were named as the Hall-Loureiro Most Inspirational Athletes, while Johnathon Costa and Parker Pilati received the Lloyd C. Engel Most Outstanding Athlete honor.
“This has been a great class, great role models and they are good in the classroom, with many of them scholar athletes,” Escalon Athletic Director Mark Loureiro said of the seniors, including the four honorees. “They are some of our top students and my hat goes off to these kids.”
Phillip Kimble, better known as ‘Flip’, was a three-sport athlete all four years at Escalon High School. He suited up for football in the fall, hit the basketball court in the winter and was out on the baseball diamond in the spring.
“It has been a lot of fun and I have different friends on every team,” Kimble said of establishing relationships with his classmates, on and off the field.
He said he was honored with the ‘most inspirational’ athlete recognition, but it wasn’t something he was expecting to receive.
“I just try to be a role model,” he said, setting a good example with his work ethic, showing up and putting in the time and effort needed to succeed.
It’s a pattern that Loureiro – who coached him two years at the varsity level in football – said Kimble established early.
“He got the most out of his high school experience,” Loureiro said. “He loves life, loves the competition, he loves to represent his school. Choosing him for this award was an easy one, he is inspiring, he’s a great leader and he always gives you 120 percent on the field.”
As quarterback for the football team, Kimble helped the Cougars reach the Section title game his senior year, while the basketball team also got to the playoffs and the baseball team went to the Section final as well.
Illiana Cajias did two years of cross country, three years of basketball (missing one with a broken leg) and four years of softball.
“Amazing,” she said of the high school experience, being a part of so many teams and enjoying the ups and downs of winning and losing. “I don’t know how to sum it all up.”
Though she loved playing all three sports, Cajias admitted that getting involved in cross country was the most eye-opening for her, as she found “another whole group of friends” that she wouldn’t have connected with if not for the sport.
“The thing that I like a lot about her is that there’s no job she’s not willing to take on,” Loureiro said of Cajias. “She has tremendous compassion for her teammates, for her cause, she is a hard worker who led by example.”
Another three sport athlete, Loureiro said her battle back from a serious leg injury was indicative of the drive Cajias has to succeed and contribute.
“That’s inspirational in and of itself,” he said.
This year, she helped the varsity softball team get back to the playoffs, one of the team’s goals for the season.
Johnathon Costa excelled in football and wrestling, making his mark for the Cougars both on the gridiron and the mats.
“It was a pleasure to watch him grow up through the ranks here in Escalon,” said Loureiro, who also coached him in football. “He stayed small but played big; he got every ounce out of his body when he played.”
Often one of the shortest players on the football field, Costa did not let that stop him, as he battered the opposition, relentless on defense. His height belied the power contained within his frame, honed in the weight room and through a rigorous training regime.
“He played through pain, he was a great teammate, a great leader and his work ethic was unmatched,” Loureiro said, noting that he earned some league championships individually in wrestling and also was a state qualifier, in addition to being a huge part of the football team’s success.
“He took his abilities to the next level,” Loureiro said.
Costa played football for three years (injured his freshman season) and wrestled all four.
“I’m actually surprised,” he admitted of receiving the Engel award. “I’m just glad I can receive this for representing the school.”
His best memories are of defeating top ranked Placer this past year during the football playoffs and going to the state meet in wrestling.
Parker Pilati represented Escalon in all three seasons as well, playing golf in the fall, basketball in the winter and hitting the tennis court in the spring. She said she enjoyed being a part of all her teams, but couldn’t decide whether golf or tennis was her favorite.
“It definitely taught me discipline,” she said of juggling a tough academic schedule with sports practices and competition. “I liked being with all my teammates, you get to share bonds with people.”
She also said sports can be a teaching tool for life.
“Stuff doesn’t always go your way,” she said, “but you have to deal with it, use it to make yourself better.”
Loureiro said another four-year, three-sport athlete like Kimble, Pilati pulled off ‘an amazing feat” by being a contributor on all her teams while maintaining good grades.
“She’s a natural blessed athlete, with tremendous hand-eye coordination, and a person that would rise to the occasion in any major competition,” Loureiro explained. “She’s one who steps her game up when the going gets tough and I hope she continues to play on, I think she has a lot of talent that has yet to be tapped.”
Kimble, Cajias, Costa, Pilati.
Four outstanding representatives of a class that brought Escalon fans plenty of exciting competition over the years.
“This class, they came after a pretty impressive senior class that graduated before them so they had a lot to prove,” Loureiro said. “This was a close-knit group and when they stand back, four, five years down the road at their first reunion, they can be proud of what they accomplished.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of successful people, making a big impact on the world, from this class.”