By DAVE KURTZ
Times Herald Sports Editor
EAST NORRITON – They come from all over Montgomery County, 28 high school seniors with bright eyes and even brighter futures.
Clean and pressed and dressed for success, many had just left the playing field moments earlier, quick-change artists to be sure.
Now, they were taking their respective turns on the dais, standing still for the first time all day, listening to all the accolades, pausing for a rare moment of reflection, a deserved trip to the spotlight.
“I’ve been doing this so long, since I was a freshman,” said Nikole Smith of the hectic schedule she’s endured for four years. Smith, headed to West Chester University in the fall, was Norristown High’s representative at the Triangle Club’s 47th Annual Awards Banquet at Presidential Caterers Thursday night.
“It’s always best to stay busy,” Smith added.
Busy is the buzzword for this impressive cast, whose resumes read like something from fiction.
National Honor Society, 4.0 grade point average, all-league, captain of the team, student government president, participant in food drives and fundraisers, volunteer at nursing homes and hospice centers, active in school and church – typical qualifications for any one of the 16 girls and 12 boys nominated by their schools for the award.
If idle hands are the devil’s playground, then the devil has no place to play here. The demons of self-indulgence that haunt so many of today’s teenagers are nowhere to be found in this banquet hall, exorcised through focus, self-discipline and hard work.
Setting athletic and academic goals, and staying committed to lending a helping hand in the community keeps these kids on the straight and narrow.
“The key is time management,” said Methacton High senior Michelle Konkoly. “Keeping your priorities in order. Sometimes I’m just trying to figure out when I can eat.”
It’s a delicate balancing act Konkoly has clearly mastered. Konkoly was the second runnerup of the Triangle Club’s prestigious Dannehower Award – which went to Upper Perkiomen’s Liam Thomas Smith ($5,000 scholarship) with Lansdale Catholic’s Jessica Cunning ($3,000 scholarship) finishing first runnerup. Konkoly earned a $2,000 scholarship grant that will be put to good use next fall when she attends Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
A two-time Methacton record-holder and All-American high school swimmer, Konkoly plans to swim the 50 and 100 freestyle events for the Hoyas.
“There used to be a time when we leaned more toward athletic achievement,” said Wilmer Cressman, one of the Triangle Club’s directors. “Now it’s a balance of athletics, academics and community involvement.”
Sports, scholarship and service – the common threads linking Thursday night’s award recipients. Students that rank at the top of their respective classes, star athletes and champions in the community.
That’s quite a trifecta.
“It’s an honor to be the last (representative of Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High nominated for the Dannehower Award), but at the same time, it’s kind of sad,” said K-K senior Caitlin Grobaker, headed to Widener University next fall.
“It takes a little knack, having all of these things going on at once and keeping the mindset to perform well in sports and academics and staying involved in the community.”
A lot of knowledge can be accrued on the playing field – the ability to perform under pressure, working with others for a common goal, and staying disciplined and focused on the task at hand.
Transforming that knowledge to the classroom and implementing it within the community and into everyday life are invaluable life lessons, providing a clear-cut path to success.
Twenty-eight high school seniors with bright eyes and even brighter futures.
Maybe America’s destiny doesn’t look so dark after all.