From left: Elmira's Jordynn Kurcoba and Sierra Barr; Elmira Christian's Emily Vincent.
From left: Watkins Glen's Keith Rekczis; S-VE's Megan Holman and Morgan Brock.
Top Drawer 24
Here is the 10th
annual Scholar-Athlete-Citizen Team of students
By Charlie Haeffner
ODESSA, May 27, 2015 -- It is time once again for an annual rite -- the unveiling of the Top Drawer 24 team. This is the 10th such team, and this year it is dominated again by seniors.
This time, 10 schools are involved: Watkins Glen, Odessa-Montour, Bradford, Trumansburg, Spencer-Van Etten, Elmira Notre Dame, Horseheads, Thomas A. Edison, Elmira Christian Academy and Elmira.
The Top Drawer honorees from those schools were selected by a committee and through administrative and teacher recommendations.
The Top Drawer program continues to maintain tradition by considering anyone in grades 9 through 12 as eligible for consideration. However, no freshmen made the team this year, nor in the prevous eight years. While one sophomore was on the squad in each of the past two years, none are this time. There are 18 seniors and 6 juniors among this year's honorees.
Committee members, in considering potential honorees, took into account academic accomplishments, achievements on the playing fields, and the ability of the students to engage the world through civic endeavors or to leave behind them positive consequences from their positive actions.
The team will be honored Monday, June 8 at the Watkins Glen State Park pavilion (near the south entrance). A social hour begins at 5:00 p.m. The weather won't alter the locale, since the site provides shelter.
Finger foods and beverages will be provided in a setting prepared by local school and park officials.
A traditional highlight will be a walk taken by the honorees with former Watkins Glen High School principal and former Watkins Glen School Board president Brian O'Donnell, who will impart wisdom to the students in private. Mr. O'Donnell has always played a key part in the Top Drawer program, and continues to do so this year, his role including the introduction of the honorees near the end of the ceremony. Each will receive a medallion and certificates of achievement from government representatives.
Emcee for the evening will be Renata Stiehl, news anchor on WENY-TV. Playing a key role will be Andy Malnoske, until recently a sports reporter on WENY and now working at a Syracuse TV station. Speakers include NFL Umpire Bill Schuster, Federal Judge Jeffrey Schmehl, and former Top Drawer honorees Katelyn Warren and Heidi Depue. (More about the speakers can be found at the bottom of this page.).
Andy Malnoske and Renata Stiehl
When we unveiled the first such team nine years ago, we did so in a low-keyed fashion, announcing its members publicly only after a party honoring them was held. Since those early days, we have announced the selections before the party, and are doing so again this year in order to encourage attendance by friends, relatives and coaches of the honorees, as well as attendance by administrators, School Board members, area dignitaries and the general public.
The honorees are encouraged to bring as many people with them to the celebration as they wish; there is no limit, and there is no charge.
Awards for the Odessa File Athletes of the Year at the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour High Schools -- plaques sponsored by the E.C. Cooper insurance firm -- will be presented before the Top Drawer ceremony begins.
And as in recent years, the annual Susan Award will be presented as part of the evening's ceremony. The award is named after Odessa File editor-publisher Charlie Haeffner's late wife, Susan Bauman Haeffner, and is presented each year to a student-athlete who embodies sportsmanship and -- in competition and in life -- a core of kindness. Past winners have included Sally Wilcox, Courtney Warren, Sophie Peters, Ian Remmers, John Blaha, Devon Shaw, Sam Richardson, Ashley Tieppo, April Ruda, Nicole Colunio, Felicia Johnson, Megan O'Dell and Joe Collins.
A group photo of the Top Drawer 24 honorees will be taken before the evening's speeches begin, and published on this website.
The selectees on the Top Drawer 24 team are as follows, by school and grade:
------ Top Drawer 24 ------
From left: Horseheads' Amanda Schiefen, Ben Clark, Mia Strollo; Edison's Josh Cosgrove.
