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Rising To The Top Senior Athletes Honored For On, Off Field Contributions
Escalon's spring sports awards night highlights the achievements of teams but also singles out those seniors that have risen to the top over four years of high school athletics.

The Lloyd C. Engel Outstanding Senior Athlete and the Hall-Loureiro Most Inspirational Senior Athlete honors were presented at the Tuesday, June 1 ceremony. Nick Largent and Kaitlyn Brayton were tapped for the Engel award, with Travis Cardoza and Khrista Delucchi receiving the Hall-Loureiro award.

All four seniors have made major contributions to their sports teams over the years, as well as being outstanding ambassadors for the school itself.

For those two chosen as the Most Inspirational athletes, their work ethic and team dedication helped them earn the honors.

Travis Cardoza

"This award was built for him," varsity baseball coach Greg Largent said of Travis Cardoza. "He is such an inspiration, he gets every ounce out of his ability, he works hard, he's there for everybody and he encourages everyone ... he is the true epitome of a guy who is a great teammate."

Cardoza was the everyday first baseman for the Cougars this season, helping lead the team to a Trans-Valley League title and Section crown. He also played football in the fall and basketball during the winter, a three-sport athlete for Escalon High all four years of high school.

"If there was a picture of somebody in the dictionary under the word 'friend' it would be Travis," added Largent.

Athletic director and head varsity football coach Mark Loureiro said it was no surprise that Cardoza was recognized.

"Every team he's on, he's always been the most inspirational," noted Loureiro. "And he's not just a leader on the team, but on our campus. He's a role model for our younger athletes."

An All-League player both varsity seasons with the football team, Loureiro said it was the hard work Cardoza put in that made the difference.

"He got the most out of his ability, he had to work hard for everything," said Loureiro. "He was a two-year, two-way starter for me, a team captain this year and a coach on the field as well."

Cardoza plans to attend Delta College and study electrical engineering and may continue athletics in college as well.

"It feels good," he admitted of receiving the award.

"It's just in my nature, I guess," Cardoza added of inspiring others, noting that he just followed the lead he was given. "I've grown up around great role models, both in my family and the community of Escalon."

Khrista Delucchi

For Khrista Delucchi, fall meant cross country and spring meant track and field, utilizing her speed, versatility, endurance and dependability to inspire those around her.

"She has been one of the more enjoyable athletes to work with," said track and field head coach Roger Beeman. "As a track athlete, you could pretty much have her do everything. Just last year, we added pole vault and all she did was go and become league champion."

With a background in competitive gymnastics, involved in that for many years, Delucchi brought plenty of ability and a strong work ethic to her high school sports as well.

"She had so much success in cross country, she was our top quarter-miler for track as she worked her way down from the mile and the 2-mile," added Beeman. "She works surprisingly hard and she's very well-grounded ... she's going to Santa Barbara and we're very optimistic with her future as far as being with the track team there."

In terms of inspiration and leadership, Beeman said Delucchi had it all.

"She's a disciple of the 'Rick Heflin School of Team Support'," Beeman said, noting that in cross country, with Heflin as coach, Delucchi was a leader as well.

"Khrista is a team mom," agreed coach Heflin. "She helps people. If inspirational you think of as 'rah rah' she does that beautifully, but she's also there for the team."

Case in point, Heflin said, was during her sophomore year when teammate Pearl Rivers went down with a stress fracture.

"We wanted to do the best we could at Sections, Pearl went down and all Khrista did was take 2 minutes off her time and we beat Riverbank," he said. "When the chips are down, Khrista's there to hold your hand and anytime you need a performance out of her, she's there. She's just one of those kids that gives 100 percent."

Delucchi did both track and cross country for three years at Escalon High. She plans to study chemistry at UC Santa Barbara.

"I was happy," she said of receiving the honor, noting that her older sister was the recipient two years ago. "I just like the cheering and supporting people."

