Two local student athletes have been recognized by the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section for their contributions both in and out of high school competition, earning the prestigious A. Dale Lacky Scholar-Athlete Award in a year that’s been anything but normal.
Denair High School’s Christian Perez and Joelle Lok of Pitman High School were selected as winners of the annual award, which celebrates outstanding athletic performance, community service and academic success throughout recipients’ four years of high school. The award, named after former Section and State CIF President A. Dale Lacky, recognizes the top male and female student-athletes within the Section. Each league is able to send two winners, one male and one female, to be honored.
The award would also feature money for athletes to further their education during a normal year, but the foundation games which typically raise funds for the scholarships weren’t able to be played this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Perez played football and baseball for three years each as a Coyote and was part of the school’s Section and state championship football team in 2018. He’s a member of the Principal’s Honor Roll thanks to his 3.7 GPA and also won the Committed Coyote Award, part of a program started by student athletes, teachers, coaches and Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services meant to help participants reach their full potential by abstaining from reckless behavior.
Perez also volunteers with Denair Youth Football and plans on continuing his own career in the sport next year at Merced College. He told the Journal he hopes to major in mechanical engineering.
“It’s great to be recognized because this year with quarantine, I worked really hard to keep my grades up through everything,” Perez said. “I think this is a diamond in the rough — it’s something great in a bad situation and really helped motivate me to continue doing well.”
Perez’s football coach Anthony Armas said the senior has been a “delight to coach” over the years, noting his work ethic extends into everything to which he sets his mind.
“It made sense that he won this award because he’s the type of kid you don’t really have to worry about. He does everything right and it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving kid,” Armas said. “It’s great to have something positive happen with such a crazy season. It just goes to show the kind of kids we have out here. Even when we’re in a year where the team is rebuilding in a COVID season, we still have kids who are succeeding and doing great things.”
At PHS, Lok played water polo and swam all four years in high school and competed for the track and field team twice. She’s earned team MVP and All-League accolades twice for water polo and has also been named swim team MVP once.
On top of athletics and her job as a youth gymnastics coach, Lok is also a lifetime CSF member, student body social media officer and a four-year member of the Future Business Leaders of America club. In her spare time — which is seemingly rare — Lok also volunteers with local blood drives and as a camp counselor.
Lok’s coach Chelsie Wattles described her team MVP as resilient, noting that on top of all of her other responsibilities, Lok also helps run the aquatics program’s social media account and help communicate information to parents and athletes.
“She’s been such a positive role model for other girls. She’s not only an athlete, she’s a well-rounded student,” Wattles said. “It’s like once in a blue moon getting an athlete like her. I’ve seen her grow as a woman and as an athlete and it’s just astounding how she has built herself.”
Lok has a 4.74 GPA and is No. 3 in her class of 433. She told the Journal she’ll be attending the University of California, Santa Barbara this fall where she plans on majoring in psychological and brain sciences.
While she was surprised by the recognition, she hopes it’s a sign of more good things to come.
“This year has really flown by, and I’m honored to be recognized,” Lok said. “It was weird going from being super busy to everything being cancelled; in a way it made things easier and in a way it made them harder...I’m just happy everything is starting to come together again.”
Perez and Lok were two of 41 winners of the A. Dale Lacky Award. In lieu of the traditional breakfast honoring recipients of the award, winners were recognized during a Zoom conference on May 11.