Elmira Notre Dame
Elmira Christian Academy
Elmira City Schools
Thomas A. Edison
From left: Notre Dame's Allegra Dawes and Zach Brand, and Edison's McKenzie Slaven.
Thumbnail sketches of the honorees.
Hailie Searles is a senior at Odessa-Montour High School, where she is a High Honor student with a 95 average. She is a three-sport athlete, competing in soccer, basketball and track, the latter as a distance runner. Among her achievements: she holds the school Steeplechase record. She was co-MVP this year on the O-M soccer team and the MVP in basketball, and a member of The Odessa File All-Schuyler team in both sports. She was a Watkins-Montour Rotary Club Student of the Month, and is president of the National Honor Society, Student Council and the Senior Class. She is a peer tutor and a member of the Rotary-affiliated Interact Club, 4-H and a church youth group, and has participated in school musicals. She plans to attend Tompkins Cortland Community College to study Biotechnology before transferring to Cornell for Food Science while looking toward a career in Nutrition.
Callie Stillman is a senior at Odessa-Montour High School, where she carries a 3.7 Grade Point Average. She has competed in varsity soccer, basketball and track, and is a member of the Interact Club, the National Honor Society and the school's Leadership Group. She has received an Elmira College Key Scholarship, Coaches' Awards in soccer and track, Scholar-Athlete status for four years, and a Watkins-Montour Rotary Club Student of the Month award. She has consistently been a High Honor student cited for perfect attendance. She plans to attend Tompkins Cortland Community College, where she will study Liberal Arts. She plans to become a Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer.
From left: Odessa-Montour's Callie Stillman, Hailie Searles and Charles Sidle.
Charles Sidle is a senior at Odessa-Montour High School, where he is on the High Honor Roll and is a CTE Audio Media production student. He has put together a stellar senior season in sports, earning Odessa File All-Star status in swimming and track. He was captain of both the swim and track teams, and is a member of the Student Council. Outside of school, he has earned an Eagle Scout award in the Boy Scouts, and has operated the audio system for his church. He is also musically gifted, playing bass and guitar. He plans to attend Mercy College for Music Industry and Technology, hoping for a career as a Recording Engineer or Sound Designer.
Brandon Gould is a junior at Watkins Glen High School, where he carries a 90 average. He is a key member of the varsity lacrosse team, and a standout in wrestling, winning Section IV, Class C championships twice, qualifying for the State Tournament twice, and this year placing fourth at States at 126 pounds. A member of the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, he has twice been an IAC Most Outstanding Wrestler, a three-time Mike Watson Invitational Wrestling Tournament champion, and this year was the Campbell-Savona Holiday Tournament Most Outstanding Wrestler. He plans to wrestle at the Division 1 level in college and pursue a career in Engineering.
Madison Gates is a senior at Watkins Glen High School, where she is a High Honor student with a 96.96 average. She has been an All-Star in both soccer and basketball, and this year helped lead the basketball team to the Section IV, Class C championship. She is a member of Interact Club, Varsity Club and National Honor Society, has served as Student Council president and Class vice-president, and has been a member of a Hector Youth Group. She has received a Clarkson University Leadership Award, a George Eastman Young Leaders Award, and Odessa File and ESPN Ithaca Athlete of the Week honors. She also spent six weeks last summer in China as the selectee in an Americans Promoting Study Abroad and Corning Incorporated program. She plans to attend Cornell University and study Applied Economics and Management.
Rachael Bonning is a junior at Bradford High School, where she carries a 3.8 Grade Point Average. She plays three sports -- softball, basketball and soccer. She is a member of the Academic All-Stars as well as the Harvest Baptist Church Youth Group, and is a member of the school's Theatre, Chorus and Band. She has been honored with the Lyman Schiels Captains Award and medals for highest two-year averages in Math, English and Social Studies. She plans to attend Keuka College with an eye on a career in Occupational Therapy.
