MISSOULA — With high school sports winding to a close, the annual KPAX Sports Awards are upon us once again.
Starting Wednesday, we will introduce the finalists from all five high schools in Missoula in Valley Christian, Loyola Sacred Heart, Missoula Big Sky, Hellgate and Sentinel. Each school will have one male and one female representative, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 19.
The first finalists are from Valley Christian High School in Lanessa Gedney and Brennan Cox.
Gedney has competed in volleyball, basketball and tennis for the Eagles, but not without some adversity.
Gedney was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during her junior season of volleyball, but persevered and found a way to manage it during the latter half of her high school career.
And sports, played a big role in that.
"I think sports motivated me more to take care of myself because if I didn’t feel well because of my numbers, I couldn’t play and I was benched," Gedney said. "That was never a fun thing so I just wanted to keep healthy. I didn’t get depressed about it or anything probably because of sports."
Cox has an unorthodox background as well.
Originally from Texas and growing up in a military family, moving was the norm, and early on in high school he moved to Butte briefly before ultimately moving to Missoula as a sophomore.
Though moving had its challenges, Cox said sports helped him create social circles when he competed in football, basketball and track and field, and it gave him an outlet to channel his energy as sports became a big part of his life.
"You’re coming into a school but you’re coming also into a family," Cox said of Valley Christian. "I think just being part of a team, before you come into the school year especially with football season and that rolling over into school and into the fall season, and we were doing summer workouts and stuff like that so you really got to know the guys before then and so that’s where all of my friendships started and so it just helps you to be more comfortable in the school environment I think."
The finalists for Loyola will be introduced on Thursday followed by Big Sky on Friday. Hellgate will be next Monday followed by Sentinel on Tuesday.
Read below to see both essays submitted by Gedney and Cox.
Dear Honors Court Student-Athlete Scholarship Committee,
My name is Lanessa Gedney and I have been nominated by Valley Christian School for consideration as the female Athlete of the Year. Thank you for considering my application.
I play and have played a number of sports including volleyball, basketball and tennis. During my two years of volleyball I was awarded a letter and two plaques. One plaque was a Sportsmanship award and the other was the Most Improved award.
I have played high school basketball for five years. I started my eighth grade year when I was pulled up to play on the high school junior varsity team. Since then I played on varsity the rest of my four years. I was a consistent starter for three of those four years. My basketball awards have included lettering every year of high school, and receiving multiple plaques. One for Most Improved, one for Defensive Player of the Year, and another for Most Inspirational player. I also received the Academic All-State Selection, and Team Captain awards for my junior and senior years.
I have played high school tennis for three years and have received a letter for each of those years.
My GPA is 3.68 and I have always maintained being on honor roll every year of high school. This year I have accomplished being on high honors!
In addition to managing team sports and academics, I had to learn to manage a fairly new challenge to my life. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during my volleyball season junior year. l have learned to maneuver the difficulties in maintaining a healthy blood sugar while playing the sports that I participate in as well as keeping my grades up. Some of the complications involved with managing Type 1 include frequent blood sugar checks during practices and games and then adjusting as needed. Many times I will have to take a minute to step to the side during a practice or take a timeout in a game to make sure I don't let my blood sugar drop too low which could result in me passing out. I have learned how to listen to my body and this new challenge has helped me grow and accomplish more that I thought possible.
In my school, I am involved in the National Honors Society and was inducted before my junior year of high school. In NHS we have helped the school fundraise with an organization called Feed the Need where I and others on my team will be boxing up food and shipping it to Haiti and locally where hungry children will be provided some meals. Another organization that my school has partnered with is Operation Christmas Child where we helped pack boxes of toys and everyday necessities such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks and hair brushes and then loaded them up on a truck which where they then were shipped to children all over the world as Christmas presents. During my freshman year, my Bible Discipleship Team went all over our community helping those in need. We have visited retirement homes to help the workers clean the halls and rooms as well as interact with the residents. We have also volunteered time at the Union Gospel Mission packing food to give to homeless children in our community. Another way we have served is visiting animal shelters and donating time to help clean the kennels and do laundry as well as feeding the animals.
Outside of my school, I have volunteered hours to a small business in my community called Unleashed. While volunteering, I engaged with the animals and served with cleanup and whatever else is needed. I have volunteered at the Missoula Veterinary Clinic where I assisted with administering shots, calming the animals, interacting with the customers, aiding the techs in maneuvering the animals, and any cleanup needed. I have also volunteered at my church, New Hope Christian Fellowship, for six years where in the Sunday school classroom I help the teacher explain material to the kids while engaging them in fun activities such as crafts and games.
Thank you for organizing this scholarship program and considering me for this scholarship while reviewing applications.
My name is Brennan Cox. I attend Valley Christian High School (VCHS) and graduate this year. My parents, Ross and Nicole Cox, play a huge role in my life. They have taught me how to be an example in both athletics and my community. Since before I was born, my dad was in the Army. He showed me through his career what it takes to juggle different hardships of life while at the same time balancing a healthy relationship with his kids, his wife, and his relationship with God. This was until an abrupt tragedy occurred in my family.
This hero of mine, who I thought was invincible at the time, was severely injured from an explosive on the battlefields of Afghanistan. While my father was in the recovery process from losing his left leg, basketball was my outlet for all my anger to think that God would let this happen to my dad. Later to find out God had a bigger plan for our family than we could ever imagine. My father is the biggest example of how to fight back when you're at your weakest moments.
Athletics has been my main focus throughout my junior high and high school career. For a long time, the only reason I pushed myself academically was to “get by" so I could play basketball, football, and track. From an early age I learned that sports could be an outlet for my emotions, good and bad. Growing up in a military family was pretty tough, we never lived in the same spot for more than three years. Each time we moved, sports gave me a place where I could develop friends quickly. Being a part of a team, no matter where we lived helped me have solid friendships, education focus, and feel secure in who I was.
During my sophomore year I transferred from Butte Central to Valley Christian because we moved - again - for my dad’s work, but this time as a pastor of a church. With my insecurities still surfacing every day, I started Valley Christian the wrong way and began hanging out with the wrong crowd. It felt great to be accepted by everyone, but the people who reached out the most wanted to pull me down with them. During the beginning of my junior year, I truly realized that I’m better than that and God had more for me.
I am about to graduate this year with a 3.94 GPA and a very successful high school sports career. I have been selected to attend the state of Montana’s All-Star football game this summer and also made the 2021 All-Conference basketball team. Some of my other awards include a 2021 football leadership award. defensive player of the year, and three varsity basketball and football letters. Each summer, I also attended a 4H Leadership Academy where I learned leadership skills and how to overcome challenging situations with a team.
In conclusion, high school has not always been easy. My parents, teachers, coaches, and the strength God has given, I have been able to overcome. My goal is to be an example in my community and help others. Thank you KPAX for giving me this opportunity.