A grand pair

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Liberty's Beisser, JF's Ottman named county's top scholar-athletes

By Mike Forster


They have to be darn good to win these awards.

And they are.

Up against a superb field of nominees, Liberty's Megan Beisser and Jefferson Forest's Ben Ottman were announced as the winners of this year's Bedford Rotary Grand Awards.

The presentation was made as part of the Rotary's Student-Athlete awards ceremony, held this past Sunday at Liberty High School.

Awards were also presented in 21 individual sports categories.  Winners of those awards are determined primarily by their accomplishments on the fields, courts and tracks of their sports.  (The list of individual winners may be found on page 4B.)

The Grand Award winners are chosen based on a mix of athletic prowess, academic achievement and extracurricular participation.

Speaking of athletic prowess and academic achievement, the keynote speaker was none other than Jarrett Ferguson.

A 1997 graduate of Staunton River High School, Ferguson was a standout on the Golden Eagles' 9-1 football team, as well as its indoor and outdoor State track championship teams.  He went on to star as a fullback at Virginia Tech, where he is now the director of strength and conditioning for the football program.

In his upbeat talk, Ferguson chatted about how accountability instills discipline, using his mother as an example.

He shared a story about getting ready to play in the Music City Bowl his sophomore year, when he was the Hokies' starting fullback.

His mom had gotten his grades and confronted him about the less-than-stellar showing.

"She told me, 'I will go to Coach [Frank] Beamer and tell him myself that you're not playing football and you're moving back to the dorm, unless you get your grades up'," he recalled.

Then, with a smile, he added, "I wound up on the Dean's List the rest of the way."

Ferguson also encouraged the attendees to take care of their craft, no matter what it is, and to always have long- and short-term goals.


Impressive winners

While Beisser and Ottman have built superb legacies in Bedford County, they're not done building things.  Both intend to study engineering at a couple of top-tier colleges.

The Michigan State-bound Beisser personifies the term "scholar-athlete."  She has been a key reason for Liberty's ascendence in both indoor and outdoor track.  Specializing in the hurdles, she took second place in the 55 meter event at the 3A-West regional indoor meet this past winter.  

Beisser hopes to pile up some team points as she'll compete in the 300 hurdles and long jump at this week's Conference 30 outdoor championships.  She's got plenty of fuel in the tank heading into the post-season.

"It's really exciting," she said, of being named the Grand Award winner.  "I wasn't expecting it.  It's an honor."

She's fast on the track and quick in the classroom where she's crafted a 4.41 GPA.  Even more impressive:  Beisser has been on the All-A honor roll since enrolling in school as a wee tot.  Call her the Cal Ripken of honor rolls.

She pointed to Ben and Sherry Wiese, Liberty's track coaches, as role models.  "I want to be like them when I grow up," she said.

Beisser is also the president of her class and of the Liberty Key Club.  When not running, acing tests or leading her classmates, she plays in the Liberty marching band.

Ottman is equally impressive.  He'll head to the University of Virginia this fall, having left a significant mark at Jefferson Forest.

Like Beisser, his GPA is off the charts:  4.314.  He is an AP scholar with distinction and a National Merit scholar finalist.

"It meant a lot just to be nominated [for the Grand Award], said Ottman.  "There was a lot of competition."

A team captain, Ottman ran for three seasons during each of his years at JF.    He was a three-time All-Seminole selection and earned All-State honors in indoor track.

He pointed to JF cross country coach Jerome Loy as a major factor in his success.  "I looked at running as conditioning for soccer," he recalled.  

Who knew he'd become such a running dynamo?

Ottman is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Key Club and Boys State.

Even with their sterling records of accomplishments, the selection committee had no easy choices in Beisser and Ottman.

Staunton River's Taylor Jones and Sam Goode, as well as Liberty's Matthew Thompson and Jefferson Forest's Casey Davis were all outstanding candidates.   According to members of the committee, the decision was a tough one and all six of the Grand Award nominees were worthy ones.