ORGANIZATION AWARDS $15,000 TO THREE AREA STUDENTS FOR EXEMPLIFYING CLASS AND CHARACTER ON THE PLAYING FIELD
ST. LOUIS – May 24, 2016 – Nick Alexander, Leeann Graff and Rolando Merriweather are the recipients of the 2016 Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded by the St. Louis Sports Commission’s young professionals group – the Sports Commission Associates – and recognizes graduating high school seniors from the region who embody outstanding sportsmanship. The three students were selected from more than 60 nominations.
Alexander received the top scholarship award of $10,000 in recognition of the class, humility and compassion that were hallmarks of his swimming career at Vianney High School. He will attend the University of Missouri. Graff and Merriweather each received scholarship awards of $2,500. Graff graduates this week from Pattonville High School and is enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University. Merriweather recently graduated from Cardinal Ritter College Prep and will continue his education at Missouri University of Science & Technology.
Bios highlighting all three scholarship recipients and the reasons for their selection appear later in this news release. Their photos are available at http://sportsmanship.org/stl-programs/sportsmanship-scholarship/.
The Sports Commission Associates created the Sportsmanship Scholarship in 2009 to recognize and reward local high school seniors for their integrity, civility, selflessness and compassion in athletic competition. The Associates have since awarded $60,000 to 23 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 scholarship unique.
In addition to choosing the recipients of the Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship, the Sports Commission Associates raise the funds to maintain the program. The group hosts an annual Trivia Night benefitting the scholarship. This year’s Trivia Night takes place on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Temple Israel in Creve Coeur. To register a team or obtain more information, call 314-345-5101. Information on the 2017 Sportsmanship Scholarship will be available next January.
In 2013, the Sportsmanship Scholarship was named in honor of the late Carl Fricks, whose daughter, Holly Yoakum, chaired the Associates group. Holly is a passionate champion for the scholarship, and her father embodied the virtues the award seeks to recognize.
2016 Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship Recipients:
The Sports Commission Associates awarded Nick Alexander their top Sportsmanship Scholarship honor for 2016. The Vianney varsity swimming captain will receive $10,000 to begin his college education. A four-time state champion, two-time All-American and holder of multiple Missouri swimming records, Nick is one of the best swimmers in the state. In fact, he will compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. Yet Nick’s speed in the pool is eclipsed by the class, humility and compassion that define his high school swimming career. In 2014, the Vianney swim team competed in the Lindbergh Splash Out Cancer Invitational. After winning a race at the meet, Nick walked over to a 5-year-old boy battling leukemia and placed the gold medal around his neck. The boy’s father said, “For a high school athlete to be so competitive on the one hand, and yet so caring on the other, just amazes me.” Nick has also earned the admiration of officials and opposing coaches. The biggest compliment to Nick’s selflessness came from a rival coach. Kevin Brennan, the head swimming coach at Chaminade, noted that Nick took the time to mentor one of his top swimmers even though they are competitors. For Nick’s nomination, Brennan wrote: “I believe the word that best describes Nick is class. He has always shown a class attitude towards everyone – his opponents, other coaches and officials. Few have done what he has done; and yet through his entire high school career he has handled himself with class.” Nick is continuing his education at the University of Missouri.
Leeann Graff competed in volleyball, tennis and soccer at Pattonville High School. Serving as captain of the varsity soccer and tennis teams, she took on a leadership role promoting sportsmanship among her teammates and throughout her school. Contributing to Leeann’s selection as a Sportsmanship Scholarship recipient was a commendable step she took after attending the Musial Awards, an annual event in St. Louis that celebrates the greatest moments of sportsmanship in North America. The stories of extraordinary sportsmanship inspired and motivated Leeann to do something in her school. She approached her athletic director, Bob Hebrank, with the idea to create Pattonville’s own sportsmanship award. “Leeann has come up with the nomination process for all of our coaches and she will be part of picking the best nominee to represent Pattonville,” Hebrank said. So thanks to Leeann’s doing, Pattonville is now annually honoring a deserving student-athlete for their commitment to class and character. Her effort to spread the Musial Awards’ mission to celebrate and elevate kindness, selflessness and civility in sports is a remarkable act of sportsmanship in itself. Leeann is continuing her education at Southeast Missouri State University.
A four-year varsity football player and senior team captain at Cardinal Ritter College Prep, Rolando Merriweather is a leader on and off the field. Rolando’s selection as a 2016 Sportsmanship Scholarship honoree comes on the strength of his actions during the high school football postseason. An opposing player had been injured on the field and suffered a concussion. After the game, as paramedics tended to the player, Rolando instructed his teammates to form two lines so they could shake the injured opponent’s hand as he was carried to a waiting ambulance. Rolando said he was glad the player’s parents saw that even the opposing team cared about their son. This act showed Rolando’s tremendous selflessness and leadership in an intense situation. Rolando is continuing his education at Missouri University of Science & Technology.