Ian Chedzoy is a junior at Watkins Glen High School, where he is a High Honor student and 10th in his class with a 94.77 average. He is a standout in three sports, earning Odessa File all-star status this year in football, wrestling and lacrosse. He finished second in his weight class in the Section IV wrestling tournament and competed in that sport at States, led the football team in tackles (46) and yards per carry (7.9), and led his lacrosse team in goals and ground balls. He is a member of Band and Chorus and of the National Honor Society, participates in a church youth group, and serves as a chaperone for Special Education children through the TIES program. In his spare time, he helps on his family's Angus Beef farm. He has no college plans yet, but hopes for a career in Engineering..
From left: Bradford's Rachael Bonning; and Watkins' Madison Gates and Brandon Gould.
Amanda Cherock is a Watkins Glen High School senior who is graduating a year early with a 91 Grade Point Average, and has been on the Honor Roll throughout high school. She competes in volleyball and softball, and was a key player on the Section IV, Class C basketball championship team this year. She was an Odessa File All-Star in both volleyball and basketball, MVP this year at the Watkins Glen Volleyball Tournament, and a five-year member of the softball squad. She embraces volunteerism, and traveled to Joplin, Missouri with her church group for a week to help rebuild the town following a tornado there. She plans to attend Keuka College for Business Management with a concentration in Accounting, and possibly play volleyball there.
Lucy Craig is a Watkins Glen High School senior, 15th in her class with a 94 average, who has competed on the swim team and track team, and is a standout bowler, leading a Section 4 all-star team into the New York State High School Bowling Championships this year. She has been an IAC and Odessa File All-Star in bowling, and has been Odessa File Athlete of the Week on multiple occasions. She is a Girl Scout nearing the Gold Award, a recent winner of a HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) competition in Biological Debate that has earned her a trip to a national competition in Anaheim, California, and a member of Music Club, National Honor Society, the National Technical Honor Society, the Interact Club, and Seneca Santa. She was honored recently as the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club Student of the Month, and is active in St. Mary's Church's youth group, community kitchen and adult choir. She plans to attend Mt. Aloysius College in Altoona, Pennsylvania to study pre-med, and hopes to become a pediatric surgeon.
Keith Rekczis is a Watkins Glen High School senior who is a High Honor student, carrying a 94.5 average. He is a member of the National Honor Society, and a standout in three sports, earning all-star status in football, basketball and golf. He gained more than 1,000 yards as a running back on the football team this year, earning Honorable Mention on the All-State team; and helped the Watkins basketball team to the IAC Large Schools championship and to the finals of the Section IV, Class C Tournament. He has been MVP of the golf team four times, reached the State golf tournament last year, was a five-time IAC First Team golf selection, and winner three times of the green jacket emblematic of the medalist in the Watkins Glen vs. Odessa-Montour golf match. He plans to attend Alfred University to study Mechanical Engineering and play football.
Sierra Barr is an Elmira senior who is the class salutatorian with a 98.5 average and a standout in soccer, where she was a four-year starter with a school-record 80 career goals and 39 assists. She led her team to three STAC West titles and two Section IV, Class AA championships, and was named three times to the All-State team. She does volunteer work at Arnot Ogden Medical Center, and is is a member of National Honor Society and HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America). She plans to major in Biology at Binghamton University with an eye toward going to Physician Assistant School.
From left: Trumansburg's Olivia Colón and Michelle Peterson.
Emily Vincent is a senior at Elmira Christian Academy, where she carries a 97 average and is captain of the soccer, basketball and volleyball teams and competes in track. She is president of the National Honor Society, the Student Council vice-president, and has been honored as a First Heritage WENY-TV Everyday Hero and a Kiwanis K-Dette of the Year. She has volunteered with The Arctic League and the Southern Tier Food Bank, helped assist flood victims in 2012, and has earned accolades as a member of a 2012 New York State gymnastics championship team from Elmira, as a basketball All-Star in the North South Christian Athletic Association, and by earning a Skills-USA State Championship in dental assistance. She will attend the dental hygiene program at SUNY Broome Community College with an eye toward a career in that field.
