Two Shawnee grads earn Jack Fox sportsmanship awards

Honor goes to students who exemplify highest qualities of athletes.

The two winners of Shawnee’s Jack Fox Sportsmanship Award shied away from putting themselves in the spotlight as they reiterated individual success starts on their respective teams.

The awards to Erin Florio, varsity softball and basketball player, and Daniel Kaighn, varsity soccer and track athlete, were announced on the high school’s Twitter account May 29.

“I am thankful I am to be recognized for this award, because it goes farther than being an athlete,” Florio said in an email to The Sun. “It has to do with what kind of a person I am and how my peers feel about me, which is what I am far more honored for.”

Shawnee described the late Fox, a school hall of fame honoree in 2007, as the institution’s own  sports nut, who would arrive 15 minutes early to games for conversations with friends, coaches and athletes before claiming a spot in the audience.

“He started the first Shawnee Athletic Booster Club with Bob Meyer, Sr. as president and himself as vice president under the guidance of Shawnee’s first principal, Gordon Galtere, and Athletic Director Tom Tofaute,” the school’s website reads.

Fox died on Nov. 12, 2007, and the award established in his memory honors Shawnee athletes who exemplify the highest qualities of an athlete.

Both Florio and Kaighn were chosen by all of the coaches at Shawnee for being selfless on their teams and for each being one of the first to reach out to opponents when an injury or tough moment occurred.

“It means a lot for me to be a team player,” Kaighn shared in an email to The Sun. “The team is never going to achieve goals without teamwork and everyone being team players.

“You need to push each other to get better and that’s how the team moves forward.”

Florio has enrolled at Penn State, Kaighn at Virginia Tech. The two Shawnee graduates aspire  to play their beloved sports in college for club or intramurals, but not professionally. Moments of high stress during school marquee games tested both athletes’ abilities as they called on their teammates to band together and focus on why they play.

There were tough losses during the Renegades’ 2019-2020 basketball winter season and ensuing Group VI championship title run. Florio saw herself rising above wins or losses to address her teammates in the locker room.

“In these moments we would talk and find ways to become a better team together,” she recalled. “I always told the team to keep pushing, to remind yourself why you are here and to have a purpose.”

Both athletes’ sports careers were not merely about interactions with teammates, but also the ability to extend an arm to an opponent when needed.

A fall soccer game against Bishop Eustace included a Shawnee striker who collided with a  Eustace goalie, sending the latter to the hospital with a concussion. What followed was team captain Kaighn and the rest of the soccer team gifting the injured goalie with a jersey from his favorite team.

Florio noted a person with good sportsmanship shows respect and consideration to both the game and the opposing team. She also explained that becoming an athlete and captain meant  learning from previous captains and those who worked the hardest, rather than those with the most talent.

Kaighn noted that striving for team success, along with the dynamics of sports, established the qualities they saw in themselves in others as well.

NCAA-sanctioned sports are not in the graduates’ college plans, but other goals are.

“Virginia Tech stresses a great sense of community and that is one thing that made me choose it,” Kaighn noted. “In college, I hope to get involved with the Big Event, an event where Virginia Tech students volunteer in the town of Blacksburg and Engineers without Borders. In these, I will work in groups to make a difference in the world.”

“Sports have taught me that when you give something all your hustle and heart, success will come,” Florio mentioned. “It is never easy, but it is always worth it. They have taught me that when you respect the game, it will respect you back.

“These are lessons I learned as a player, but intend to take off the court and field.”