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2012 True Grit Award recipients

May 08, 2012

The True Grit Award is presented to a senior student-athlete from each high school located in Washington County and a second-year student at Hagerstown Community College who has demonstrated the ability to overcome hardship to become or remain a member of an athletic team. These students, who usually are not the stars of their teams, most often have been the ones who have “helped the stars to shine.” The selection of each reward recipient solely is the decision of each school.

The True Grit awards program continues the program that existed from 1975-1999 and which was restarted in 2003. It is sponsored jointly by the Hagerstown YMCA, The Herald-Mail Company, the Washington County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and Washington County Public Schools.

Each True Grit award recipient receives a $500 post-secondary scholarship, a plaque to commemorate this recognition, a photograph with the corporate sponsor and a one-year membership to the Hagerstown YMCA.

The information listed here is taken from the official nomination letter for each student, written by a coach, teacher or administrator at the school.

Logan Bachtell, Smithsburg High School
Sports: Volleyball, Girls Basketball
Corporate Sponsor: Rinehart Orchards, Inc.

“Logan Bachtell has been a member of the varsity volleyball and basketball teams for the past two years. In the fall of her senior year, Logan was told she had to undergo surgery to realign her knee and that she would have to miss all of volleyball season and probably basketball season as well. Logan was upset to learn that she wouldn’t be able to participate in her senior volleyball and basketball seasons. Logan had an AMZ (anteromedialization) done right away. It was caused by a misaligned hip as well as overuse. It would cause her knee to not track correctly in its groove and would dislocate often. To fix it, doctors sawed part of her shin and tibia and moved her patella tendon, and then took two pins and pinned it back together. She was immobilized and then on crutches for 4-6 weeks and did two months of intense physical therapy. She couldn’t participate in athletics for six months. After all her hard work and rehab, Logan was able to return for basketball season, ahead of doctor’s predictions. She was able to participate and contribute to the team, which respected her for all her hard work and dedication in returning to the court.”

Kyle Baker, Williamsport High School
Sports: Unified Tennis, Unified Bocce, Unified Track & Field
Corporate Sponsor: Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

“Kyle Baker is an engaging young man who has overcome many obstacles since he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was approximately 2 years old. The first doctor who examined Kyle after his symptoms were noticed said that Kyle could not possibly be autistic because he's so loving. With his family’s help, Kyle has overcome many obstacles in learning and socialization which are symptomatic of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Kyle likes watching television, reading books (anything about the Civil War) and is ardently patriotic. Contrary to the nature of most autistic individuals, Kyle likes to travel, see new things and try new foods in different places. From spectator to participating in three Unified sports, Kyle has changed tremendously from the shy little boy who did not like crowds to the confident, talented young man we know today. In his younger years, Kyle watched sports either on television or as an on-site spectator; however, he would not participate. If you handed him a ball he would give it back in the hope that the excitement would start again. For several years he participated in the Equine Special Olympics, but the team was simply Kyle and his horse, June. During the past few years Kyle has been drawn into more interactive play — first in physical education class and then in the Unified Sports program. Since the inception of Unified Sports in Washington County two years ago, Kyle has participated in Unified tennis, bocce ball, and track and field. Last year, he earned a silver medal with the Williamsport High Unified track and field team at the state championships. This school year, Kyle and his partner won a gold medal in the Washington County Unified tennis championships and a silver medal in the county bocce ball championships. Kyle takes great pride in Unified Sports participation. It has been amazing to observe how he has taken to playing and realizing that he was part of a team. Like any competitor he likes to win, but he also enjoys the games simply for the fun of playing. Kyle loves his teammates (especially the pretty girls), and their acceptance of him makes it all the more special. Kyle works diligently on his academics and extracurricular activities and is a model student. He is truly an inspiration to all students and athletes at Williamsport.”

Britton Beard, Boonsboro High School
Sports: Football, Baseball, Outdoor Track & Field
Corporate Sponsor: Ellsworth Electric, Inc.