Zachary Brand is a senior at Elmira Notre Dame, where he ranks No. 1 in his class with a 97.53 average. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Head Judge of the Elmira City Youth Court, a member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and is in many clubs, including Quiz League, Math League and Go Green. He competes in soccer and golf, the latter as team captain. He has been the golf MVP twice, and recently earned a spot in the State Golf Tournament. He has been First Team All-League for golf three times, and Second Team All-League for soccer. A member of the Notre Dame concert band, he has won such honors as the Elmira Key Club Award, the University of Rochester Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award, and the Notre Dame Faculty Merit Award, as well as a National Merit Scholarship Program Letter of Commendation. He plans to attend Williams College in the pre-med program, likely studying Biology.
Allegra Dawes is a senior at Elmira Notre Dame, where she has been on the High Honor Roll for 13 quarters and carries a 95.91 average. She is a member of the National Honor Society and the Go Green and Adopt a Highway programs, as well as the Notre Dame Key Club, where she volunteers for Christmas shopping with the elderly and raises money for food banks. She has been captain and MVP of the school's soccer.team, and competed in Indoor and Outdoor Track, coming in sixth place in the State in the 1600 Meter Relay outdoors. She volunteers at her church as an altar server and reader, and has volunteered in political campaigns for judge and Congress. She plans to attend Union College and major in Economics, with a minor in Political Science.
Josh Cosgrove is a senior at Thomas A. Edison High School, where he carries an 87 average and competes in three sports: football, basketball and baseball. He has been a Twin Tiers All-Star in football, as well as an Ernie Davis Award finalist; a 1st Team All-IAC All-Star twice in baseball, a Brad Sanford Award winner in basketball, and the Colucci Award winner as the best player in Babe Ruth baseball. He is Student Council treasurer, and has donated his time to the Arctic League and the Fielders Choice Baseball Academy. He plans to attend Onondaga Community College, majoring in Computer Forensic Science.
Michelle Peterson is a Trumansburg High School senior who carries an 87.9 average. She is a member of the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) Club and of the Vitamin L Chorus, and provides community service to her church. She is a three-sport athlete, competing in volleyball, basketball and softball, earning IAC Second Team All-Star status in volleyball this year as her team posted an unbeaten regular season, won the IAC Large School title and reached the Section 4, Class D semifinals. She also has earned awards for sportsmanship, academic excellence in writing, and excellence in mathematics. She will be attending Nazareth College to study Speech Therapy.
McKenzie Slaven is a junior at Thomas A. Edison High School, where she carries a 92 average and excels in two sports -- volleyball and softball. She was the IAC Large School South Division MVP in volleyball this year, was co-MVP on the school's softball team in 2014, and was a First Team All-State pick in softball after her team won the Class C state title in 2014. She is a member of National Honor Society and Key Club, is Class Secretary and a Junior Rotarian, and was named a First Heritage WENY-TV Everyday Hero. She volunteers her time for Arctic League packaging, and takes the elderly on shopping trips. With a year remaining in her high school career, she is undecided on where she will attend college.
Benjamin Clark is a junior at Horseheads High School, where he carries a 94.1 Grade Point Average and is a member of the National Honor Society. He competes in two sports: football, where he is the team quarterback and an Ernie Davis Award nominee, and basketball. As quarterback, he completed 98 of 214 passes this past season for 1,653 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for four TDs. With a year remaining in his high school career, he has not yet decided on which college to attend, but is looking toward a career in Engineering.
Amanda Schiefen is a Horseheads High School senior with a 3.6 Grade Point Average who competes in volleyball and basketball. She is a member of the Varsity H Club, National Honor Society, and the Big Flats Community Youth Organization, and is a Youth Leadership Conference participant. She has been an All-State selection in basketball three times, including a Second Team pick in 2015, and was the Section IV, Class AA Player of the Year and Corning Leader Player of the Year three times, as well as receiving other honors. She scored 1,000 career points and grabbed more than 700 rebounds while leading the Horseheads basketball team to five straight Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Divison titles, along with three Section IV championships in a row. She plans to attend Canisius College, and play basketball there.
From left: Watkins Glen's Amanda Cherock, Ian Chedzoy and Lucy Craig.
