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After a series of inspirational speeches, top student-athletes from seven local schools were recognized Friday for community involvement, leadership and scholarship.
The Select Preps banquet, staged for the second consecutive year by The News-Enterprise at Severns Valley Baptist Church, honored students in 22 sports categories. The most prestigious honors, which capped the awards program, included a $500 college scholarship provide by the newspaper.
Central Hardin's Troy Squires and Elizabethtown's Mary Chapin Snow were named Athletes of the Year.
Squires, a two-sport letterman, who plans to play baseball at the University of Kentucky. He has a 3.5 grade-point average and his nomination also cited his personal fight to overcome Crohn’s Disease.
Snow maintained a 3.99 GPA at Elizabethtown while excelling in golf and tennis. She also served as Pep Club president and her community volunteerism includes work with Kids Cafe and the Salvation Army. She plans to enroll at Centre College and hopes to play tennis for the college team.
Central Hardin's Paige Dennis received the community excellence award based on her devotion to serving others. Among her community activities have been Toys for Tots, Warm Blessings soup kitchen, Wreaths Across American and the American Cancer Society. Her nomination said that Dennis “sets a high bar for others.”
The academic achievement award was presented to McConnell Scholar and North Hardin baseball player Aaron Vance. He also has served as an intern in the secretary of state’s office, class president and as a USA Cares volunteer.
All the Select Preps award winners and award sponsors will be featured in a special section to be published Friday in The News-Enterprise.
Before the award presentations, the program opened with a series of speeches encouraging the application of sports values in life.
Keynote speaker Ken Lolla encouraged players to imagine a bright future, put those goals in writing and develop plans to make them come true.
“Most people spend more time planning vacation than planning the direction of their lives,” said Lolla, the University of Louisville men’s soccer coach who developed the team into a Top 25 program.
Lolla presented the awards and posed for photos will all the recipients. He also sold copies of a children’s book he wrote after the banquet.
Todd Stewart, who became athletic director at Western Kentucky University last year, encouraged students to focus on career happiness rather than salary. He described his first job after college work for $15,000 a year with the Indianapolis Colts. Nine years and several small raises later, he became a key executive with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
His path to WKU involved taking a calculated risk by surrendering a comfortable position working in the Sun Belt Conference offices. Later when he was named interim athletic director, Stewart said his work ethic impressed leaders and he won the permanent promotion.
“Approach every single day like it’s the only chance you have,” Stewart said.
Matt Denham, a John Hardin graduate who was named Ohio Valley Conference first team as a running back at Eastern Kentucky University, was the initial speaker. The son of Paul and Kathy Denham of Rineyville, he talked about the path that took him from an academic scholarship and walk-in at the University of Kentucky to a top performer at EKU.
Ben Sheroan can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or email@example.com.