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A Baker's Dozen plus one of outstanding student-athletes at the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour High Schools -- 7 at each school -- have earned the attention and admiration of The Odessa File.
By Charlie Haeffner
SCHUYLER COUNTY, May 20, 2021 -- Every year for the past 15, I’ve been heavily involved in an honors team called The Top Drawer 24.
I was co-founder of that institution. I came up with the name. Now, after 15 years, the other co-founder and I have backed away for various reasons. It is in the hands of other, perhaps wiser individuals.
One thing I missed about the way we used to do the Top Drawer program was the purely local nature of the selections -- of worthy student-athlete-citizens from our two high schools at the heart of Schuyler County: Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour.
When we started, all 24 honorees were from one or the other of those two schools. Then we added Bradford. And then we added Trumansburg and Spencer-Van Etten and South Seneca -- all schools with a little part of their districts in Schuyler County.
Then we made a bigger move, out to Chemung County, picking up Edison, Horseheads, Notre Dame and Elmira student-athletes, along with one or two from Elmira Christian Academy (since closed). Twin Tiers Christian Academy was part of the mix, too.
Last year we added Corning and Waverly, and the 24 honorees grew to 30. At that point, I knew it was time to leave; to return to my roots: Schuyler County.
So while the Top Drawer 24 continues to expand in region -- Campbell-Savona, Bath, Addison, Athens, Sayre, Newark Valley, and Tioga have been added this year -- and in numbers (40), The Odessa File has turned its attention to a strictly two-school group of honorees. The emphasis is on academics, with sports and character playing important roles.
Instead of 24, The Odessa File -- with the help of school administrators and coaches -- has selected 14: A Baker’s Dozen Plus One of outstanding local high school student-athletes.
There are three classes eligible for consideration: seniors, juniors and sophomores, with the intent to have each represented. Seven have been selected from each school. Among the honorees, we have a brother-and-sister combination at Watkins Glen.
Most of the honorees were recommended by school coaches, teachers and administrators. In addition to those recommendations and the honorees' grades and athletic prowess, an important factor in the selections was determination -- whether a student-athlete not only possessed the drive 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. The honorees, by school but in no particular order, are:
Odessa-Montour High School:
From left: Megan Adams, Lillian Betts and Autumn Garrison.
Jared Rumsey and Camille Sgrecci
From left: Hannah Nolan and Tori Brewster
Megan Adams: A senior, she is at the top of her class academically with a 97.77 average. Megan is a swimmer, a Watkins-Montour Rotary Club Student of the Month, a student intern in a 4th grade class, a member of the Superintendent’s Leadership Committee, and Class Vice President. She plans to attend a SUNY University, majoring in Education.
From Swim Coach Nichole Chaffee: "I have coached Megan Adams as a Glen Gator for a few years prior to her being a part of the combined Watkins Glen/Odessa-Montour swim team this year. Megan was such a wonderful addition to the team this year. She brings such a loving and caring energy to those around her. She supports her teammates, works hard, and never complains about the events that she is asked to swim. Megan is going to school for education, and any school will be lucky to have her."
Lillian Betts: A senior, she is a member of Student Council and the Class President. A natural leader, she has been an outstanding member of the varsity soccer team for four years. Academically, she carries a 91.68 grade-point average.
Says Dean of Students Holly McNelis: “Lillian is a dedicated student and athlete. She has overcome serious injuries and bounced back with strength and determination.”
Adds soccer Coach Burton Brewster: "Lillian has been critical to our soccer team. When she's in the game, the ball movement is always better. She makes things happen."
Autumn Garrison: A senior, she is a key member of the varsity basketball and soccer teams. She carries an average of 91.87, is on the Student Council, serves as Class Treasurer, and has been a Youth Basketball Coach.
Says Soccer Coach Burton Brewster: “Autumn is a young lady whose attitude brightens up every team she joins. She is a very talented athlete and has worked hard to be her absolute best. She is a leader on the O-M soccer team. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach her.”
Jared Rumsey: A senior, he has been a member of the swimming, basketball and football teams -- the swimming and basketball for a while simultaneously, thanks to pandemic-related sports scheduling. He carries a 93.84 average.
Says Football Coach Trevor Holland: “I wish I could have a team full of players like Jared! His willingness to put Team before Self has always been his best attribute. Easy to talk to, great to get along with, Jared always puts forth 100% effort no matter what. He is the player that every coach wants on their team year after year. I will be sad to see him leave after this season.”
Camille Sgrecci: A junior, she carries an average of 95.54. She is a four-year member of the soccer and track teams, and was an Odessa File first-time All-Star her sophomore year in soccer for her strong defensive perforrmances.
In the words of Track Coach Skip Strobel: “Camille is one of the hardest working athletes I have had the pleasure of working with. She goes above and beyond to help her teammates as well as achieve individual success. She often sacrifices her own individual goals for the sake of team success. Any coach would be proud to have her as a member of their team.”
Hannah Nolan: A sophomore, she is an outstanding soccer player (15 goals in 9 games this past season, and 19 goals the season before) and a key member of the basketball squad. She carries a GPA of 97.39. She is also a member of U.S. Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program.
According to Soccer Coach Burton Brewster: “Hannah is an incredibly talented soccer player, and incredibly dedicated to the sport, constantly working on it. She is a hardworking and self-motivated young lady. Her excellence in athletics is a reflection of the character she brings to every practice and game. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to be her coach."
