Grace Cousins and Michael Peters are this year’s winners of the Centre Daily Times’ James Snyder Award from St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy.
For more than a half-century, the award has been given annually to Centre County’s five public schools. This is the second year the honors have been given to SJCA students.
“I was happily surprised by it,” Peters said of earning the award. “I thought it was really cool. It means a lot to me. Running at St. Joe’s, I feel like I’ve developed a lot, and that shows how I’ve developed academically and athletically at the same time.”
The award, sponsored by the Centre Daily Times, is given in memory of Snyder, a former CDT sports editor, who was killed in an automobile accident in December 1957.
The honors are presented to male and female letterwinners, who demonstrate excellence in the classroom as well as being a model citizen in the community.
Cousins has proved herself academically and athletically. A letterwinner in cross country and indoor and outdoor track & field, she helped SJCA win its second straight PIAA title in cross country with a time of 21:49 in November.
But Cousins said the athletic achievement she’s most proud of is reaching states the way her and the Lady Wolves did.
“We ran with the same inspiration,” Cousins said of this year’s team, comparing it to SJCA’s 2015 state title squad. “We were all such a close family.”
She’ll be continuing to compete at the next level, too. Cousins is attending Savannah College of Art and Design, and while studying illustration, she’ll be running for the track and cross country team in Georgia.
In terms of extracurriculars, Cousins was involved in the art club, served as the student curator of the SJCA Art Show, and is responsible for the designing SJCA logos.
Cousins said early in her high school career she was shy and “didn’t like to take bold steps.” But that’s changed, thanks to lessons from her parents, sisters, coaches, and friends, as well as Cousins’ initiative.
“I am most proud of being able to attend Savannah College of Art and Design, which has been my dream school since fifth grade,” Cousins said. “School has always been hard for me, and I’m so excited to be able to do creative things and learn more about what I love.”
Peters has been a successful athlete for SJCA, as well, lettering all four years for the indoor and outdoor track & field teams in addition to running cross country.
Peters is particularly proud of three athletic achievements: making the PIAA tournament his sophomore season as a member of the 4x800 relay team, breaking 17 minutes in the 5k as a junior and surpassing the 2-minute threshold in the 800-meter on Tuesday at the District 6 Championships.
The time of 1:59.39 landed Peters in third place, good enough to qualify for next weekend’s PIAA Championships at Shippensburg.
When his time running for SJCA is up, Peters isn’t sure if he’ll continue competing at the next level. He’ll attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute outside Albany, N.Y., and study computer science — a passion of his for years.
“In eighth grade, I was messing around with computer stuff and was watching a YouTube video of a guy explaining how he made a chess program,” Peters recalled. “That got me into thinking computer science would be an option.”
Peters, who owns a 4.02 GPA, was also a member of the math club — and, like he did on the track, performed well. At this year’s IUP Math Competition, Peters placed 14th out of 280 competitors.
Like Cousins, Peters’ time at SJCA came to an end at graduation on Saturday. But his four years of competing — both athletically and academically — are filled with memories he’ll never forget.
And receiving that diploma from SJCA president Chris Chirieleison was the cap to a fine career.
“It’s gone from me being shy and to myself, not thinking I had much potential, to recognizing that I have fantastic abilities,” Peters said, “and trying to express those abilities by running well, doing well academically and competing in other activities.”
“When I received my diploma, it felt like it was something special going into my hand.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy Snyder Award Winners
2016 — Eli Urban, Jordan Wiser
2017 — Michael Peters, Grace Cousins