Greiner, Vasconez named Ottumwa’s top senior athletes

Morgan Greiner (left) and Caleb Vasconez (right) were honored on Monday night as the Ottumwa High School female and male senior athletes of the year during the 2019 Ottumwa A-Club banquet at the Tom Arnold Net Center on the campus of Indian Hills Community College.

OTTUMWA — Sydney Cormeny, Madi Wiley, Ellie Hammack. 

The past three Ottumwa A-Club senior female athletes of the year had something else in common. All three were, at one time, Ottumwa Bulldog softball teammates of Morgan Greiner. Greiner looked up to all three, learned from all three, and followed in their footsteps as the 2019 winner. Greiner was nominated along with girls basketball teammate Helen Altfillisch along with girls swimming and softball teammate Abby Bowers.

"I knew there were not a lot of senior female athletes that played more than one sport, but even the ones that have are very talented," Greiner said. "It's quite an honor. Madi and I were really close. Sydney and I have played softball together since we were little. It's really a great honor to win the same award they won.

"I'm glad we could keep it in the softball family. Hopefully, we can keep it there in the future."

It was an overall special night for Ottumwa softball at the annual A-Club banquet. Greiner and Kacy Nickerson were honored as two of Ottumwa's 14 student athletes to earn an all-state award. Greiner, Bowers and Nickerson were also three of the 13 varsity letterwinners honored from the team that went 28-12 last summer, coming within one win of a state tournament berth.

All 13 letterwinners, including eight starters, from last year return for the upcoming 2019 season. The Bulldogs open what could be a special season for the program on Friday, May 24, at home against CIML Metro conference rival Des Moines Roosevelt.

"We're ready to start playing. Practice has been going great, but you can never tell how good a team is going to be until you get on the field and play," Greiner said.

Head coach Frank Huston, who is preparing for his 46th season at the helm of the Ottumwa softball program, was also honored on Monday at the A-Club banquet. Huston became the first winner of the Dan Staggs award, given in honor of the longtime Ottumwa High School coach, official and instructor for the sport of tennis at all levels who passed away this past fall.

"We all joke on the team that Frank, at this point, is kind of like our grandpa," Greiner said. "He's such a phenominal coach. When he retires, if he ever does, I can't imagine anyone that's going to be able to fill his shoes."

Caleb Vasconez was honored as the 2019 Ottumwa High School male senior athlete of the year. Joining Vasconez as nominees for the award were Bulldog football teammates Caleb Barndt, Bryan Cordova, Ryley Hougland and Eli McDanel, all of whom have participated in a variety of different sports from track and field to wrestling. For Vasconez, his slate includes playing for the OHS football, boys basketball and boys tennis teams.

"I was pretty surprised. I didn't think I would win it. I figured some of the other nominees had a better chance," Vasconez said. "You just have to train your body differently for each sport. I just like sports. I think it's fun to try different challenges."

Vasconez and Greiner also were the recipients of the Tony Bishop Memorial scholarships, providing $500 to help pay for the college of an OHS male and female athlete that participated in football and boys basketball as well as softball and girls basketball. Vasconez also earned $750 from the Bernstein Memorial Scholarship, given to a football or boys basketball player that displayed citizenship, leadership, a desire to play the game and is supportive of their teammates.

"I just tried to play my role and, whatever I'm asked by my coaches to do, I just do it," Vasconez said. "It's a pretty special night all around. It's gone really fast. I seemed like, just yesterday, I was going to my first football practice this year before high school even started. I can't believe we only have one more week of school left."

Cordova also earned a pair of awards. After joining Lily Anderson as the two recipients of the Hicks award, determined by a vote of all OHS coaches as to who exemplifies athletics on and off the field, Cordova was awarded the Bernie Saggau award given to a student who best exemplifies a patriotic spirit, strong religious and moral convictions, living and professing qualities of honesty, integrity, and sportsmanship; believing that both games and life should be conducted by the rules.

"The Saggau award means so much. It takes an individual with high standards to win that award. It really shows that people think of me as a high-character guy," Cordova said. "I'm really thankful for the awards I received. I'm honored people think that highly of me."

Brandon Bone was given the Jeremy Allen memorial scholarship while David and Anne Weilbrenner were honored by the A-Club as the winners of the Gene Schultz Volunteer Awards. The Howard Eslinger Award was presented to Elliott Oil. The No. 1 Fan Award was given to Charlie Rooker.

The Soccer Award winner was Savannah Rupp, who has shined as a goalie and team captain for the Ottumwa girls soccer team. Rupp has not only made 87 saves in goal, but has brought the team together multiple times for encouragement during the course of her senior season.

"Being in the army, I already have a lot of my school paid for, but I thought about what it would mean to fill out the paperwork for the award and represent the girls on the soccer team," Rupp said. "It's definitely an honor to represent this program. The sport of soccer, to me, means more than just the game. The girls are the reason I love doing what I'm doing. That love is what really seperates it from anything else I've done."

Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.