Tori Brewster: A sophomore, she is an outstanding student with a 98.28 average. A starter on the varsity soccer team, she is also an outstanding member of the track team -- having just recently set the school record in the 100 Meters.
Says Coach Skip Strobel: “I live within sight of our track. I can't tell you how many times during the off-season Tori has been on that track working on her craft. She is someone with immense talent, but it is only matched by her desire to get better. She is someone who isn't satisfied with good. She intends to be great. Her work ethic and ability to listen to coaches to make her better will help her achieve this status.”
Watkins Glen High School:
From left: Kayla Palmer, Bryce Kelly and Seamus Mooney
Amanda Wilbur and Cameron Holland
Owen Scholtisek and Faye Mooney
Kayla Palmer: A senior and the class valedictorian, she carries an average of 100.6. An outstanding defensive member of the soccer team, she has also competed for years in Tai-Kwon-Do tournaments. A member of National Honor Society and a Rotary Student of the Month, she attended Girls’ State in her junior year. She has made masks for the hospital, helped raise funds for the fight against cancer, and is a talented artist -- someone who, in the words of one administrator, “does everything well.” She wants to be a cardiologist.
From Athletic Director Rod Weeden: “Kayla Palmer is a superior student. She was captain of the soccer team, class president in 9th and 10th grade, and went to Girls State to acquire leadership skills. She is very kind and well-liked by both her peers and staff at WGHS.”
Bryce Kelly: A senior and the class salutatorian, he carries a 99.56 average. He plays on the basketball and soccer teams, and on the latter was an Odessa File First Team All-Star. He plans to attend RIT.
From Athletic Director Rod Weeden: “Bryce Kelly is a two-sport athlete (soccer and basketball ). He is a Natonal Honor Society member, and a member of Student Council. He won the Section IV Character Counts Award in 2020. He holds great leadership qualities which are demonstrated by how much he helps his teams to regroup when they are down and helps them refocus on the task at hand.”
Seamus Mooney: A senior, he plays on the basketball, soccer and lacrosse teams, and carries a 92.85 average. Recently named to the IAC First Team All-Stars for soccer, he is, in the words of one coach, “driven.” The same coach said Mooney took advantage of the down time in the pandemic to further his health, becoming a regular at a gym.
From AD Rod Weeden: “Seamus Mooney is an excellent student. He has gone to Boys State to gain leadership skills, was a captain of the soccer and lacrosse teams, and has been on Honor Roll all four years. A National Honor Society member and a Student Council representative, Seamus is well liked by his peers and his teachers. He has a great attitude and is always looking to help. His friendship in sharing his home and parents with a fellow classmate who lost both his parents is a testament to the kind of person Seamus is.”
Amanda Wilbur: A senior on the basketball and swim teams, she carries a 95.64 average. She is a school leader, and was an Odessa File Co-Athlete of the Year for her swim performances in her junior year.
From Coach Nichole Chaffee: “If you were to look up hard work in the dictionary, you would find Amanda's face. I have coached Amanda for four years and I could always count on her to try her hardest. When you are having a bad day as a coach, kids like Amanda remind you why you are there. She is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Due to her ability to swim most events well, she very often had to swim wherever she was needed most to help the team, regardless of her 'best events.' She was a pleasure to coach and she will leave big shoes to fill both in the pool and as a team member. Amanda brings her whole heart into everything that she does, which is such an admirable quality these days, to have a kid who is so invested. I know that she is going to do great things if she continues to work as hard in life as she has done in that pool.”
Cameron Holland: A junior on the basketball, football (where he plays quarterback) and baseball teams, he carries a 98.79 average. He is Class President and a member of the National Honor Society.
From AD Rod Weeden: “Cameron Holland is an excellent student, ranked 3rd in the junior class. He is currently our Section IV Student Representative involved in the section Youth Leadership Program that has met virtually a number of times over the past year. He has outstanding character and expresses a positive attitude toward all his teammates.”
Owen Scholtisek: A junior and an outstanding player on the school's successful basketball and football teams, he carries a 94.52 average.
From Football Coach Trevor Holland: “Owen is well liked by his peers. He is obviously a very talented athlete, but never looks for the recognition. He supports his teammates through encouragement and belief in them when facing adversity. He is a pleasure to have on any team no matter what sport it may be.”
From AD Rod Weeden: “Owen Scholtisek has good character traits and has many friendships on his teams. He does what he is asked at school and always has a positive attitude.”
Faye Mooney: A sophomore on the Section IV champion swim team, she carries a 4.0 average. She was an Odessa File Co-Athlete of the Year as a freshman for her swim accomplishments. She is also an outstanding violinist.
From Swim Coach Nichole Chaffee: “Faye Mooney is the type of kid who is unaware of how tough and talented she is. She makes most things look easy and then is often genuinely surprised that she was able to do it at all, even as the adults stand on the side of the pool with full faith and trust in her abilities. Faye is a very driven and focused individual; she not only swims year round, but also is a very talented violin player. Faye's infectious smile and personality help to lift the spirits of those around her. Faye's ability to set goals is unmatched. She is constantly striving to meet any goal that she has set for herself and will remain fully focused until she reaches it.”