The 28th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, aired on June 21.
It's the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so Star Local Media has decided in recent years to put a high school spin on the concept.
This has been a year that nobody will soon forget with the COVID-19 pandemic touching every facet of life, including high school sports, which saw its athletic year truncated on March 12.
Though many of the spring sports were unable to complete their stories, Little Elm, Celina and Prosper all showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last year of local varsity sports into an award-winning perspective.
In recent weeks, those three schools’ top athletes, teams and games have been recognized among nine different awards.
With that said, Star Local Media presents its eighth edition of The Varsitys, the last of a three-part series.
Best Male Athlete
Karson Stastny, Celina boys basketball
Stastny has been a mainstay for this accolade since his sophomore year — a campaign that resulted in the Bobcats’ first district title since 1975 and the first of three consecutive district MVP accolades for the sharpshooter.
Stastny has only furthered solidified his status as one of the top basketball players to ever pass through Celina, taking the reins of the Bobcats and posting career numbers of more than 2,000 points, more than 500 rebounds and more than 500 assists.
Stastny was his usual dominant self as a senior, pacing Celina to a third straight district title on 16 points per game and helping the squad to a three-round playoff venture that doubled as the program’s longest since 2006.
With four four all-district superlatives — three MVPs and one offensive MVP — and multiple all-state selections under his belt, Stastny will continue his basketball career at Utah State.
Best Female Athlete
Aubrey O’Connell, Prosper cross country
O’Connell was one of the breakout stars of the 2018 distance-running season, placing third overall in state cross country and qualifying for the state track meet in the 1,600-meter run as a freshman.
Although O’Connell never got the opportunity to let her sophomore campaign on the track flourish beyond a few meets due to the pandemic, her work on the cross country course last fall was among the best in the state.
O’Connell won the first state title of her budding career after crossing the finish line first in the 6A final, running a season-best 17:06.00 to place more than six seconds ahead of second place. The then-sophomore enjoyed similar success at every other level of the postseason, guiding the Lady Eagles to team titles in district and regional competition.
O’Connell followed up that effort with a fourth-place finish at the prestigious Nike Cross Nationals South Regional meet and totaled four first-place finishes in her abbreviated spring on the track.
As much of a rousing success as the Eagles’ Class 6A debut was in 2018, tying for second place in District 9-6A and winning a playoff game, Prosper raised the bar for its program in a big way one season later.
The Eagles posted their deepest playoff run in a decade, advancing to the Class 6A Division I state quarterfinals for just the third time in program history and posting an 11-3 record that matched Allen as the winningest campaign by a 9-6A football team in 2019.
Prosper did so by averaging a staggering 37.6 points per game — no small feat considering the offense had to replace nearly all of its core skill position players from the year prior — and a defense that smothered opposing teams to just under 20 points allowed.
Posting a 5-2 record in district play, the Eagles parlayed that into three decisive playoff wins over Wylie (24-0), Mesquite (45-18) and The Woodlands (38-14) before dropping a 59-42 verdict to Rockwall.
Behind key returners like quarterback Jackson Berry, all-purpose back Tyler Bailey and linebacker Aidan Siano, Prosper eyes similar success as it transitions to District 5-6A alongside powerhouses Allen and Denton Guyer.