Mia Strollo is a junior at Horseheads High School, where she carries a 3.9 Grade Point Average and participates in soccer, basketball and lacrosse. She is the Varsity H Club vice president and a member of National Honor Society, the Soaring Capital Soccer Club, and Southern Tier Elite Lacrosse. She was a First Team All-Conference pick in soccer in 2013 and 2014 and an All-Leader selection in soccer both years, has been a state Scholar-Athlete for four years, and has been on the High Honor Roll for four years. While a year remains in her high school career, she plans to study nursing in college, where she would also like to play soccer.
Olivia Colón is a senior at Trumansburg, where she is a High Honor student at the top of her class with a 98.26 average. She is a member of National Honor Society, a School Board student representative, treasurer of both the Student Council and the Class of 2015, the SADD Club secretary, an Empire Girls State Alumna, and recipient of a Clarkson University High School Achievement Award. She was an IAC First Team All-Star, team captain and Sportsmanship Award winner on the school's volleyball team, which won the IAC Large School championship in 2014, and an IAC First Team All-Star and team captain on both the Indoor and Outdoor track teams. She volunteers at the local Food Pantry, helps coach youths in track, assists with the blood drive at school, and is a member of the school's Band Ensemble and Jazz Band Ensemble. She will attend Swarthmore College this fall, with a plan to study Neurology and minor in Gender Studies.
Megan Holman is a senior at Spencer-Van Etten High School, where she is Valedictorian with a 98 Grade Point Average. She is a member of National Honor Society, Key Club, Band and Drama, is a Class officer and a member of Student Council, and competes in three sports: soccer, basketball and track. She is a Mark Twain Scholar, received a Finger Lakes Top 10% Scholarship and a George Eastman Young Leaders Scholarship from the University of Rochester, and received Academic Recognition in all subjects from grades 9 to 12. She plans to attend either Ithaca College or Alfred Universtiy to study Physics and Astronomy.
Morgan Brock is a senior at Spencer-Van Etten High School, where she carries a 97 Grade Point Average. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club, and Band, and is a Class officer. She competes in three sports -- field hockey, basketball and softball -- and academically has received the Clarkson Leadership Award, the Finger Lakes Top 10% Award, and the Sage College Award. She is a Mark Twain Scholar, and received Academic Recognition in all subjects from grades 9 to 12. She plans to attend St. John Fisher College and study Business.
Jordynn Kurcoba is a senior at Elmira High School. She is in the top 10 percent of her class with a 96 Grade Point Average. She has participated for four years in cross country, indoor track and lacrosse, and was a division All-Star and the school career scoring leader in lacrosse with 62 goals and 74 points. She is the historian of the school's Interact Club, the Senior Class vice president, and a member of the National Honor Society. She plans to attend Bloomsburg University to play lacrosse and major in exercise science with an eye toward becoming a strength and conditioning coach.
That's all of them -- two-dozen notable people who share at least one thing in common: by excelling in unique and impressive ways, they have earned the admiration of the selection committee and a seat on this team.
They have successfully embraced many athletic, academic and social opportunities in high school, and thus prepared themselves for life's many challenges.
The lineup of speakers:
NFL Umpire Bill Schuster, right, observes the key moment in the Seattle-New England Super Bowl -- the interception by Malcolm Butler that sealed the Pats' win. (Photo provided)
National Football League Umpire Bill Schuster
Bill Schuster, a National Football League umpire since 2000, is one of the evening's key speakers.
Schuster, a native of Livonia, New York -- where he resides with his family and owns an insurance agency -- was a two-time football All-American wide receiver during his four years (1976-79) at Alfred University, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Business. He once held the school record for career receptions, and was named to the school's Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.
Schuster, who umpires approximately 15 games per NFL season, was on the field when the New England Patriots' Malcolm Butler intercepted Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line in the closing moments of the last Super Bowl, won by the Patriots.
