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Recipients of The Tribute Awards at Watkins Glen High School include, front from left, Malina Butler, Carly Arnold, Skye Honrath and Faye Mooney, and back from left, Sarah Jones, Katrina Ricca, Jacob Yontz, Liam Smith and Alex Holmes. Not available for the photo was honoree Johnny VanScoyk.
The Tribute Awards
Twenty outstanding student-athletes at the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour High Schools -- 10 at each school -- have earned the attention and admiration of school officials and of The Odessa File. Here are the 2023 Tribute Award honorees.
By Charlie Haeffner
SCHUYLER COUNTY, May 21, 2023 -- Two years ago, after stepping away from a regional honors team called the Top Drawer 24 -- a program which I had co-founded and in which I'd been heavily involved for 15 years -- I returned to its roots with a new program. I focused strictly on Schuyler County student-athletes.
I initially called it Magnificent Sevens, since seven honorees were selected from Watkins Glen High School, and seven from Odessa-Montour High School. The next year I called it the Roll Call of Excellence, but that didn't have any real punch to it; it lacked memorable identity.
Now I've settled on the Tribute Awards, which I should have thought of two years ago. And this time, the honors are co-sponsored by WETM-TV.
Rather than get locked into a specific number of honorees-- the Top Drawer 24 program used to be locked into 24, for example -- I have settled on those students who grabbed both my attention and that of administrators and coaches in our two school districts, no matter the number. Selections were largely based -- as they were in the Top Drawer 24 program -- on academics, athletics, character and, if applicable, citizenship.
This year, we have more honorees than in the past two years, when 14 sufficed. This time we have settled on 20 -- ranging from sophomores to seniors, as permitted by the program's parameters. At O-M, there are nine seniors and one junior. At WGHS, there are four seniors, four juniors and two sophomores.
There are four repeat honorees at O-M (seniors Hannah Nolan, Tori Brewster, Katie Adams and Daniel Lewis), and two at Watkins Glen (seniors Faye Mooney and Katrina Ricca).
Most of the honorees were recommended by those school coaches and administrators mentioned above. In addition to those recommendations and the honorees' grades, athletic prowess and character, an additional factor in the selections (perhaps unique to this program) was determination -- whether an honoree is believed to possess not only the personality to succeed in life and on the playing fields, but also the will to keep striving for excellence ... even in difficult times, such as during a pandemic.
Grade-point averages cited are the most recent ones available. This year's Odessa File Tribute Award honorees, by school but in no particular order, are as follows.
The Odessa-Montour High School Tribute Award honorees. From row from left: Tori Brewster, Hannah Nolan, Reagan Reese, Sarah Barr and Katie Adams. Back row from left: Mark Waterman, Daniel Lewis, David Patterson, Ben Campbell and Jon Spencer.
Odessa-Montour High School
Hannah Nolan: A senior ranked fifth in her class with a 97.22 Grade Point Average, she has been a standout in soccer (with the O-M single season and career goal-scoring records of 27 and 86, respectively), basketball (the career steals record) and track (the school Triple Jump and 400 Hurdles records). She is Class President and a member of Student Council, the Student Advisory Board, and Yearbook. Said one school administrator: "Hannah is a very intelligent, driven, and responsible individual who has set the example for other students working to strive academically. Many individuals look forward to working with her in any aspect; the positivity that she brings in the room is matched by few." When Hannah was honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month, teacher Holly Campbell praised her athletic achievements, but said "Hannah is so much more ... She is also a fierce supporter of her friends and teammates. She is always encouraging others and works hard to keep things positive in all situations." Added her soccer coach, Burton Brewster: "She has an innate drive to be her best in all she does." She plans to play soccer at SUNY Cortland, where she will major in Conservation Biology with an eye toward a career as a Field Biologist.
Tori Brewster: A senior ranked second in her class with a 98.54 GPA, she is an All-Star in soccer (with the O-M career assists record of 36) and track (she holds the school records in the 100, 200 and 4x100 Relay, and was the recent girls track MVP at the IAC Championships), and was a starter on the school's successful basketball team. A member of Student Council, Interact Club, and Yearbook, she had a key role in the spring musical "The Addams Family," portraying Pugsley Addams. Said one administrator: "Victoria is a very dedicated, intelligent, and outgoing individual. She has ... set the example for other students working to strive academically, excel athletically, and thrive socially." She plans to attend Houghton University with an eye toward a career as an Elementary School Teacher. While at Houghton, she will compete on the indoor and outdoor track teams. When Tori was honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month, teacher Holly Campbell told Rotarians that "Tori is devoted to her friends, always treating others with kindness." Added one of her coaches: "She is always thinking of others; is focused on team success and does not want to let her teammates down."
