With five schools to pick from in the city and male and female athletes from over a 100 different teams over three seasons, it is rare that we would honor two student-athletes from the same school as our Athletes of the Year.
But we have done that before and we are doing it again.
Dan Emery and Lydia Drikakis, both graduated seniors from Lakeview, have been named as the male and female Enquirer Athlete of the Year for 2012.
Both are multiple sport athletes who are as good in the classroom as they are on the court or the field and are deserving of the Enquirer’s annual end-of-the-school year honor.
Emery was a standout in football and track for Lakeview and has committed to compete in the decathlon at Stanford University.
Drikakis was a three-sport standout her senior season at Lakeview, competing in volleyball, basketball and tennis and will play two of those sports – volleyball and basketball – at Olivet College next year.
This time last year, Emery might not have been the early choice to be the Enquirer Male Athlete of the Year, but the Spartan improved by leaps and bounds, literally, his senior year and ran ahead of the pack to get the honor.
Emery won city and conference titles in pole vault during his junior year and finished in the top 10 in the state. But during his senior season, he took those honors one step further and won two state titles in the pole vault (indoor season and MHSAA Finals) and broke the school record at an impressive 15-foot, 9-inches.
With those kinds of results, Emery also gained the attention of several college track coaches. Following offers from Michigan and Michigan State, he chose to accept a partial scholarship at Stanford, where he will compete in the decathlon.
Stanford also liked the fact that Emery had a 4.0 grade point average at Lakeview and had a perfect score of 36 on the math portion of the ACT.
“I never thought I could play sports at the Division I level, but once my numbers went out there, they all started calling. I was wondering if they had the right number, but I guess they all saw potential in me,” Emery said.
Emery raised the bar on his athletic ability with hard work and dedication, taking his skills to a new level during the summer AAU track season and the indoor track season – getting ready for the high school spring season.
It’s that dedication that seems to be one of the keys to his success.
“He really worked hard, getting himself in shape and with weight training and all things that go with that,” said Matt Miller, his football and track coach at Lakeview. “He put a lot of time and effort into his sports, especially the pole vault, and all of that hard work got him to where he was as a senior.”
Emery never hit the 15-foot mark in the pole vault until his senior year, but once he did, everything started to come together for him.
“It was during the indoor season when I went 15 feet and then everything started to click,” Emery said. “It just all took off from there, recruiting, getting better. Then the outdoor season came and nobody had really seen me at that level yet on the team. The very first meet, they were standing on both sides of the runway and cheering me on and I went 15-9 and broke the school record.”
Overall, Emery was team MVP for track in 2011 and 2012. He has six All-City titles (twice each in the long jump, high jump and pole vault), four conference titles and two regional titles (both in pole vault). After being the 2012 MITCA Indoor State Meet pole vault champ and the 2012 MHSAA Division I pole vault champ, he was selected to the Midwest Meet of Champions and later competed at nationals.
That well-rounded track resume is why Stanford sees promise for Emery in the decathlon.
“Being in the decathlon will be a tall task. I’m not just competing in sports and taking classes at Stanford, but I’m doing the decathlon, which means training for all those different sports, plus dealing with school,” Emery said. “People call me stupid for trying to do all of that, so I guess I will be the dumbest kid at Stanford.”
Beyond his track accomplishments, Emery was also All-City in football and all-conference, playing free safety and receiver for the Spartans. He led the team in interceptions and was the fourth-leading tackler on the squad.
“Football was a lot of fun, playing free safety, you are looking to make all the tackles. I was just foaming at the mouth to make a play every down my senior year. I never played football like that before, with so much passion,” Emery said. “Football was great. There’s nothing closer than a football team. When that ended, it was like a family being torn apart. I never really saw that coming, until it did, those emotions. It was all great, I love sports and it was great being at Lakeview.”
And it seems those feelings were shared by his coaches and teammates.
“Dan is just a great human being, a great person. He is everything you would want in a teammate and he was wonderful to coach. A solid young man who does everything right,” Miller said. “I know going forward, whatever he puts his mind to, Dan will accomplish. I won’t be surprised to hear about great things from him.”
Drikakis faced challenges throughout her high school career, but the determined Spartan never blinked in her efforts to chase her potential in three sports at Lakeview. It is the results of that dedication that provided for a standout career in her high school years and eventually getting her the nod at the Enquirer’s 2012 Athlete of the Year.
