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Scholar Athlete: Taylor wins Lindy Challahan scholarship

Cathedral High School senior Pepper Taylor has been able to maintain a strong GPA in school while playing soccer, running cross country and track and finding time for some of her hobbies, including photography. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Cathedral High School senior Pepper Taylor has been able to maintain a strong GPA in school while playing soccer, running cross country and track and finding time for some of her hobbies, including photography. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Pat Sanguinetti assured his senior nominee that she would receive statewide recognition.

Cathedral High School senior Pepper Taylor was selected as the school’s female representative for the Lindy Callahan Scholar Athlete Award. And Sanguinetti, the school’s principal, said he knew Taylor was a shoe-in to win the statewide award.

“When you look at her record and ACT score, I told her there’s no chance or prayer that she doesn’t win it,” Sanguinetti said.

And after returning from spring break in early April, Taylor heard the good news. She was one of 16 Mississippi High School Activities Association student-athletes selected in the state for the $5,000 in scholarship money. Taylor was the female representative of district seven.

“It was really such an honor to receive it,” Taylor said. “‘Ecstatic’ is a good word to describe it, and I was very proud, both with my performance in sports and academics. I’m proud to represent my school.”

The Lindy Callahan Scholar Athlete Award grants $5,000 in scholarship money to each of the 16 MHSAA student-athletes — a male and a female from each of the eight districts — that are selected. And Taylor proved deserving with a 4.3 grade-point average and a 29 ACT score, all while balancing between cross country, soccer and track and field.

“It’s an extreme honor for her,” Sanguinetti said. “Not only are (the recipients) athletes, but they’re all academically at the top. I think the number is 1 percent of people making a career out of athletics. Academics are how most of them will achieve success.”

In addition to sports, Taylor is a member of the Catholic Youth Organization, the Key Club and National Honor Society, and is a yearbook photographer, a Vacation Bible School leader and a peer ministry leader.

Taylor said her accolades are the result of a lot of hard work and late nights, but she doesn’t regret the time she put into both school and sports.

“My goal was to make straight A’s in high school, and you do have to make sacrifices,” she said. “It’s hard, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s always good to challenge yourself.”

Though she doesn’t have a favorite sport between the three in which she competes, Taylor said she’s glad she chose to participate in all three.

“Every team I’ve been on has been like a family,” she said. “Each one is different, but they’re all special. I grew close to teammates and coaches that I never would have grown close to without my teams.”

After moving to Natchez in fifth grade, Taylor attended the same school her mother did and quickly fell in love with the small-town life, she said.

“It was cool to carry on that legacy, and (Cathedral) definitely shaped me into who I am with the academics, clubs and sports,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be hard leaving, but I’ll try to take everything I’ve learned here into the future.”

Sanguinetti said he’s enjoyed having Taylor as a student at Cathedral and that she would be greatly missed.

“She comes from a great family,” Sanguinetti said. “Her parents expect nothing but the best from her, and that’s what they’ve got. It’s been a blessing to have her.”

Taylor plans to attend Mississippi State in the fall. Though her major is undeclared, Taylor said she’s leaning toward going into a biology field — and maybe one day studying dentistry. She is the daughter of John and Kay Taylor.