David Patterson: A junior ranked No. 1 in his class with a 96.99 GPA, he is a three-sport athlete in soccer (where he was an Odessa File First Team All-Star thanks to his acrobatic and effective skills as a goalkeeper), basketball and track (where he has been a consistent winner in multiple events). A member of Student Council, Varsity O and school advisory clubs, and a volunteer firefighter associate, David participated last summer in the Rotary Youth Leadership Award program, spending several days at Finger Lakes Community College, learning about leadership skills and how to bond with strangers from diverse backgrounds. He is, in the words of one O-M administrator, "a remarkable student who carries himself in a Presidential manner. Everything that David does he does with his full potential. As he enters his senior year, many are looking forward to utilizing his leadership skills in their respective organizations." Added his soccer coach, Skip Strobel: "He is a sponge. He seeks knowledge. He is always looking to improve himself both academically and athletically. He will do anything to help the team and is one of the most athletic kids and nicest kids I have ever coached." While a year away from college, he has visited the campuses of Columbia University, Penn State and Binghamton University with the intent to study Environmental Science and Environmental Engineering.
Daniel Lewis: A senior ranked 11th in his class with a 91.49 GPA, he is a three-sport All-Star in football, baseball and basketball. Daniel, said one administrator, "is a leader in many aspects. On more than one occasion Daniel has been noticed working with and supporting younger students experiencing tough situations, leading to calming, and remedying situations." Added his baseball coach, Jason Westervelt: "Daniel has dedicated himself to becoming the best baseball player he could be while helping the Storm Football team win the Independent League Championship and participating on the Grizzlies' Varsity basketball team. It would have been easy for Daniel to just play baseball year round, but he chose to be a part of a team and help them have their own successes. This to me shows incredible selflessness and a compassion for his peers that will be necessary in college and in his professional life." And his football coach, Trevor Holland, said that Daniel "played a vital role in our success last fall. He was one of our four captains who led the team with pride, and statistically he had an exceptional season as quarterback," playing "very competitively with much passion. We were very fortunate to have him play for us. However, replacing Daniel at the QB position will be a challenge this upcoming season." He plans to attend the Alfred State College of Technology, where he will study Business Management and Administration, and play baseball.
Katie Adams: A senior ranked No. 1 in her class with a 99.16 GPA, she is a three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball and track. Honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month, she is planning to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), focusing on Packaging Science. A member of Student Council, FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) and the National Technical Honor Society, she was admitted to the New Visions Academy Innovation, Leadership and Business Program, and is -- in the words of one administrator -- "a student who sets very high standards for herself, is committed to her schoolwork and devoted to her goals while maintaining solid friendships." Said soccer Coach Burton Brewster: "Katie is a quiet competitor; a team player." And words from track coach Skip Strobel -- issued when Katie was honored on this honors team last year -- are particularly descriptive and apropos. Katie, he said, is "unassuming but as competitive as they come. She refuses to back down in any circumstance. She puts a ton of pressure on herself to succeed and if she doesn't the first time, or second time, I can assure you that she will not stop trying until she does find that success."
Ben Campbell: A senior ranked seventh in his class with a 94.23 GPA, he is a three-sport athlete in soccer, swimming and track (where he set the school record in the 3200 Meter Run). A member of Student Council, Drama Club and the Boy Scouts, he had a lead role in the spring musical "The Addams Family." Says one school administrator: "Ben is a student who every staff member of our school looks forward to working with due to his dedication to success and intellectual curiosity." When Ben -- who plans to attend SUNY Geneseo in the study field of Adolescence Education -- was honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month, his track coach, Skip Strobel, said that "if I had a son, Ben Campbell would be the model of the kind of son I'd want." Later, Strobel said this: "Ben is a true leader; he embodies everything you want in a student and coach. He is hard working, motivated, selfless and cares only about the team first and foremost -- before his own achievements." Added swim coach Jason Westervelt: "Ben is an amazing athlete. Anything he tries he is good at. Beyond the athlete, he is a young man with character traits that will aid him in becoming an outstanding member of society. These include an ambition to be good if not great at everything he does, the ability to communicate with peers, coaches, and teachers, resiliency, and the ability to work within a team."