Other career highlights:
2003 -- officiated his first NFL playoff game, a Wild Card match between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers;
2012 -- officiated the AFC Divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos;
2012 -- served as an alternate official for Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots;
2014 -- officiated the NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Seattle;
2015 -- officiated the 2015 Super Bowl.
Federal Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl
The Honorable Jeffrey L. Schmehl, the eldest son of Louis H. Schmehl and Adeline J. (Scioli) Schmehl, is a native of Berks County, Pa., having grown up in Exeter and Shillington.
He graduated from Governor Mifflin High School, Dickinson College and the University of Toledo School of Law, receiving a Juris Doctorate in 1980. He was admitted to the Berks County Bar and the Pennsylvania Bar in 1980.
He has held the following positions: Assistant Public Defender, Assistant District Attorney, Berks County Solicitor, and Berks County Judge. He was also in the private practice of law by himself from 1981 through 1986 and was a partner in the Reading law firm of Rhoda, Stoudt and Bradley from 1986 through 1997. Judge Schmehl’s emphasis was on both civil and criminal litigation. As an attorney, he was admitted to practice before all Pennsylvania Courts, the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
In 1997, he was elected to the position of Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Pennsylvania. In 2007, he was retained for a second 10-year term. He had handled both criminal and civil trial matters. In 2008 he was elected by his fellow Judges to serve as the President Judge of the Berks County Court. He had previously served as the Administrative Head of the Berks County Court’s Civil Division. Judge Schmehl also has served as an Adjunct Professor at Alvernia University since 1998. He also served on the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges Executive Committee, the Commonwealth Partners Committee and most recently the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges Education Committee.
Judge Schmehl was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in November 2012 and he was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 13, 2013 and commissioned on June 27, 2013. He is currently a Commissioned Federal Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, sitting both in Reading and Philadelphia.
He is also the recipient of the Berks County Prison Society W. Richard Eshelman Award, the Berks County Bar Association Liberty Bell Award and the Cumru Township Outstanding Citizen Award.
Judge Schmehl, who has been actively involved in community activities with an emphasis on the coaching and teaching of Little League sports, is married to April Reed-Schmehl and has three children, Kristin L., Keith J. and Kurt A.
Former Top Drawer honoree Katelyn Warren
Katelyn Warren -- a member of the 2014 Top Drawer 24 -- is the daughter of Mike and Connie Warren of Elmira Heights. She has one sister, Elizabeth.
Katelyn is a 2014 graduate of Thomas A. Edison High School and now attends Keuka College in Penn Yan, NY, where she is an occupational therapy major.
While in high school, Katelyn competed in volleyball, basketball and softball. She was a member of the Class C state champion volleyball team in 2010 and the 2014 Class C state champion softball team. She was named to state teams in both volleyball and softball and was the 2014 Class C Softball Player of the Year.
During her high school career, she was involved in a variety of clubs and activities and also maintained a High Honor Roll average, all while taking AP courses.
In keeping with a growing trend in which Top Drawer honorees go on to compete in two college sports, Katelyn in her first year at Keuka College has played volleyball (as a middle hitter, earning Rookie of the Year accolades) and softball (as catcher, winning designation as the conference Rookie of the Year after hitting .437), and has become part of the first sister pitcher/catcher duo in Keuka College softball history.
Former Top Drawer honoree Heidi Depue
Heidi Depue -- a member of the 2014 Top Drawer 24 -- graduated from Twin Tiers Christian Academy in Breesport, NY in 2014 with a grade average of 98, third in her class. She was the Student Body President, a Worship Team Leader, a member of the National Honor Society, the Class Treasurer and the school's 2013 Student of the Year, and sang in the church choir. She was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, soccer and volleyball, earning All-Star honors in basketball and soccer, and a League Most Outstanding Player designation in soccer.
She has finished her second semester at Corning Community College and is transferring to Summit University, previously known as Baptist Bible College, in Clarks Summit, PA to complete her Associates in Business Administration. She is looking forward to playing on the women’s soccer team at Summit, and as a career goal wants to be part of "a large organization that changes lives for the glory of God."
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Odessa, New York 14869