“Britton is a three-time letter winner in football, he earned two letters in baseball and he will earn a letter this spring in track and field.  Britton was awarded All-County First Team and All-MVAL Second Team honors as a defensive lineman and All-County Second Team honors as an offensive lineman as a senior. He was awarded the ‘Most Improved Player’ award by his football coaches at Boonsboro. Britton is a deserving recipient of the True Grit Award because he was born with severely clubbed feet and he was severely pigeon-toed, and against all odds, he has gone on to become a recognized athlete. To try to visualize this, his father told me to imagine turning your feet inward until they are pointing backwards, and then turn them upside down. Britton had his first of two major surgeries as an 18-month-old. According to him and his father, they had to cut his feet into three parts, remove the heel plate from the Achilles’ tendon, adjust them and then put them back together. He has had eight different pins in his feet, the longest going from the big toe the length of his foot and connecting to the heel to stabilize the procedure. He was in casts for 3-4 months and was finally able to start walking around the age of 2. On top of the severe club-foot and pigeon toe, Britton was also born with ball-and-socket joints in his ankles instead of the normal ankle joints. This allows for rotation of the ankle, causing sprains more easily. When performing the surgeries, the doctors at Johns Hopkins were hoping to provide Britton with mobility and were doubtful that he’d ever be able to run, and he would surely ‘never be an athlete.’ Although Britton still has pain walking every day, he can proudly claim that he has proven those doctors wrong on his way to becoming a True Grit Award winner.”

Bethany Bowers, Clear Spring High School
Sports: Girls Soccer, Girls Basketball
Corporate Sponsor: Myers Building Systems

“One of the definitions of ‘grit’ is perseverance and passion for a long-term goal. Bethany Bowers epitomizes this definition perfectly. More than a year ago, Bethany tore her ACL and MCL during the basketball season. Even though she was disappointed she could not join the rest of her teammates for the remaining portion of her junior year, she kept her focus on returning to the playing field. After surgery to repair the injuries and extensive physical therapy, she returned to play soccer this past fall season and was an integral player on our basketball team. We were amazed that only six months after surgery, she was able to return. Her basketball coach stated, ‘I could tell during certain games that her injury was irritating her, but I never heard her complain and she did not miss playing in a single game her senior year.’ Hard work and determination on the part of Bethany was the means with which she was able to participate her senior year in athletics. Her goal was to get back to playing the sports she loved and her ‘grit’ allowed her to overcome this injury obstacle. She approached this challenge without complaining or making excuses. Clear Spring High is very honored to have Bethany Bowers represent the Blazer Blue and Gold as our True Grit recipient.”

Callie Butts, Heritage Academy
Sports: Volleyball, Girls Basketball, Girls Soccer
Corporate Sponsor: Coldwell Banker

“Callie had never suffered a major injury in her entire sports career until this basketball season, when she experienced two. First, she broke and dislocated her finger on her dominant hand during a game. She was expected to miss 4-6 weeks of basketball, but came back and played in less than two weeks. While not playing, she supported the team by being at every practice (actually practicing by doing everything with her left hand) and she attended the games to support her teammates. She put forth the extra effort on her days off to redevelop her shooting form and adjust to the broken finger. Callie was in the gym constantly. She put forth more work in those few weeks than I’ve ever seen by any athlete I have coached. A few games after her comeback, in the MDCC semifinal basketball game, she broke her collarbone. She continued to be at every game to support her teammates, including the very next day, in which her pain was very severe. Callie was our team leader and her presence on the bench in the final games of the season was truly inspiring to all her teammates. ... I know Callie will be at every practice doing everything she can to be able to finish her senior year on the (soccer) field.”

Jerel Carter, Hagerstown Community College
Sport: Men’s Basketball
Corporate Sponsor: PNC Bank

“Jerel Carter overcame a season-ending foot injury suffered during the 2010-11 season to be a leader both on and off the court for the Hawks during the 2011-2012 season. Jerel was only able to participate in five contests last season, but he took that negative and turned it into a positive by playing a major role in leading the Hawks to their first Maryland JuCo Tournament championship since 1992 and back-to-back Region XX Championships. With the maturity that Jerel has gained over the last two seasons, he will once again be looked at as a leader for the Hawks during the 2012-2013 season.