Drikakis was a three-sport standout at Lakeview.
But she was also a four-time patient for knee surgeries during her high school career, all the while dealing with having Type I diabetes.
Just getting through one season was a challenge at times for Drikakis due to injuries. And she didn’t realize her hopes of playing in all three seasons at Lakeview until her senior year. But in 2011-12, she made the most of her time on the Spartan volleyball, basketball and tennis teams – becoming highly decorated in all three sports.
“It was definitely different this year, getting to finally play all three sports. Over the years, it was so frustrating that injuries stopped me from doing that,” Drikakis said. “But every time I would get injured, I would just say to myself, get through this and you’ll be fine, you’ll come back and play again. And I was able to.”
Drikakis was a three-year varsity performer in both volleyball and basketball and a two-time MVP on her team in each of those sports. During her senior season, she also was a member of the state-finalist Lakeview tennis team, that finished in ninth in Division 2. She finished as an All-State honorable mention selection at No. 1 doubles with her partner Alisha Horan.
But all of that came as she missed parts of nearly all of those seasons, either being injured or rehabbing from knee surgeries.
“The character and the attitude, that’s where it all starts with her. Unfortunately in today’s world, that’s not always there with kids today, but it is with Lydia,” said Lakeview basketball coach Don Bussler. “Her physical body kind of let her down at times, but she just continued and persevered throughout all of those years. That inspired and motivated others.”
One of her best nights of her athletic career at Lakeview came on the basketball court as she set the school record for points in a game against Portage Central with 36.
“That was just an amazing night and it kind of happened right before our eyes without us even knowing it,” Bussler said. “Lydia got on the court and she was making everything. The other coach was putting everyone on her, using man-to-man, going zone, using all of his timeouts, nothing could stop her that night.
“And we weren’t even running up the score. We pulled her out early in the fourth quarter. I didn’t even know about the record at that point, but then we got done with the game and we looked at the stat line and we realized what she had done. In my 19 years coaching here I had never seen anything like that.”
Along with her MVP honors, Drikakis was also All-City and all-conference for two years in basketball as well as being named to the Academic All-State team with a 3.9 GPA. In volleyball, she was also All-City and all-conference her senior year as well as being named to the all-region team and earning Academic All-State honors.
In tennis, she finished first at regionals in doubles and earned all-conference as well as her All-State honors.
The girl for all seasons didn’t seem to play favorites when it came to earning honors in each sport.
“I go out every time and try to play for my team and if I play well and get some honors, that’s great, but my hope was always to make the team better, that was the biggest goal,” Drikakis said. “Every season was great. If you ask me during basketball season, I’ll say basketball is my favorite. If you ask me during volleyball, I’ll say volleyball, and all the way through the year. They are all kind of even.”
Adding tennis her senior season was a new experience, and she made the most of that, too.
“I was really into tennis when I was little. Then when I tried to play in high school, my injuries started and something would happen every year that I couldn’t play,” Drikakis said. “But this year turned out great for tennis. I had never been to a state level meet like that before in high school, so to experience that atmosphere was great and playing against the best teams in the state was really cool.”
At the college level, Drikakis is going to scale back, even if it is just a little bit. Her current plans are to play both basketball and volleyball at Olivet College.
“If my injuries don’t return, I plan on playing both. Don’t know what to expect at the next level, I just want to go in with an open mind and be ready for whatever comes,” Drikakis said. “The competition will be tougher, so I’m excited about that. Playing at college level will be challenging and fun.”
Challenges don’t seem to be a problem for Drikakis, who faced them throughout her four years, which gave her great accomplishments and great memories.
“Despite the injuries, I couldn’t not play sports. You get a different perspective sitting on the sidelines and that makes you want to come back and help your team even more,” Drikakis said. “Playing on a team and with all of my teammates is what I will remember most about high school. My teammates were always supportive, always helping me get through, helping push me. That’s the hardest thing about high school ending is the emotions of leaving my teammates.”
But leaving a legacy is how others will remember her.
“She’d come to our youth camps and a lot of younger kids wanted to grow up and be like Lydia and that says a lot,” Bussler said. “She spent a lot of time with those kids and that was real. That meant she belonged to something bigger than herself, that legacy is important in our program and our school.”