During graduation on Saturday, May 21, the Don Cunningham Memorial Awards were presented to two members of the Class of 2022 who lettered in three sports in their senior year and demonstrated talent, leadership, dedication and sportsmanship. The award was named for Don Cunningham, esteemed coach and director of athletics in the early years of St. Stephen’s, to honor outstanding student-athletes.
Field hockey, soccer and lacrosse athlete Zoe Schaffer was one of the most tenacious athletes that has donned a Spartan uniform. A competitor on a varsity team during every term of Upper School, Schaffer knows how to push herself to improve and how to bring her teammates along that journey as well.
"The week after her first season on Varsity ended, Zoe came to me with a notebook of questions and asked for feedback,” Field Hockey Coach Chelsea Richards recounted. “She genuinely wanted to know how she could reach her goals."
Soccer Coach Andy Aceves praised her versatility. "When we needed goals, Zoe was often the player to score them,” he said. “When we needed to defend better, she was often the player we would move to stifle our opponents. And when we needed more effort or energy, I could always point to her as the standard for her teammates to strive for."
Lacrosse Coach Emily Walling added, “Zoe has been a clutch player in numerous close games for our lacrosse team. She came up with huge saves when the team needed them most. Her passion and dedication to her team and competition was truly unmatched.”
As a four-year David Paschall Award winner and an All-SPC selection during her 10th, 11th and 12th-grade seasons in hockey, Schaffer’s contributions to Spartan programs stood out. St. Stephen’s field hockey, soccer and lacrosse programs were stronger because of leadership throughout the past four years. When Schaffer plays field hockey at Dartmouth College next year, her Spartan heart will undoubtedly go to battle for her new teammates in green.
The second Cunningham Award winner, Cooper Nichols, competed for the Spartans in football, soccer and lacrosse. This outstanding Spartan player bleeds purple and red; he is a fierce competitor who often wears his heart on his sleeve.
“Cooper would do literally anything for the team,” Football Coach Jay Patterson remarked. “No assignment was too insignificant or too much responsibility. I think it is fair to say our team’s success meant more to him than individual pride. He wanted us to be successful for the school and what St. Stephen’s means to him.”
Soccer Coach Wallis Goodman praised Nichols as well. “There is a strength to his presence that essentially adds maturity to the work of the entire larger group,” Goodman said. “He was a positive focal point during player gatherings before and after games. He was the one others expected to do the leading, even when not playing up to his own high standard.”
Lacrosse Coach Noah Fink added, “Cooper is obviously a great player. Every team we battled tried to neutralize his ability to score. If they gave him too much attention, he had the ability to recognize defenses and move the ball to other players to score. He had no ego attached to who got stats; he just wanted the team to win. Cooper was a challenge and a pleasure to coach at the same time.”
Nichols earned TAIAO All State for football, THSLL All State for lacrosse and All-SPC for soccer. Nichols will attend College of Wooster and represent the Fighting Scots on the lacrosse field next spring.