Since 1997, the West Olympia Rotary Club has sponsored the Dick Nichols Awards, college scholarship funds granted to the top boy and girl scholar-athlete at each of Thurston County’s seven largest high schools.
For the first 22 years, Nichols, a local sportscasting legend for half a century, delivered a keynote address.
When the 2019 awards luncheon took place Monday afternoon at the Hotel RL in Olympia, Nichols and his wife were still at their winter home in Southern California, so Black Hills High School girls basketball coach Tanya Greenfield spoke to the honorees about “resiliency, a growth mindset and grit.”
The 14 winners receive $1,500 for their student accounts at their chosen colleges next fall. They were chosen by their schools for their combination of academic excellence, athletic skills and volunteer work at school or in the community.
All of the honorees had a grade point average of 3.8 or higher and most have played multiple sports.
Greenfield drew on her own life experiences to draw attention to the values she addressed. As a single mother of a 3-year old, coaching in Chelan, she faced the loss of both her parents in less than a year.
“I had to be resilient. I had to be willing to ask for help,” she said. Her mom had been her daughter’s care giver, but fortunately, she had become a part of the town in the short time she’d lived there.
“You have to have positive relationships in the community to become resilient, she said. “Are you being impactful? Are you being a person who’s contributing to the community?”
Greenfield defined a “growth mindset” as a willingness to move beyond established skills and abilities, to be open to new experiences. One of the few African-Americans among Chelan’s 4,160 residents, she was urged to run for city council by a female council member who believed the body needed more women.
“In a growth mindset, you welcome fear and failure,” she said of overcoming an initial reluctance. “You want to become better.”
After a tight race resulting in a recount, Greenfield won the election by 28 votes.
“It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.”
Greenfield harkened back to her own days as a high school athlete – when she had to overcome an injury suffered during soccer season to salvage a portion of her senior basketball season – to define “grit.”
“It’s a passion for your long-term goals practiced on a consistent basis, she said.
A look at the award winners:
Mackenzie Theophilus, runner up at the state bowling tournament and captain of the Wolves’ softball team, is headed for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where she’ll study education and chemistry. Ethan Loveless, a quarterback/wide receiver in football and an outfielder/designated hitter in baseball, was also an ASB judge. He has a baseball scholarship to the University of Portland.
Betsy Knutson-Keller, who helped the Cougars to the 2017 3A state volleyball championship and played four years in the Capital band, is bound for California Lutheran University, where she will major in psychology. Chris Penner, the Olympian’s All-Area player of the year in basketball and a first team All-Area selection in football, is a spokesman for Tourette’s Syndrome patients and will major in pre-med while playing basketball at Seattle Pacific University.
Brooklyn Harn, one of the Rams’ top all-time girls basketball players with 1,346 points scored, also played volleyball. She will study dental hygiene while playing for Providence University in Great Falls, Montana. Shea Thomas, a basketball player, shortstop and trumpet player at North Thurston, will head to Edmonds Community College to continue his baseball career.
Beatrice Asomaning served as ASB Vice-President, was All-4A SPSL in volleyball and twice a district champion in the discus. She will attend the University of Washington. Jordan Kamimura was a four-year swim standout for the Bears, an AP Honor student and volunteered at the Thurston County Food Bank. He’s bound for UC-Davis.
Madyson Neuzil is a National Honor Society student who played soccer, softball and ran track during her years as a Hawk. She’ll study Human Science at Montana State University. An AP Scholar, Ryley Larson starred in football and basketball. He holds a top 5 rank in his class and will attend Lower Columbia College to play baseball.
Lauren Schutt is Timberline’s student of the year for US History and English. She swam and played tennis for the Blazers, was a part of the choir and plays the oboe. She’ll study Political Science at Washington State University. Hunter Campau, the Olympian’s All-Area football player of the year and an All-Area basketball selection, has been a frequent volunteer in local youth sports. He’ll play football at Central Washington University.
Sara Bocksch has served as ASB treasurer and secretary while reaching the 2A state track meet three times. A community and church volunteer, she’ll be a nutrition and graphic design major at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Patrick Williams was a first team all-league choice in football and also played basketball and ran track. The ASB President, he is headed to Grand Canyon to study pre-med.