HS Sports: Grand Oaks Honors Their Athletes with Signing Day Celebration

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 04/25/2024


SPRING, TX -- A large crowd of students, families, and coaches filled the Grand Oaks High School gym to support the signees honored by the Grizzlies as part of their Signing Day ceremony.

Five athletes were celebrated for their achievements on and off the field and their next step toward taking their skills to the next level. The students ranged from a Royal Pride Drill Team Dancer to members of the track and field squads and the football team.

Their contributions to Grand Oaks High School will be remembered by their coaches, but to some, their mark was made inside the classroom.

Braden McEldowney was celebrated as one of the best long snappers in District 13-6A last season, earning a 2nd Team All-District nomination for his hard work. But on top of his athletic achievements, Grand Oaks Head Football Coach, Shaun McDowell chose to highlight McEldowney’s academic prowess, allowing him to pursue a future at The United States Merchant Marine Academy for football.

“First and foremost, if you don’t get your academics in line, you’re not going anywhere,” explained McEldowney. “You have to lock that down first. Athletics come second, and it’s possible to be great at both. It’s not easy, but it leads to success because you get a better sense of accountability.”

McEldowney was joined by his teammate, Desmond Thompson Jr., who will take his talents to Benedict College with the hopes of dominating the defensive line at the college level. At the announcement of Thompson Jr’s name, a rocking cheer came from the vocal supporters who could not wait to see their teammate and family member begin his next steps.

“I have the best teammates in the world and the best family. Grand Oaks is where it’s at,” said Thompson Jr.

Thompson Jr’s supporters, in his mind, were the culmination of work put into being himself and not fearing what makes him who he is.

“If you’re just a great person, this type of support will happen,” said Thompson Jr. “Just be a great person and be yourself. Don’t fake it to anybody and do your job.”

Another pair of running mates were honored by Grand Oaks for their commitments, Jada Suarez and Grace Kowalski of the Lady Grizzly Track and Field team. Both hold multiple school records and have made their profound impact on the district known by their year-to-year control of their events.

More support rained from the stands at the announcement of Jada Suarez and her commitment to The University of North Texas where she will participate in the Mean Green’s track team. The stellar triple and long jumper knows that her family’s support and cheers of her friends will help to carry her along the way.

“It means a lot to me because I know I’ll always have people in my corner,” said Suarez. “They’ll support me if I ever go through anything rough, not just through the good times.”

Distance runner Grace Kowalski will also jump to the next level by joining the stout squad at The University of Texas. The future Longhorn hopes to take the time in Austin as a chance to improve on her already impressive times. Kowalski holds multiple school records for distance running, but her sights on better times fuel her in her hopes of achieving higher athletic standards.

“I feel like Texas is going to make me get under two minutes, that’s my ultimate goal as an athlete is to get under two minutes in the 800 [meter],” said Kowalski. “The best place I could do that is Texas. They run fast, all of their girls are fast, and they like to win.”

Kowalski will also be reunited with her sister, Sophia. The talented freshman and Grizzly product has made a name for herself as one of the premier pole vaulters on the Longhorn roster. Grace’s contributions to the team will surely make an impact that will propel herself and the future of Grand Oaks track products further into the stratosphere.

Also participating in the celebrations with loads of admiration and support was Alexa Miner. A swarm of Royal Pride Drill members flooded the floor to share their emotions with their former Captain. Miner’s journey to The University of Texas at Dallas will be accompanied by the memories of those she has danced with and all of the love she has received from her loyal family.

“Throughout the journey, having this kind of support team has been very important, because there are good and bad moments,” said Miner. “Having those people to fall back on and knowing there are always people standing behind me and my decisions has really helped me.”

Congratulations to the next generation of collegiate athletes for their contributions to Grand Oaks High School and for what their future endeavors have in store for them.

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