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Falls, White win Grand Awards

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By Mike Forster

Student-athletes from across the county saw their efforts pay off when the Bedford Rotary Club presented its 13th annual awards last Tuesday evening.

The event, which was held at the Liberty High School auditorium showcased numerous athletes from all three high schools in 21 distinct sports.

The Grand Awards, given to the top male and female scholar athletes of the year, were also presented.

Jefferson Forest brought won eight of the awards while Staunton River matched that total. Liberty students garnered seven in a finish which was as close as was mathematically possible.

Nominations were forwarded from each school, although in some categories, no name was proffered.

Selections were made by a committee that was assembled by the Rotary Club. Athletic achievement, educational commitment and extracurricular activities all weighed into the decision.

David Sensenig, who served as master of ceremonies pointed out that, in many cases, it was very difficult to make the selection. "They've all done such incredible things, it's hard to pick one," said Sensenig.

The roster of nominees was peppered with standout scholar athletes. Students that distinguished themselves on the field of play were also seen as athletes who had won acclaim in the classroom.

Martrey Stevens, Liberty's point guard who is bound for Marshall University; Amy Allen, a Jefferson Forest tennis player who is heading for Duke; and Cav Josh Ranowsky, a tennis phenom who is going to West Point were but three of the nominees.

Staunton River's Caitlin Falls, a standout in volleyball, basketball and softball, was named the Grand Award winner on the women's side. Liberty's Eli White, a superb cross-country runner, swimmer and soccer player, earned the Grand Award for men.

Falls, who will attend Christopher Newport next year, was thrilled with her selection. "It's something to show for all the hard work over the years," she said.

White, bound for Virginia Tech, was equally pleased. "It feels great to know my work in sports and academics were recognized," he stated.

Both winners pointed to their families as critical to their success. "My parents have been very supportive in getting everything done," said Falls.

Added White, "My parents and family have backed me. They're always at the games and helping me whenever I needed it."

Falls's and White's many coaches seemed as happy as the winners did.

"I am honored that I was able to coach such a wonderful person," said Falls' basketball coach, Kim Jones. "Her teammates have been looking up to her since her freshman year."

"Caitlin is very quiet and respectful," said volleyball coach Rich Northrup. "She uses her talents to speak loudly."

"She was willing to do whatever it takes to make the team more successful," said softball coach Hoyt Dellis. "She was instrumental in saving many games with her determination and spectacular catches." Falls moved to centerfield, even though her preference was to play first base, determining such a move was best for the team.

Tom Karnes, another River softball coach, commented, "How many young people are willing to work hard, without a break, for a year (while Caitlin has done it her entire high school career."

White's swim coach, Jeff Steele, commented, "To be chosen as captain of the swim team his sophomore year speaks volumes about his character. Eli set the tone at practice, meets and in the classroom and left an indelible mark on the swim team.

Soccer coach T Fox stated his admiration of White. "If good attitude is worth a dollar, Eli would be better off than Bill Gates," said Fox. "If leadership could be weighed, Eli would need a crane to lift it."

Cross country coach Sarah Krycinski said, "There are way too many great things to say about Eli White! He was such a joy to coach."

Participants were treated to a keynote address from soccer standout Jennifer Putney, now a local teacher and coach. Putney was a 2-time MVP at JMU, an All-American and was voted one of the top 50 athletes in JMU history for leading her team to consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 appearances.

"I assure you, each of you will face another set of challenges in college that will test you like never before," intoned Putney. "I assure you, with hard work and dedication, you will triumph."