Jon Spencer: A senior ranked sixth in his class with a 95.39 GPA, he is a two-sport athlete in swimming and track, a member of Student Council and Drama Club, had a key role in the spring musical "The Addams Family," and was honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month. Jon, who plans to attend Roberts Wesleyan College in the field of Engineering, was described by one school administrator as "a clear-sighted, caring individual who is committed to his goals and works tirelessly to achieve them." Added his swim coach, Jason Westervelt: "Jon is an amazing athlete and an amazing human being. His commitment to athletics can be seen in his work ethic in practices and his uncanny ability to be extremely competitive in races but stay as humble as any athlete I have ever coached. His integrity has always been his strongest attribute. In the athletic arena Jon is always polite, respectful, and conscientious. Outside the athletic arena Jon carries those character traits with him as well as being one of the most philanthropic teenagers in Schuyler County." His track coach, Skip Strobel, contributed this: "Jon is an excellent student, has a great sense of humor, and a willingness to put in work to make himself better. He has run track two times -- his freshman year and his senior year. Both times he has been a positive influence on the people around him."
Sarah Barr: A senior ranked third in her class with a 98.23 GPA, she is a three-sport athlete in soccer, bowling and track & field, and had the key role of Morticia in the O-M spring musical "The Addams Family." A member of Student Council, Interact Club, Varsity O, the Yearbook, the New York State School Music Association, the O-M Student Advisory Board, and the National Youth Leadership Forum, she is also a Class Officer and a Summer Rec Program counselor. Sarah, when honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month, was described by teacher Doug Chapman as a caring person who is "highly regarded" by her classmates and teachers. Barr in turn told Rotarians she has "always been involved in everything," and thanked the Club for the honor, saying "It's nice to have this validation." Said her soccer coach, Burton Brewster: "Sarah is a great teammate, and works incredibly hard. She kind of takes on the 'matriarch' role on the teams she is on." She said she plans to attend St. John Fisher University to study nursing "with a goal of helping others and being involved in the community."
Mark Waterman: A senior ranked 16th in his class with an 89.06 GPA, he is a two-sport athlete in wrestling and track & field -- amassing a 21-4 record this past wrestling season with a third-place finish at the IAC Championships. A member of the Meat Locker Wrestling Club, his "work ethic and dedication to his peers, academics and extracurriculars are of great importance to him," says wrestling coach Dan Batchelder. "Mark has taken on leadership roles without hesitation and fulfilled the part of wrestling captain perfectly. He serves as an excellent role model for younger students and has demonstrated that hard work, dedication, character and putting in time can make a difference in one's performance." Added his track coach, Skip Strobel: "Mark personifies perseverance. His dedication, toughness, and willingness to sacrifice self goals for team goals is a great character trait. He always has a smile on his face and is among the toughest kids I've had the pleasure of coaching." He plans to attend Alfred State University in its Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning program.
Reagan Reese: A senior ranked 13th in her class with a 91.39 GPA, she was a starter on the school's successful basketball team, specializing in rebounding. Early in her career, she was an exceptional swimmer, and has competed on the school's track team. The third of three athletic and academic sisters to pass through O-M , she is a member of FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America), the National Technical Honor Society, Junior Dairy Leaders, and 4-H, and was admitted to the New Visions Academy Innovation, Leadership and Business Program for her senior year. An athlete known for her on-court or in-pool determination, her drive translates to the classroom. "Reagan has set an example," says one school administrator, "for other students to follow, working through difficult subjects and electing to challenge herself every year in terms of coursework. She is a prime example of how a good attitude and determination can help someone achieve success." Added one of her coaches: "Reagan is a great kid; always smiling." She plans to attend Corning Community College to study Business Administration.
Watkins Glen High School
Faye Mooney: A senior ranked fourth in her class with a 4.08 Grade Point Average, she is a state-level competitor on the school swim team, a starter on the tennis team, a member of the Glen Gators Swim Team, and president of National Honor Society, Student Council, Varsity Club and Ski Club. Beyond that, she is an outstanding violinist, performing with the Cayuga Youth Chamber Orchestra. Says her swim coach, Jason Westervelt: “Faye is a well rounded athlete who shows up every day with a purpose. She has a wonderful personality and can be counted on to bring a smile to practice along with a charismatic attitude. Faye is an incredibly strong athlete, mentally and physically, which contributes to her success in and out of the pool.” In addition, he said, she “possesses character traits sought after by Fortune 500 companies such as discipline, resilience, compassion, and humility. I have no doubt that Faye will make huge contributions to our society. She is one of the greatest athletes I have ever had the pleasure to coach.” She plans to attend Skidmore College.