Nick Largent

Active in baseball and football all four years at Escalon High and suiting up for basketball during his freshman year, Nick Largent brought an enthusiasm and energy to the playing field, along with plenty of talent. Varsity baseball coach Greg Largent not only is his coach, but his father as well, and said it was special to see his son honored with the Engel award.

"He plays with passion and desire, he is a true competitor, whether it's tic tac toe, ping pong ... he just doesn't like losing," Largent said of his son. "He was one of those guys who put in the hard work in the off season, hitting the weights, making himself better."

A team leader and one of the captains for the football team, Largent will represent Escalon in this month's annual Lions All Star Football game. He took the loss to Modesto Christian in the playoffs hard, said his dad, but it fueled the fire for success in the spring, making it that much more important to bring a Section banner to the school. Through baseball, that's what Nick Largent and the Cougars did.

"I'm proud of him," dad Greg said, noting that it's equally tough coaching your own child at the high school level and being a 'coach's kid.'

"It's hard, they put you under the microscope," Largent said. "They (kids) have to perform at a higher level."

Loureiro pointed to Largent as being "more flamboyant" in his approach to his sports teams.

"He's got a real outgoing personality and he's the big play player," explained Loureiro. "He's been a major contributor to our championship teams and it seems like the bigger the game, the bigger he plays."

Headed to Delta College to study fire science, Largent said some of his fondest memories of Escalon deal with being a part of the Cougar football tradition.

"Just the bond that you get with the team," he said of what he enjoyed most.

On the baseball diamond, helping bring the Section banner home for the school also was a high point for his senior year.

"It all felt great," he said.

Largent hopes to continue playing both football and baseball at Delta if possible while studying to become a firefighter.

"He's very passionate in what he does," Loureiro added. "He has a lot of pride ... a lot of community pride and that shows in how he deals with people."

Kaitlyn Brayton

No one can argue with the success that Kaitlyn Brayton has enjoyed, particularly on the tennis court, with a four-year run as Trans-Valley League champion and three years as Section champion in girls singles, along with contributing to the tennis team winning this year's Section title. She also was a leader on the volleyball court, helping her team to the playoffs. She played basketball her freshman and sophomore years before getting busy with Club volleyball.

Like her honored counterparts, Brayton also maintained a variety of on campus activities at Escalon High and put in the needed time in the classroom to earn scholastic honors as well.

"More important than winning championships is the code of ethics that Kaitlyn displays, her sense of sportsmanship and fair play," tennis coach Dan Thompson said. "She always showed integrity and courtesy toward her opponent and she placed the value of the game first and winning second. She was a real pleasure to have on the team and a real ambassador for the town, wherever we went."

Compiling an almost unbelievable record over her four years of tennis at EHS - with one single loss against her - Thompson said Brayton never took that success for granted. She was always willing to put in the time to work on her strokes and played singles or doubles, wherever she was needed to help the team win, the coach added.

Volleyball coach Teresa Williamson said Brayton began coming into her own as she matured at the high school and club volleyball level, and was a steady performer.

"I think it's well deserved, she's worked hard her four years here," Williamson said of the Engel recognition for Brayton. "She's not just a good athlete, she's a good student as well."

Brayton said it sometimes was tough to juggle school, a travel team and school athletics.

"I've always known that school work was first," she said, adding that it was easier to finish up that work knowing she had a team to join when the work was done.

"For me they're both the same, I can't choose one sport over the other," she said of enjoying both volleyball and tennis.

"I think the big difference for her was confidence," Williamson explained of how Brayton grew into an outstanding athlete. "She was a leader for me on the court ... and she never stopped improving, she worked hard to make herself better."

Brayton plans to attend UC Santa Barbara and study biology.

"This was one of those tough years," Loureiro admitted of narrowing down the senior class to the four honorees. "It was testament to how many championships we earned ... it was a great senior class and it just shows the depth we have."