Christopher’s athletes of the year

Christopher graduates Collins Okoronkwo and Kaelee Scott were named Athletes of the Year for Christopher after both participated in sports all three seasons even battling through injury and scheduling to succeed.

Collins Okoronkwo and Kaelee Scott walked across the Christopher High School campus on a Sunday. Confetti from Thursday’s graduation still lay strewn about the grounds. Signs still adorned the outer walls of warning parents not to bring in fireworks or other noisemakers.
Apart from the wind whipping through the trees, the campus was eerily quiet.
The gates to the quad were locked. The gates to the student and staff parking lot were closed off. The only signs of life were a couple of staff members taking care of last minute items and a few kids taking advantage of open swim at the Christopher pool.
Okoronkwo looked around and mused that now he’s graduated, it would be weird if he continued to walk the grounds.
Scott laughed at the realization that they would no longer spend countless hours wondering the halls and fields and pools of Christopher after four years of doing just that.
Okoronkwo and Scott spent early mornings, late evenings and points in between practicing and playing for Christopher over four years which all led to them being named Athletes of the Year.
Okoronkwo started with wrestling and branched out to football and track and field.
Scott was gymnast and a diver for the Cougars on top of being a cheerleader for football and basketball.
Gymnastics and diving are both spring sports and both require a ton of training.
But Scott persisted both with school practice and private practice for gymnastics.
And with the all the work, she ended up going to CCS all four years in both sports.
“I’m a crazy person. I like being busy all the time. There’s never a time where I’m not busy,” Scott said. “Honestly the last couple of weeks were the first time I got to be an actual teenager because I don’t have time to go hang out with my friends. I’m either training or in the gym.”
Scott said her parents always encouraged her to be involved and supported her throughout her years competing in gymnastics, getting involved with diving and doing cheer.
At the same time, Scott was quick to point out that her parents never put pressure on her to do anything. It was always her choice.
“They’ll take me and they’ll provide for me to do private lessons, but I’m going to have to work for it and get up early at 7 in the morning or whatever and train for it,” Scott said.
Scott said while there may have been times where she second-guessed herself, but it was always her choice so she quickly focused.
The result were things like going up to Sonoma State—where she will be attending college—for cheerleading then heading down to Ponoma in Southern California the next day to compete in gymnastics.
Scott said she took a zero period three years at Christopher which was on top of practices at Christopher, gymnastics practice at Gilroy High School—because the programs were both coached by the same person—private practices and keeping up with home work.
There were times when her mom would drive from Los Gatos to Gilroy and she would eat in the car and stay up until 1 a.m. doing homework.
“It was very hard to keep my progression going to keep up with my home work so I could keep participating in those sports,” Scott said. “It was very complicated.”
Scott said looking back, she doesn’t know how she pulled all of that off and found time to sleep. She said, however, that just telling herself that this time was going to go by quickly and just making the most of that time would make all of it worth it.
“By the time you’re done, high school is going to fly by fast and you’re not going to be doing the sports any more,” Scott said. “I just wanted to make the most of being athletic. I didn’t know if I was going to be doing sports in college, so I wanted to make the most of it.”
Okoronkwo initially came into Christopher only wanting to focus on wrestling.
He had gotten involved with the sport in middle school and wanted to keep it up through high school.
But Athletic Director Darren Yafai cornered him in the gym to make the pitch to play football.
Okoronkwo said Yafai had attempted to get his brother to play football, but he resisted. And with Okoronkwo, Yafai was not taking no for an answer.
Yafai blocked the exits to the gym so Okoronkwo had no choice but to pass him. And the tactic worked as Okoronkwo joined the team as a freshman and quickly found his niche on the offensive and defensive lines.
Eventually, he got called up to play on varsity his sophomore year during the playoff game against Wilcox.
Okoronkwo, like Scott, said the commitment required was immense. During wrestling season he had to be up by 4 a.m. on Saturdays to head to tournaments. On top of that, he initially had zero period classes, so he got used to being up early on a regular basis—a habit he said he hasn’t broken.
He would practice hard, come home exhausted to the point he was too tired to eat, set an alarm for 4 a.m., get homework done and head off to school and stay until late for football or wrestling.
There were times, however, where Okoronkwo had to stand up to his coaches and say that school was more important than sports and had to deal with those consequences at the same time.
“There were times where I wanted to give up, but I did make friends through out it all,” Okoronkwo said. “It was seeing that I had someone who also shared in my pain. It was how I was able to make all these bonds and it was for me that’s what I enjoyed most about them. That’s why I continued and went on to do track and field.”
Okoronkwo described himself as an introvert who didn’t have many friends growing up. But in high school, he found his voice and connected with people because of the sports he was involved with.
The dedication for both players was absolute.
Okoronkwo said he remembered in his senior year it the Bell Game against Gilroy, he popped his shoulder out twice. He said there is video where you can see him putting it back in place on the field.
Scott said she has a bad back and can’t compete without wrist guards, leg wraps and KT tape.
But both said they would gladly do it all again because the loved competing so much.
For all the early mornings and sacrifices on the wrestling mat Okoronkwo endured, he made it to CCS all four years of high school. And his senior year, he narrowly missed advancing to state, falling in the third place match.
“I’m never going to forget his name. It was Mercury Campano from Monterey High School. I had seen him during the All Star game in football, and then he beat me in league finals for wrestling and then I saw him again for CCS,” Okoronkwo said.
“Just being able to go is an experience,” Okoronkwo added. “You see all the top athletes in the area and you get to know that you’re one of them. People get to recognize you and see your talents, but the better person moves on.”
Scott agreed that there is something special being able to compete at the highest levels, even if there is an added bit of tension that you don’t get to experience in wrestling or team sports.
“I’ve been trained to just be me and just do me and train for me,” Scott said. “What ever my scores do to help my team is great, but it’s hard to do that when some of your teammates are your competitors too. There are some girls in my age group who are my friends, but I also have to do what I got to do. I’m not trying to be mean, but I got to do it for myself.”

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