More than two dozen graduates get one last piece of hardware as CHSL honors top athletes in each sport

TROY — Jack Decker was at home, midway through taking a challenging Advanced Placement exam online last week, when his mother popped in the room to hand him an envelope that had arrived in the mail.

The return address was the Catholic High School League office. Inside, Decker found a medal, along with a letter congratulating him for winning the Frank Guyott Scholar-Athlete Award for boys cross-country.

“I was pretty excited. I know this is a prestigious award because it’s from all the Catholic high schools, not just the small ones,” said Decker, who recently finished his senior year at Madison Heights Bishop Foley and will enter the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering.

Decker was the Catholic League’s Cardinal Division individual cross-country champion twice and led the Ventures’ boys team to three league titles in his four-year career. He plans to run with Michigan’s cross-country club team, and is disappointed to not have an opportunity to compete in track this spring.

Bishop Foley’s Jack Decker heads toward the finish line during the 2019 Catholic League championship race. Decker was the top runner in the Cardinal Division, and earned the league’s Frank Guyott Scholar-Athlete Award for boys cross-country. (Photo by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

He, along with nearly 300 other senior student-athletes, will miss out on the annual Catholic League Scholar-Athlete Awards banquet, which was originally scheduled for June 1, but will not be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mario McDonald from Novi Detroit Catholic Central also got the good news when opening his mail. He won the Bernard Krzywada Award for boys swimming.

“Immediately I felt honored to be recognized among the best scholar athletes in the Catholic League, although I am disappointed that we will not be able to have a banquet for the award ceremony,” the Farmington Hills resident said. 

McDonald, who will attend Ohio State University on a swimming scholarship, won four events at the Catholic League championship this year, leading the Shamrocks to the team title. He was seeded first in all four of them heading into the state finals, which was among the first events to be cancelled when the coronavirus hit.

“It would have been exciting to be at the banquet, but the award still means a lot,” Decker said.

“This year, regardless of the ending, gave me memories to last a lifetime,” McDonald said.

Despite having to cancel the scholar-athlete banquet, the Catholic High School League still proceeded to honor all 280 nominees, including the 30 winners in their respective sports.

Divine Child’s Michael Hancock approaches the finish line in the 4x800 relay during the 2019 Catholic League track finals. Hancock won the Joe Pascuzzi Scholar-Athlete Award for boys track and field. (Photo by Mary Thayer | Special to Detroit Catholic)

“We made that decision almost immediately in mid-March when we shut the schools down for the first week. It looked like there was no way we could assemble almost a thousand people in the first week of June,” Catholic High School League director Vic Michaels said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t just invite the students, either. We didn’t see any way we could continue with that. We just felt the best we could do was send them the letter and the medallion.”

The annual event, previously called the “Operation Friendship” banquet, had been held each year since 1976.

“It’s unfortunate; we always feel that it’s the final event many of our students go to as high school seniors. They’re already graduated. It’s often the last event they can attend as a high school student,” Michaels said. “It’s always kind of a neat night, so it was tough to not have that. Unfortunately, there was no way we could do it.”

However, Michaels said it wouldn’t be right not to acknowledge their accomplishments in some way.

“We felt the letter in the mail would be a little glimmer of hope, a way to acknowledge their achievements,” he said. “They didn’t get a free chicken dinner and a chance to mingle with the other nominees for their sport, though.”

League officials were able to collect pictures of all the winners, and assembled them into a slideshow presentation posted on the league website, chsl.com. Several will be published on the cover of next season’s Catholic League championship programs, as well.

Just to be nominated, seniors had to maintain a certain minimum grade-point average, demonstrate leadership and have a strong record of community service, while actively participating in a sport. The applications had to be accompanied by two letters of recommendation.

“The academics speak for themselves with the grade-point, the athletics speak for themselves with their All-Catholic honors,” Michaels said, “but you really don’t get to see what these students do in their communities unless you read the forms.”

Royal Oak Shrine’s Allison LaPoint, who led the Lady Knights to three Catholic League championships, earned the Frank Connolly Scholar-Athlete Award for girls basketball. (Photo by Mia Simon | Special to Detroit Catholic)
Detroit Catholic Central’s Mario McDonald, a seven-time Catholic League champion swimmer, earned the Bernard Krzywada Scholar-Athlete Award for boys swimming. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Central)

In Decker’s case, he maintained a 4.35 GPA, was student council class historian, active in the drama club, served as counselor at the school’s youth basketball camp, chaired Foley’s “Be The Difference Day” planning committee and organized a food drive for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit that collected more than 1,000 items.

McDonald’s community service activities include working with people spanning all ages. He’s a youth swim instructor and coach at Edgewood Country Club, assisted disabled adults at the Our Lady of Sorrows Bingo and Ice Cream Social, and prays the rosary with senior residents at the Evergreen Health and Living Center. 

“We had some quality applicants, and it was tough to choose the winners. I commend the executive board for making those tough decisions,” Michaels added. “But it’s just not the same. Hopefully we can get back to normal next year.”

Here are the Catholic League’s 2020 Scholar-Athlete award recipients: (Note: not all awards are named)

BOYS FALL SPORTS

  • Frank Guyott Award (cross-country): Jack Decker, Bishop Foley
  • John Shada Award (football): William Cosnowski III, St. Mary’s Prep
  • Bro. George Synan Award (soccer): Parker Stager, Lutheran North
  • Msgr. Carroll Deady Award (tennis): Kaan Oral, Greenhills

GIRLS FALL SPORTS

  • Hal Schram Award (cross-country): Elizabeth Powers, Bishop Foley
  • Field Hockey Award: Angela Rea, Mercy
  • Golf Award: Rachel Thornton, St. Catherine
  • Deloris Yager Award (swimming): Lauren Sielicki, Marian
  • Edith Glusac Award (volleyball): Karsyn Kazyak, Greenhills

BOYS WINTER SPORTS

  • Sam Madden Award: Paul Nasr, Cardinal Mooney
  • Chris Buryta Award (bowling): Luke Childs, DeLaSalle
  • Hockey Award: Tristan Reilly, University-Liggett
  • Skiing Award: Blake Brykalski, Detroit Catholic Central
  • Bernard Krzywada Award (swimming): Mario McDonald, Catholic Central
  • Mike Rodriguez Award (wrestling): Charlie Nelson, Brother Rice

GIRLS WINTER SPORTS

  • Frank Connolly Award (basketball): Allison LaPoint, Shrine
  • Bowling Award: Jenna DeSantis, Bishop Foley
  • Cheerleading Award: Olivia Barone, Fr. Gabriel Richard
  • Hockey Award: Margaret Brice, Cranbrook-Kingswood
  • Pom-Pon Award: Alexa Crowe, Marian
  • Skiing Award: Teresa Klein, Marian

BOYS SPRING SPORTS

  • Ralph Owen Award (baseball): Grant Henson, St. Mary’s
  • Tom Connell Award (golf): Carter Cojei, Catholic Central
  • Mike Jolly Award (lacrosse): D.J. Dixon, Brother Rice
  • Joe Pascuzzi Award (track and field): Michael Hancock, Divine Child

GIRLS SPRING SPORTS

  • Lacrosse Award: Shea Henderson, Academy of the Sacred Heart
  • Soccer Award: Macey Earle, Mercy
  • Fr. John Zwers Award (softball): Chelsea Collins, Gabriel Richard
  • Harvey Barcus Award (tennis): Kate Myers, Sacred Heart
  • Sr. Mary Louise Affholter Award (track and field): Katherine Broderick, Mercy