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Mackenzie Cunningham: CIF Athlete of the Year

Mackenzie Cunningham, an MC senior, tri-sport varsity athlete, and the MC’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2021, added to her impressive athletic record last week when she became the San Diego Section CIF Mission Federal North County Conference Female Winter Student Athlete of the Year. The long award title is indicative of the extensive list of accomplishments that Cunningham has achieved over the last four years; from award winning athletic expertise to academic excellence, Cunningham is truly a star student athlete. 

Cunningham and MC Girl’s Soccer Head Coach Danie Schelhorse | Phtot Courtesy of Mackenzie Cunningham

Her passion for sports stemmed from a young age. Cunningham stepped onto the soccer field at age two, picked up the softball bat at four years old, and made her way around the track when she entered elementary school. Constant activity and a growing love for athletics, allowed Cunningham to end her freshman year of high school as a tri-sport varsity athlete. That winter, she became one of two freshman varsity girls soccer players. There, she met MC English teacher and Girls’ Soccer Coach Danie Schelhorse who immediately saw the potential within her star ninth grader. As she coached Cunningham during her four high school soccer seasons, Schelhorse continually saw greatness within the young athlete, ultimately encouraging her to nominate Cunningham for this prestigious CIF award.  

“It is evident Mackenzie possesses all the physical characteristics as well as mental capabilities to succeed at the highest of levels in athletics,” Schelhorse said. “She displays phenomenal skill, agility, awareness and insight of the game of soccer, with an unwavering composure. Mackenzie is a natural-born leader and so obviously understands she cannot ask anything from others she does not already expect from herself.”

While she possessed great skill throughout the athletic realm, she stood out in the academic environment as well. Her hardworking attitude that she displayed throughout every aspect of her life led her to such academic success. By taking seven AP classes over the course of her high school career and finishing off her senior year with a 4.31 gpa all while exposing her great talent on the field, Cunningham clearly stood out as an exceptional student-athlete. 

Cunningham and her parents | Photo Courtesy of Mackenzie Cunningham

While innate talent and determination were definitely present during Cunningham’s success, the star senior is extremely thankful for all the support she had along the way that made such progress possible. 

“I would like to thank my mom and my dad for always supporting me, for signing me up for classes when I was younger because athletics has always been a huge part of my life […] one of them has always been at one of my games, or races, i’ve never been to one by myself, so i’ve always had that support system. And [my older brother] Tyler, because he’s always been that role model who is also an athlete and I always went to watch his games. And Coach Danie because she is the one that nominated me and she’s the one that wrote my letter for why I should be [given this award] and she has really done a lot to help me grow as a student and as an athlete,” Cunningham said.

Her exceptional athletic and academic success has made it evident that Cunningham’s is extremely deserving of this award. 

“Mackenzie holds herself to incredibly high standards while at the same time, she pushes herself to meet and surpass these standards in everything she does in both Athletics and academics,” Schelhorse said. “I have coached high school Girls soccer for the past 25 years.  One thing I noticed is that while young men are widely encouraged by society to compete and excel, it is often risky for young women to be willing to rise above their peers and strive to achieve the highest levels of success.  Mackenzie never once shrank from the intense competition that is a part of being a Student-Athlete; rather, she embraces the challenges and obstacles that came with attending such an esteemed high school and created her own path.”

Photo Courtesy of Mackenzie Cunningham

Her four years experiencing the extraordinary programs at MC have helped Cunningham solidify her future plans to continue on a similar journey. 

“I’m just going to keep working hard and trying to excel in both academics [and athletics] so that I can go into a profession that I want and maybe play soccer at the collegiate level. [I will be] going to Boise State, I am definitely going to play club soccer and might play on the team, still deciding on that one. And I plan to major in kinesiology to become a physician assistant coming out of college,” Cunningham said. 

Cunningham is a remarkable student-athlete who perfectly represents the Sundevil spirit and dedicated attitude. Coach Danie speaks for every one of Cunningham’s companions when she says “It’s been a genuine pleasure [working with] her these past four years and she will be sorely missed.”

Written by Roxy Hudson

Roxy Hudson is Co-Editor-in-Chief for the MCSun, and is going on her third full year of writing with the Sun Staff. She is a Senior runner for the Varsity Cross Country and Track Team and a member of MC's Varsity Soccer Team. When she is not spending her time running in circles on the track, Roxy is usually chilling on the couch with her two adorable chocolate labs or whipping up a tasty dish in the kitchen.

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