LSMSA student-athletes earn awards at annual banquet

LSMSA Athlete 2

Being a student-athlete takes commitment and drive.

Student-athletes at LSMSA were recognized for demonstrating those qualities during the annual Athletics Banquet held Friday, May 11, in the gyn.

“I respect and admire your decisions to be student-athletes,” said Dr. Kelly Lankford, associate lecturer of history and chair of the Department of Humanities. “It is never easy, but it is so worth it. I understand your world because I was a serious athlete in high school.”

Lankford played varsity soccer, volleyball and basketball. She also competed in discus and shot put. She loved basketball move of all. She made second team All-City and the city All-Star team her senior year of high school. She then deliberately chose a college where she could keep playing for just a few more precious years.

“I loved to play,” she said. “It was a big part of my identity. I basically thought of myself in college as a chemist-slash-basketball player; slightly altered after sophomore year to be historian-slash-basketball player.”

School always mattered most to Lankford, as it does to LSMSA student-athletes.

“You made it a priority because you fought your way through chemistry lab reports, history notes, impossible genetics vocabulary, four-days-per-week languages classes, unbelievably long math homework sets, private music lessons and all kinds of tech weeks,” she said. “Your studies take up the majority of your actual time and your emotional energy.

“In addition to that, you chose to play sports. You had to build practice time into hugely busy days. When you join a team, you can’t just walk away if you get angry at someone or are frustrated by their developmental pace.

“You made that commitment, and when you show up to practice, day in, day out, with a million other things waiting for you when it is over, you realize how much those drills and the conditioning matter.”

Another thing Lankford loved about playing sports was just being around teammates, and working with coaches, who interact differently than teachers do, in important ways.

“The odd part of being a teacher, for me, is that some of my interaction with students ends up being in the form of written comments,” she said. “But coaches teach you in practice, and then in the games, they get to be right there, next to you, while you put their ideas into motion. So they can correct, applaud, despair or replace you – just like that.”

Lankford ended her talk by telling the student-athletes that they will miss it when it is gone.

“The memories are there, and they are long and deep,” she said. “Haul them out when you need them, because you have done and are doing a tough thing to be a student here and play a sport. Be very, very proud of yourselves.”

Six seniors were recognized with the Scholar Athlete Award. They were Jake Stultz of Natchitoches, Russ Stultz of Natchitoches, Kevin Pan of Lafayette, Trevor Sullivan of Slidell, Allie Schleter of Lake Charles and LiZhang Matuschka of Natchitoches.

Awards for the boys’ basketball team included Martel Papillion, a junior from Oberlin, Most Valuable Player; Alvaro Carvajal, a senior from Jefferson, Most Improved Player; Kevin Pan, a senior from Lafayette, Offensive Player of the year; and Tyler Branch, a senior from Slidell, Game Changer Award.

Girls’ basketball award recipients were Allie Schleter, a senior from Lake Charles, Most Improved Player; Samantha Hernandez, a senior from Slidell, Most Valuable Player; Rachel Judson, a junior from Lake Charles, Offensive Player of the Year; and Kiara Padilla, a senior from Fort Polk, Game Changer Award.

Volleyball recognition included Lauren Rains, a senior from Youngsville, Most Valuable Player; Dennis Keo, a senior from Buras, Most Improved Player; Xavier Banks, a senior from New Iberia, Offensive Player of the Year; and Layna Auzenne, a senior from Opelousas, Defensive Player of the Year.

Cheerleading recognized Aja Becker, a senior from New Orleans, as Most Improved.

Soccer recognized Kiara Padilla as the Most Valuable Player. Padilla was also recognized as the SLAMT Most Valuable Player and the Athlete of the Year.