Liam Smith: A sophomore with a 3.90 GPA, he is a three-sport athlete in soccer, swimming (where he won three Section IV titles this past season while leading his team to a runnerup finish) and lacrosse, and is a Class Officer and a member of the Glen Gators Swim Team. He has been an Odessa File First Team swim All-Star the past two seasons, was the website’s Schuyler Winter MVP in that sport in his freshman year, and earned All-Star status in soccer last fall, as well. Says his swim coach, Jason Westervelt: “Liam excels in swimming. He is a very humble athlete who has one of the largest hearts I have every seen. By heart I mean a drive for individual success knowing it is going to better his team. He also has the ability to battle through tough circumstances and come out of each one stronger and successful.” Added his soccer coach, Jessica Purpura: "Liam is a very hard worker, always putting in 110%. Not only is he an excellent athlete, but he is of fantastic character too. Always respectful, plays to the best of his ability, and is a leader on the field. He’s a great offensive player, and willing to play other positions when needed to help the team without complaint. In all the years I’ve known him and watched him play, I’ve yet to see him get tired. His stamina is unmatched. He never gives up or stops trying. He is a great example of what a student athlete should be."
Carly Arnold: A senior ranked 11th in her class with a 3.87 GPA, she was a Second Team All-State selection on the school’s Section IV championship soccer team (which she served as captain) and a key player on the basketball team. She is a Senior Class and Student Council officer, a member of the National Honor Society, and was honored as a Student of the Month by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club. “Carly,” said her soccer coach, Scott Morse, “is the ultimate teammate, doing whatever it takes to help her team succeed. Her willingness to do whatever is asked of her without complaint and with total effort proved a critical piece this season. Carly anchored our defense that gave up only one goal in the post-season run to a sectional championship.” Carly, an IAC and Odessa File soccer All-Star in addition to her All-State selection, “is a hard worker both on and off the field,” Morse added. “Carly is a truly wonderful person, and the team will definitely miss her next year.” She plans to attend SUNY Brockport and pursue a career in Physical Therapy.
Katrina Ricca: A senior ranked No. 1 in her class with a 4.10 GPA, she is a three-sport athlete in soccer, tennis and trap-shooting. The Senior Class president, vice president of Ski Club, treasurer of Wellness Club and a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, she plans to attend the University of Nebraska to study forensic science. Upbeat but focused, a leader by example, she was one of two seniors (with Carly Arnold, above) on the Section IV champion girls soccer team, and with her brother Max has played doubles on the school’s successful tennis team. “Katrina Ricca,” said her soccer coach, Scott Morse, “is so incredibly athletic that she brings so much to the table on a soccer team. Tasked with defending prolific scorers around the league, Kat gladly took the challenge and held them in check. She has the speed and aggression to score but was always willing to do the hard work in other ways to help her team succeed. She was always smiling and a pleasure to coach over the years!” Her tennis coach, Ben Connelly, said Katrina has “a very positive attitude and is a great competitor, but is always willing to tell an opponent ‘good game,’ win or lose. She’s a Renaissance girl, willing to try a lot of things. She wants to explore the world. Her attitude and disposition are going to take her far.”
Jacob Yontz: A senior with a 3.47 GPA, he was an Odessa File First Team All-Star pick in both soccer and basketball, and this website's selection as Winter Sports MVP. “Though quiet and thoughtful,” said his basketball coach, Scott Morse, “his steady leadership and confidence in his teammates led the team to exceed what many thought they could achieve.” (They had a winning season). As captain and floor leader of the squad, he averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks per game. He posted 10 double doubles, and twice had triple doubles. “He was also a terrific student this year,” said Morse, “and a very nice young man. His willingness to lead with kindness and humor were greatly appreciated by the whole team.” Jacob was honored by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club as a Student of the Month, an event where his soccer coach, Jessica Purpura, called him "respectful, calm, determined, a class act" and "a voice of reason who leads by example." He plans to attend SUNY Geneseo.
Johnny VanScoyk: A junior with a 4.07 GPA, he was a standout distance runner on the winter Indoor Track squad and the spring Outdoor Track team. A member of Ski Club and Skills USA (a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce), he has also served on the Section IV Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which was developed to give student-athletes a voice within Section IV. Its website notes that “each committee member is expected to exemplify leadership,” promoting “safety, sportsmanship, leadership and positive relationships with coaches, administrators and other student-athletes." According to track coach Kelly Sterner, Johnny is “a true leader, always pleasant, and wants the best for others; his sportsmanship is fantastic. He tries to excel at everything; always wants to do better. He is a good listener, too; a coach’s dream.”
