This is the page for the azcentral Sports Awards Academic All-Star of the Week for the 2018-19 school year.
We are always seeking input from parents, coaches and teammates. Go to our nomination form to tell us about an outstanding student-athlete in your community.
Dec. 6, 2018
Thomas Whitley, Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, Basketball and Golf
Thomas Whitley prefers a busy schedule.
In addition to maintaining a 4.82 weighted GPA, Whitley excels on the golf course and basketball court for Scottsdale Prep.
In May, he finished fifth at the Metro Invitational Golf Tournament.
On the hardwood, Whitley is leading a basketball team that has had to replace six departing seniors from last year. So far, he’s averaging 22 points and five rebounds per game.
With what little free time sports and athletics leave Whitley, he spends it volunteering. He helps out at a golf training program called VISION54. He’s also mentors middle school students once a week.
As a member of a rotary club, Whitley helps raise money for GiGi’s Playhouse, which offers free educational, therapeutic and developmental programs for people with Down Syndrome.
“It keeps me on the edge,” Whitley said. “Volunteering means a lot. I’m always connecting and relating with the people around me. That makes me feel special in a way.”
Whitley, a junior, is still figuring things out, but says he’s leaning toward a career in social sciences.
Nov. 29, 2018
Melanie Hass, Arizona College Preparatory, Swimming and Diving
Melanie Hass is what you would consider to be a model student-athlete for Arizona College Preparatory.
She was the captain of a combined boys and girls team of 48 swimmers. She was also honorable mention for Chandler’s Unified District’s All-City team. Hass was also named Most Valuable Swimmer on her team. She accomplished all this while nursing a nagging shoulder injury.
Hass carries a 3.8 GPA, is a member of National Honors Society for four years, serves as the Arizona College Prep chapter secretary and a member of Key Club International. Through Key Club she has volunteered at multiple charities including, St. Mary’s Food Bank and Feed My Starving Children.
She is planning to attend college at either Arizona State or Arizona, but she is undecided on her major although she has an interest in psychology and philosophy.
Nov. 23, 2018
Elise Jones, Chandler Seton Catholic, Swimming, diving, golf
This past fall, Seton’s Elisa Jones would wake up in the morning to attend golf practice, then in the afternoon head to swim and dive practice.
While keeping up with her busy schedule, she still somehow kept her 4.0 GPA.
Jones is a member of National Honors Society and a member of the Sentinel ambassador’s club, which is designed to shadow new students to make sure they feel comfortable in school.
She also plays cello, an instrument she’s played for eight years.
Only a junior, Jones is still undecided about where she will attend college. Her dream schools are Stanford, Notre Dame and Princeton. She hopes to study either economics or chemistry.
Nov. 16, 2018
Dante Espocito, Gilbert Higley, Football
Dante Espocito carries a 4.2 GPA, all while playing defensive back on the Gilbert Higley football team and working three to four nights a week at Barro’s Pizza.
Espocito’s busy schedule doesn’t allow him to join as many clubs as he would like, but he is an active member in the Distributive Education Club of America. The DECA club is a business and administration education club at Higley. Espocito and his fellow club members go around the state and compete against other schoosl. They even were granted the opportunity to travel to Atlanta on a national trip.
Espocito is planning on attending Macalester College in St. Paul Minnesota on an academic scholarship. He was also offered a spot on the football team.
According to U.S. News, Macalester College was ranked 27th among liberal arts schools.
Espocito plans on studying economics in hopes to become a stock broker one day.
Nov. 9, 2018
Andrew Moon, Gilbert Perry, Football
Andrew Moon is a defensive end and a captain on the Gilbert Perry football team. He also throws discuss for the track & field team in the spring.
Moon started a club at Perry called “Real Talk” where students can come together and talk about issues going on in their lives.
He was the Valle Luna Scholar Athlete in the Month of October this year. He was the AIA Scholar-Athlete for track and football in 2017-2018 and Academic Excellence Award in 2016-17 from Perry high school.
Moon is also an active member in his community by helping out at Feed My Starving Children, helping put together the Perry Military Service Project and is a volunteer coach for the 12U Gilbert Lightning football team.
Moon enjoys playing the guitar and is a member of his church’s band. His favorite song to play on the guitar is “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber.
Moon is planning on attending Northern Arizona next year to study pre-med. He would one day like to go into orthopedics.
Perry travels to Phoenix Desert Vista for the second round of the 6A playoffs.
Nov. 2, 2018
Brennan Sawyer, Winslow, Football
Senior Brennan Sawyer, the starting quarterback and free safety on the Winslow football team, is currently No. 1 in his class with a 4.33 GPA.
Sawyer is a member of the National Honor Society and is pursuing Victory with Honor.
He is currently seeking appointment to the Naval or Air Force Academy.
Sawyer says he has always been drawn to the military. With his background in sports and his success in the classroom, trying to go to one of the academy’s made sense to him. If he achieves his goal, he says he would specialize in aviation.
Sawyer also has an interest in the medical field. He is president of the Winslow High School sports medicine club.
Sawyer led Winslow to a 6-4 record this season with four shutouts – including a 50-0 win over Holbrook – and the 16th seed in the 3A playoffs, where they will face the top seed Phoenix Northwest Christian on Friday.
Oct. 26, 2018
Avery Luoma, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Volleyball
Phoenix Mountain Pointe volleyball standout Avery Luoma carries a 4.875 GPA and has had straight A’s all four years of high school. Luoma, who is fifth in her class, is taking six AP/honors classes during her fall semester.
