The Top Drawer 24 pose at Monday's celebration.
Top Drawer 24 honored
Speeches, awards mark 11th annual gathering
WATKINS GLEN, June 6 -- Two-dozen area high school students were honored Monday night at the Watkins Glen State Park pavilion as members of the 2016 Top Drawer 24 team of outstanding student-athlete-citizens.
It was the 11th annual celebration of the region's best and brightest student-athletes -- potentially its future leaders.
Each was presented a medallion along with certificates of achievement from elected representatives during the celebration, which was attended by honorees, family, friends and coaches. The certificates were provided by the offices of Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, State Senator Tom O'Mara and Congressman Tom Reed.
The Top Drawer team was selected by a committee based on a combination of academic, athletic, and personal achievements. The 24 attend the Watkins Glen, Odessa-Montour, Trumansburg, Spencer-Van Etten, Elmira Notre Dame, Elmira, Horseheads, Edison and South Seneca high schools, along with Twin Tiers Christian Academy.
As it is every year, the evening was highlighted by speeches -- this time by Pittsburgh Steelers Scouting Director Mark Gorscak, former three-time Top Drawer honoree Allison Stamp, and Penn State Altoona men's and women's volleyball coach Phil Peterman. Remarks were also issued by emcee Renata Stiehl, news anchor at WENY-TV; and by Craig Cheplick, co-founder of the Top Drawer 24 program.
The evening also saw awards presented by Mike Stamp, president of E.C. Cooper Insurance, to The Odessa File Athletes of the Year in the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour High Schools -- Gillian Clark at Odessa, and Ian Chedzoy and Patrick Hazlitt at Watkins Glen. Each is an All-Star athlete in three sports.
And as in recent years, the annual Susan Award was presented as part of the evening's ceremony -- this year to Horseheads student-athlete Brewster Marshall, who has battled an array of physical setbacks, including one that prevented his attendance at Monday's ceremony. The award was presented on his behalf to the Horseheads students being honored on the Top Drawer team: Mia Strollo, Rachel Stermer, Marianne Cites and Ian Cook.
The award -- given each year to a student who exhibits sportsmanship not only on the playing field, but in the game of life, often while facing adversity -- is named after Odessa File editor-publisher Charlie Haeffner's late wife, Susan Bauman Haeffner. The award was instituted tin 2005, the year after she lost her battle with cancer. 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.
The second annual Lifetime Achievement Award in coaching was presented by Cheplick to longtime Elmira Notre Dame football, basketball and golf coach Mike D'Aloisio. He told the honorees that in life, "what we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others remains."
He said he had been impacted in particular by two people in his life -- Heisman Trophy-winning football player Ernie Davis and Notre Dame standout athlete Joel Stephens, both of whom died early of rare diseases. They were notable, he said, "for the way they treated people, how they made other people feel important, how they lived. They were the gold standard of human beings."
And he quoted a poem he said was recited to him by the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, in which the narrator, asked "why I teach and coach," answers: "How else could I be around such splendid company?" Added D'Aloisio: "I'm pleased to be around the Top Drawer 24."
An Appreciation Award was also given to the evening's keynote speaker, Gorscak, who had been the keynoter at two previous Top Drawer ceremonies, and loves the program and speaking to the honorees.
His theme in Monday's keynote was the creativity and ultimate drive delivered to a young boy (and symbolically to the Top Drawer honorees) in the form of a little red rubber ball, as outlined (he later explained) in a book by Kevin Carroll called "Rules of the Red Rubber Ball; Find and Sustain Your Life's Work." And in a small bag Gorscak was carrying was, indeed, a small red rubber ball that he extracted and bounced a couple of times to emphasize his point.
The red rubber ball, Gorscak explained, is "a power object" that equates to a dream that anyone with creativity and drive can follow. In the case of Kevin Carroll, he said, he was given such a ball and sent to the park as a boy to keep him occupied. And it was at the park where he practiced throwing the ball against a wall, and found friends, and formed teams, and started using other balls -- baseballs, basketballs, soccer balls and the like, until sports were his passion. That ultimately led not to a life as a professional athlete -- an injury prevented that -- but to a career as a college athletic trainer and NBA sports medicine director, and then to a "bigwig" position with Nike.
"That's what you're doing," he told the night's honorees. "You're chasing a red rubber ball. That's your dreams. Do not seek comfort ... be creative ... Chase the little red rubber ball."
In her speech, Stamp told the honorees about her experience sitting the bench in college as a soccer goalie at SUNY Geneseo, and how despite the frustration she kept working until, in her senior year, she started and excelled, helping her team to a championship and post-season play.
"All your hard work is worth it," she said "You don't do it for recognition," but instead are "driven by internal motivation ... that not everybody is granted." Ultimately, she added, "it is up to you to study hard and work hard in whatever your next step is. Don't ever lose that fight within you. Keep pushing yourself." And, finally, "never settle."
Coach Peterman, meanwhile, said that everyone meets adversity along their chosen paths, and told the honorees: "You have to overcome in order to become."
And he quoted in part a Tim McGraw song, Humble and Kind:
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When you get where you're goin
Cheplick told the honorees that while the evening's speakers were patting them on the back for their achievements, "I also tell them to challenge you. We're missing leadership; we need it. Be a real leader, not a fake one. We need you."
Photos in text:
Top: The four honorees from Horseheads High School. From left: Marianne Cites, Ian Cook, Rachel Stermer and Mia Strollo.
Second: Keynote speaker Mark Gorscak, director of scouting for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, reaches in a bag carrying a red rubber ball.
Third: Speaker and former three-time Top Drawer honoree Allison Stamp. (Photo by Mike Stamp)
Fourth: Longtime Notre Dame Coach Mike D'Aloisio, left, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from Top Drawer co-founder Craig Cheplick.
Fifth: The three honorees from Elmira Notre Dame. From left: Alivia Clark, Mackenzie Maloney and Mia Herlan.
Sixth: Speaker Phil Peterman, men's and women's volleyball coach at Penn State Altoona.
The selectees on the Top Drawer 24 team are as follows, by school and grade:
Elmira Notre Dame
Twin Tiers Christian Academy
Thomas A. Edison
Elmira High School
For thumbnail sketches of the honorees, click here.
More photos from the Top Drawer 24 party
From left: Ashley Schouten (Twin Tiers Christian Academy), April Dunn (Odessa-Montour) and Trevor Rumsey (Trumansburg).
Left: Maggie Bond (Watkins Glen). Right: Sarah Albro (South Seneca)
From left: Katherine Meehan (Watkins Glen), Chris Becker (Thomas A. Edison) and Joe Cerio (Elmira). (Left photo by Mike Stamp)
Left: Brandon Gould (Watkins Glen) receives congratulations from Craig Cheplick. Right: Keynote speaker Mark Gorscak and his red rubber ball. (Both photos by Mike Stamp)
From left: Sage Garrison (Odessa-Montour), Abbey Wheeler (Elmira), and Mckenzie Slaven (Edison)
From left: Patrick Hazlitt (Watkins Glen), Ian Chedzoy (Watkins Glen) and Zack Ives (Trumansburg)
Left: Kelsey Pierce (Spencer-Van Etten). Right: Adam Wagner (South Seneca)
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