Malina Butler: A junior with a 4.10 GPA, she is a member of the National Honor Society, Varsity Club, and the Schuyler County Youth Court, and was a key member of the IAC and Section IV champion Schuyler Storm swim team -- part of the team’s 400 Free Relay squad that won at both the IAC meet and at sectionals. She and the rest of her family have served as chairs of the annual Schuyler County United Way campaign, which notes on its website: "Malina is taking all advanced courses and maintains a High Honor Roll average. She swims year round for the Glen Gators and the Watkins Varsity Girls Swim Team. Malina is also a lifeguard at the Watkins Glen State Park pool, a lifeguard at WGHS, and manager of the Watkins Varsity Boys Swim Team.” Says her swim coach, Jason Westervelt: “Malina is one of the hardest working athletes I have coached in 20 years. She consistently goes above and beyond to improve herself and her team. Her leadership, level headedness, and resilience are unmatched. Malina will go on to do great things for our society. Her ability to communicate with others, work within a team, and collaborate with teachers, coaches, and peers will aid her in whatever field she chooses to pursue." She is not yet decided on which college to attend, but plans to enter a Pre-Med program, majoring in Biology.
Skye Honrath: A sophomore with a 4.07 GPA, she is an outstanding soccer player, devoted to the sport year-round. She was the Odessa File’s Schuyler Fall MVP for her role in the girls soccer team's run to the Section IV, Class C championship. She scored 26 goals, with 16 assists, but beyond that, said this website: “What Skye Honrath brings to the field is a quiet leadership -- a call to arms by example. She is a focused individual, always with a goal ahead. She, like her sister (and teammate Sasha, a junior), is already looking toward a possible career in the medical field, specifically radiology. Ask her what her favorite part of the game of soccer is, and she smiles and answers: ‘Winning.’ And her 2022 teammates responded to that determination -- and in the process became a remarkable squad, building a remarkable legacy.” Added her soccer coach, Scott Morse: “Skye was the Division Most Valuable Player and First Team All-State in Soccer. She is an incredible soccer player! She takes the game very seriously and approached practice seriously as well. She also has a very good sense of humor and helps keep it fun for the whole team. She is so young to be achieving in the way she has, and I think the future is bright for her!”
Alex Holmes: A junior with a 3.5 GPA, he is a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball. “A great kid,” said one administrator. “Alex is a dedicated athlete with his sights set on playing collegiate baseball,” said his baseball coach, Jason Westervelt, adding: “He is an outstanding athlete, able to pick up a sport in a very short period of time and be successful at it. Alex has made some major gains in the mental game of sports, one of the most difficult areas to improve in. He also brings with him the ability to work with his peers and has outstanding communication skills.” His football coach, Trevor Holland, said that Alex "played a vital role in our success last fall. Alex was our tight end who made some amazing catches, and played well at the defensive end position. We were very fortunate to have him play for us.” Added Alex’s basketball coach, Scott Morse: “Alex was an important piece of our basketball season this year. It’s no secret that baseball is the sport that Alex loves. Yet he worked so hard every day to improve and help the basketball team. Alex is one of those kids who would excel at any sport he played, he’s such a good athlete. Always smiling and laughing, he is a true pleasure to be around, and I very much appreciated his being part of the team this season.” He is considering attending SUNY Cortland, with a career goal of becoming a member of the New York State Police.
Sarah Jones: A junior with a 4.02 Grade Point Average, she was on the varsity volleyball team, where she was an IAC All-Star, and has been heavily involved in the Learn Not to Burn program at the Elementary School. “She is not afraid to stride into any situation,” said one school administrator. “And she gives back to the community.” She was, for example, selected to represent the school in a community forum in March sponsored by the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) regarding the future of the community and what its youth would like to see changed. (While praising the region -- "Who else can say they have such beautiful surroundings?" -- Sarah suggested at the forum that more needs to be done to combat a lack of downtown activities in Watkins Glen.) Said her volleyball coach, Krysti Westervelt: “Sarah is ALWAYS positive and encouraging to her teammates. As setter, she runs the offense. She is quick and has good court awareness. Even when teammates seem down or things are not going well, she attempts to pick up their spirit and pushes on. Sarah has taken on a supporting role to her younger teammates who are trying to make themselves better by working with them in open gyms and on a travel team. She is a true representation of a wonderful teammate.”
That's all of them -- twenty notable people who share at least one thing in common: by excelling in unique and impressive ways, they have earned the admiration of this website, coaches and administrators 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.