St. Louis Sports Commission’s Young Professionals Group Announces Recipients of 2023 Sportsmanship Scholarships

ST. LOUIS – May 22, 2023 – Imarion Griffin (Cardinal Ritter College Prep), Jack Burke (St. John Vianney High School), Anna Belle Wakeland (Grandview High School), Ava Hamilton (Belleville East High School), Ahren Muehleisen (Westminster Christian Academy), and Esther Pottebaum (John Burroughs School), are the recipients of the 2023 Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarships.  The scholarships are awarded by the St. Louis Sports Commission’s young professionals group – the Sports Commission Associates – and recognize high school seniors from the region who embody outstanding sportsmanship.  The six students were selected by the Associates’ scholarship committee, which reviewed nominations from throughout the St. Louis area.

Griffin, who will be graduating from Cardinal Ritter College Prep, received the top scholarship award of $15,000 in recognition of his extraordinary class, courage, and selflessness, even in the face of much personal adversity.  He will continue his education at Mid-America Nazarene University.

Burke and Wakeland each received $3,000 scholarships.  Burke is set to graduate from Vianney High School and will attend Quincy University.  Wakeland is graduating from Grandview High School and plans to attend Missouri Southern State University.

Hamilton is the recipient of a $2,000 scholarship.  She is set to graduate from Belleville East High School and will attend Northwestern University.

Muehleisen and Pottebaum each received $1,000 scholarships.  Muehleisen will graduate from Westminster Christian Academy and attend Montreat College.  Pottebaum is set to graduate from John Burroughs School and will play field hockey at Stanford University.

Bios highlighting all six scholarship recipients and the reasons for their selection appear later in this release.  Their photos are available at

The Sports Commission Associates created the Sportsmanship Scholarship in 2009 to recognize and reward local high school seniors for their kindness, integrity, selflessness, and civility in athletic competition.  The Associates have since awarded $207,500 to 61 college-bound students.  The scholarship program supports the mission of the Sports Commission’s affiliated St. Louis Sports Foundation, which celebrates and elevates sportsmanship in the community.  Candidates are evaluated strictly on their approach, character, and respect for others on the playing field – athletic performance does not factor in the selection – making the Sportsmanship Scholarship unique.

In addition to choosing the recipients of the scholarship, the Sports Commission Associates raise funds to maintain the program.  The Associates will host a golf tournament fundraiser on Saturday, July 22 at The Courses at Forest Park to support the scholarship.  More information on the golf event can be found at

The Sportsmanship Scholarship is named in honor of the late Carl Fricks, who embodied the virtues of sportsmanship.  Through this gesture, the Associates recognized the selfless efforts of Carl’s daughter, Holly Yoakum, who chaired the group and was a champion for the scholarship initiative.  Holly passed away unexpectedly in 2017, leaving so many friends and colleagues heartbroken.  The Sports Commission and the Associates are dedicated to honoring Holly’s memory and legacy by growing the Sportsmanship Scholarship and carrying out her passion for doing good in the community.

The Cardinal Ritter soccer captain has had to overcome more than his fair share of obstacles and challenges in his high school career.  Facing a litany of medical conditions, Imarion did not get discouraged or let the physical challenges slow him down as he worked harder than most to achieve on the soccer field and basketball court.  It also did not affect his sense of civility, fair play, and sportsmanship.  In a district soccer game, a defender tripped and fell, appearing to injure himself while Imarion was dribbling with the advantage toward the other team’s goal.  Realizing what had happened to the opposing player, Imarion stopped playing and ran back to help, putting the health of the injured opponent over the advantage he gained with the opponent’s fall.  Imarion’s coach observed him always shaking hands with the other team before and after games, never arguing with officials even if he disagreed with a call, and once allowing a player on an opposing team to wear his extra pair of cleats because the player left his cleats on the bus.  In the face of great personal struggle, Imarion has shown extraordinary courage, perseverance, and class in competition.

Competing in football, lacrosse, and wrestling at Vianney, Jack has displayed compassion and showed class both in victory and defeat.  What stands out most is how Jack exhibited those qualities even when he was sidelined with an injury.  Tearing ligaments in his elbow during a wrestling match, Jack sought out the opponent who had injured him, encouraging him to not let that unfortunate turn of events affect his performance in upcoming matches.  Despite his own disappointment in having his season ended with the injury, Jack was concerned about his opponent’s mental state above his own.

Described as a consummate good sport, Anna Belle’s Grandview High School softball coach Tim Winkler summed up her worthiness to receive recognition for her sportsmanship by saying, “I cannot give a specific example of when Anna showed good sportsmanship, integrity, compassion, respect, civility, and class.  That’s because all those characteristics are simply a way of life for her.  She has always shown sportsmanship; day-in and day-out.  I’ve never witnessed her showing displeasure with an official’s call.  I’ve seen her on numerous occasions help a fallen opponent to her feet.”  At a conference track meet, Anna Belle competed in the 400-meter race and after finishing the race, noticed one of her competitors had fallen and stayed down on the track.  She rushed over and picked her up, helping her walk off the track to get help.  She stayed with the opponent and encouraged her to keep working hard and competing.

Ava excels on the softball field, but her consistent character and sportsmanship shine far brighter.  Her coach at Belleville East, Natalie Peters, said, “Ava has tremendous relationships with all our local umpires.  I have never once seen her react in any negative way to a call that goes against her or her teammates.  The umpires know her by name, enjoy being around her, and always compliment her and her character when I speak with them.”  While she is respectful of officials and opponents, Ava’s compassion and selflessness to benefit other players on her team stand out as unique and special.  When a teammate reinjured her ACL and decided to play the season in a brace instead of sitting out another season, Ava knew this player could not play center field with the injury, so she volunteered to play out of position because she knew it was better for the team.  Coach Peters said, “In twenty years of coaching, I have never seen such a selfless and wise decision from a teenage athlete.”

Ahren is a swimmer at Westminster, and a competitive clay target shooter with a club outside of school.  Ahren has also proven to be the epitome of sportsmanship.  Whether it is thanking the officials after every meet or being the first person to check on an opposing swimmer who injured himself on the diving board before medical attention arrived, Ahren always keeps a positive perspective on what it means to be a good sport.  His trap shooting coach Jennifer Laurent said, “Ahren honors the game and is the first to assist scorekeepers that might have inadvertently scored incorrectly to keep the integrity and fairness of the competition intact.”  While it is common for other trap shooters to dismiss scorekeepers as hired entities and leave their empty hulls for others to pick up after competition, Ahren consistently models the more appropriate behavior of shaking hands with scorekeepers at the end of rounds and picking up anything left on the field.

Esther plays the right way every day.  Always gracious with opponents and officials, The John Burroughs field hockey standout has made a name for herself through her sportsmanship.  The director of athletics at her school, Peter Tasker, said, “Esther is a powerful exemplar of an athlete living our mission to compete with honor, which I have posited means picking up your opponent when you knock them down.  Not only does Esther pick up her opponent…she helps brush them off, makes sure they are healthy, and often apologizes whether she is at fault or not.  I have seen her get her goggles knocked off her head in overly aggressive plays by her opponent on many occasions.  She has never had a harsh word, a retaliatory gesture, or even a hint of negative body language in response.”