Luoma is a member of the National Honors Society and a member of the Math, History, Science and English National Honors Society at her school. Luoma also is part of Pride to Peak Club.
Luoma is a key part to Mountain Pointe’s volleyball team. According to MaxPreps, this year she has 279 kills, 41.8 kill percentage, 59 aces, 68 total blocks and 324 digs.
Luoma is attending Princeton next year where she intends to continue her volleyball career. She is still unsure on what she is going to study while at school.
Oct. 19, 2018
Colton Amos, Prescott, Football, Sr.
Colton Amos, a senior linebacker on the Prescott football team, carries 4.75 GPA which puts him in the fifth percentile in his class.
Amos is the President of the National Honors Society at his school and is an active member of the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) at Prescott High School.
SALT is a program for athletes to get involved and help out around the Prescott community and the school.
Amos has not decided yet where he wants to attend college but he does know he plans on studying either chemical or mechanical engineering, with a dream-job goal of one day working with rockets at either NASA or Boeing.
His favorite subject in school is math but also enjoys riding dirt bikes and going wake boarding.
Amos leads the state of Arizona in tackles with 138 and is a key part in the Badgers 6-2 record and No. 12 ranking in the 4A conference.
Oct. 12, 2018
Isiah Bae, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Football, Sr.
Tucson Catalina Foothills running back Isiah Bae is a three-sport athlete who has carried a 4.2 GPA throughout high school. Bae plays football, wrestles and runs track. Along with his busy schedule he is a member of National Honors Society.
Bae plans to attend the University of Arizona Honors College next year where he is going to major in business. Once Bae finishes his undergrad he hopes to enroll in Arizona’s MBA program. After school Bae wants to get a job in high level administration management.
Oct. 5, 2018
Jackson Passey, Gilbert Campo Verde, Football, Sr.
Gilbert Campo Verde Jackson Passey, the Coyotes punter and kicker, is 6-for-8 so far this season on his field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder last week in a 28-13 win against Maricopa.
According to MaxPreps, Passey ranks ninth among kickers in total points (42) and seventh in total kick off yardage with 2,131.
Off the field, Passey carries a 4.5 GPA, and his favorite subject is math. He is still unsure where he wants to attend college next year, but knows he wants to study and eventually have a career in mathematics.
Passey is an AP Scholar with honor. He’s also a Golden Scholar and ranks in the top three percent in his class.
Passey enjoys playing the piano and composing music. He has been playing the piano for 11 years.
Passey also helps his brother, Nathan, a member of the Gilbert Roadrunners Special Olympic swimming and and field team. Jackson says spending time playing sports with his little brother in Special Olympics is his favorite off-field activitiy. Jackson says he plans to continue to give back to the Special Olympics community.
Sept. 28, 2018
Daniel Obarski, Chandler Hamilton, Football Sr.
Daniel Obarski is a four-sport athlete at Chandler Hamilton, where he plays football, hockey, volleyball and soccer. Obarski has a 4.3 GPA, is an active member in National Honor Society, volunteers at Habitat for Humanity and Feed My Starving Children. He is also active in the Lifeteen program at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Chandler.
This season, Obarski kicked a 54-yard field goal, setting a school record. He has received three Div. I football scholarship offers, from Purdue, Air Force and Army West Point. He has not yet decided on where he will plans to go, but he does plans to study engineering. When he graduates, Obarski would like to get involved in sports as a coach.
After a pair of season-opening losses, Obarski and his Huskies’ teammates have evened their record at 3-3 and visit Brophy Prep (5-1) on Friday.
Sept. 20, 2018
Jimmy Hamilton, Tucson Sabino, Football, Sr.
Jimmy Hamilton plays quarterback for the Tucson Sabino High School football team. He has a 4.0 GPA and is taking AP classes during the season. Hamilton has not decided where to go to college yet but is looking at schools in Texas with good engineering programs. After college he wants to become either a chemical engineer or an astro space engineer.
Sept. 14, 2018
Alexander Yu, Chandler Hamilton, Golf, Sr.
Alexander Yu is a four-year starter for the Chandler Hamilton High School golf team and is currently the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s No. 1-ranked golfer. Yu broke the 9-hole school scoring record with a 31 (-5) last week. He is a two-year co-captain for the golf team, president of the Juniors Investors League on campus and sports a 4.6 GPA. He also volunteers at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center. Yu wants to study pre-med in college and hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon one day. He has not yet decided where he wants to attend college, but wants to go to a school known for its academics where he can also play golf.
Return to this page all season long to see each week’s athlete.
Sept. 7, 2018
Olivia Cristante, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Volleyball/Track & Field, Sr.
Olivia Cristante is a two-sport varsity athlete for Cave Creek Cactus Shadows. She is co-captain of the volleyball team and has won multiple awards for her academics and character on and off the playing field. Last year she was awarded Most Outstanding Student Athlete by her school for maintaining her cumulative 4.5 GPA and was named Falcon Athlete of the Year from her coaches for her positive attitude and for mentoring her pears. Cristante is also a member of the Mandarin honors society.
“It’s really great, my hard work is paying off and I want to keep working hard so I can continue to be successful.”
She plans to major in pre-med where she hopes to pursue a career in physical therapy or sports medicine. She has not selected a school yet, but her dream school is Northwestern.
Aug. 31, 2018
Elisia Escanuela, San Tan Valley Poston Butte, Cross Country, Sr.
Captain of the cross country team at Poston Butte, Escanuela holds multiple cross country school records. She runs six days a week with her teammates while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She’s a member of her school’s Link Crew, which runs the freshman orientation at the beginning of the year. Escanuela is also a member of National Honor Society.