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A pair of three-time state champions returned from Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to pick up one last piece of hardware -- at least, for now.
Streetsboro's Dakari Carter, a three-time state champion in the 100-meter dash, and Garfield's Lauren Jones, a three-time state champion in the discus, received Student-Athlete of the Year honors at the 23rd UH Portage Medical Center Rehab Services and Record-Courier Student-Athlete of the Year Banquet at Maplewood Career Center on Wednesday night. With that accolade came a $500 scholarship check for each from UH Portage. Carter received a football scholarship from Toledo, while Jones received a track and field scholarship from Oklahoma.
In addition to their stardom in track and field, both excelled in other sports, with Jones playing a critical role on the G-Men volleyball and basketball teams that went deep into the postseason and Carter serving as a leading wideout for the Rockets' football team.
The duo was honored along with the rest of this year's 36 Varsity All-Stars, one for each week during the fall, winter and spring high school seasons as featured in the R-C.
"Remember you are a role model for someone somewhere," Record-Courier sports editor Tom Nader told the crowd.
Twelve different schools were honored this year, with Garfield leading the way with six Varsity All-Stars. Crestwood was next with five, while Kent Roosevelt and Southeast finished with four apiece. Field, Rootstown and Streetsboro each had three; Mogadore, Ravenna and Waterloo had two apiece; and Aurora and Windham each had one. In the fall, five soccer players, three volleyball players, three cross country runners and one golfer were honored. In the winter, 13 basketball players -- eight girls and five boys -- and two wrestlers were honored. In the spring, two baseball players, two softball players and five track and field athletes were named Varsity All-Stars.
Before the standouts received their Varsity All-Star trophies, and before Carter and Jones were announced as Student Athletes of the Year, Kent State women's basketball coach Todd Starkey, the banquet's featured guest speaker, talked to the kids and parents about "10 things to give up before you give up." That list of things to quit doing included "dwelling on the past," "trying to keep everyone happy" and "relationships with people who bring you down." He advised the kids in front of him "to separate from the discouragers."
Equally important, Starkey drove home a clear parallel between his high school sports career and the work he is doing now with the Golden Flashes, where he led perhaps the most impressive turnaround in women's college basketball, guiding a perennial cellar-dweller to the MAC East title and a WNIT berth.
"These concepts translate no matter where you are," Starkey said.
He explained that many of the lessons he teaches his athletes today came from seventh grade and from his time at Canfield.
"I still teach to this day certain concepts I learned in the seventh grade," Starkey said.
As for his Canfield basketball coach, John Cullen, Starkey was effusive.
"A lot of my coaching philosophy and the reason I'm doing what I'm doing today is because of him," Starkey said. "Make sure you take the time to thank your coaches."
Starkey also made clear that he knew his audience, noting that he had heard Carter, the three-time champion in the 100-meter dash, was "kind of fast."
The vast majority of this year's Varsity All-Stars -- 28-of-36 -- were seniors, but four juniors (Kent Roosevelt's Kayla Fischer and Korrin Spurlock, Garfield's Zach Gorby and Streetsboro's KeShun Jones) and four sophomores (Garfield's Tyler Klouda, Field's Gracie Cozart, Ravenna's Lauren Calhoun and Waterloo's Amber Cieplinski) also made the cut.