Kristina Cronise, St. Maria Goretti High School
Sports: Girls Basketball, Softball
Corporate Sponsor: Hub City Builders

“Kris has overcome not one but two ACL injuries in high school. During the basketball season of her ninth-grade year, Kris tore the ACL and meniscus in her left knee. After an injury-free 10th-grade year, Kris was looking forward to a productive junior season on the hardwood. Then at a game at Oakdale on Jan. 13, 2011 during her junior year, she went down again, this time with an ACL tear to her right knee. After another debilitating injury, Kris was not sure if she would be able to return to basketball after a second major surgery in three years. After a long rehab, Kris made it back to the court this year and had a great senior season. And to top it off, she played softball for the first time since middle school.”

Kelsey Koontz, Grace Academy
Sport: Girls Basketball
Corporate Sponsor: Innovative, Inc.

“Returning from an injury, Kelsey continued her brilliant play on the basketball court. She led a very young and inexperienced team to a respectable season despite a barrage of injuries. Kelsey was a leader in every sense of the word and excelled beyond expectations. Grace Academy is proud to have Kelsey as our True Grit recipient.”

Danielle Langley, South Hagerstown High School
Sport: Girls Soccer
Corporate Sponsor: Brethren Mutual Insurance

“Danielle Langley, to me, epitomizes the definition of True Grit. There have been two instances in Danielle’s career that she has had to overcome potential season-ending injuries to continue to aid her team on the field. Her sophomore year, Danielle sustained an injury to the arch of her right foot. Four weeks into the season, Danielle came to the coaching staff and told us of her problem. Her options were to play through the pain or opt for surgery to correct the problem in her arch and try and save her outdoor track season. Against the opinions of the coaching staff and her doctors, Danielle opted to play through the pain, leading the defense for the girls soccer team at South Hagerstown for the remainder of the season and inspiring the rest of the team to fight together until the end of each game and the season. This past season, Danielle suffered a knee injury in the consolation game of the Washington County tournament. At the time, no one thought any more of it than as a bone bruise or a ‘knock on the knee.’ Later that week, Danielle attempted to practice and was unable to do so, thus forcing a trip to the doctor. There she found out she had sprained her MCL and had a slight tear in her ACL. Danielle was a four-year starter on the girls soccer team and had been named captain as a senior this past season. She wanted to play through the injury as she had done her sophomore year, given that the doctor had said there was a chance she could heal. However, she was physically unable to participate and had to sit for a month and a half supporting her team from the bench and at every practice. Eventually, Danielle was able to get a brace that would stabilize the knee, and she was able to finish the season and the playoffs on her injured knee. Seeing the need that the team had in defense, Danielle was able to fill that void for the rest of the season. In today’s day and age of injury and illness in the athletic world, it is easy for a student athlete to succumb to the nicks and scrapes that are evident in every season of every sport. As all coaches know, it is difficult to teach kids to ‘fight’ through their pain when these bruises and bumps come along. Danielle has overcome two incidents that required surgery to correct, for her to play for her team. While by no means taking away from the seriousness that some injuries are, Danielle has fought through these to contribute to her team each and every time.

Jordan Leach, Hancock Middle-Senior High School
Sports: Football, Unified Bocce, Baseball
Corporate Sponsor: CNB Bank, Inc.

“Jordan Leach is the picture of the ideals and qualities of true grit. After a devastating injury ended the promise of his senior year, Jordan went through surgery, then worked diligently to rehab his knee — all the while encouraging his teammates and staying involved unselfishly in the athletic department at our school. When Unified Sports Bocce started in the winter, Jordan became a mentor athlete and team captain, leading the Panthers to their first-ever Washington County championship. His patience, understanding and genuine friendship made him by far our most popular teammate. This spring, after completing five grueling months of rehab on his knee, Jordan continued his baseball career for Hancock and contributes each and every day. Instead of giving up when things looked the darkest, this young athlete made the most of his abilities. Jordan told me that one day, he plans on sitting in my chair serving as an athletic director. I truly believe he will and I’m positive he will be great at whatever he attempts to do.”

Connor McHose, North Hagerstown High School
Sport: Wrestling
Corporate Sponsor: Atlantic Security Systems, Inc.

“Connor has been a member of the wrestling team for four years. Connor has earned four varsity letters and this past season was one of the team captains. Connor has always worked hard to prepare himself to compete. In November of 2011 he began to experience problems breathing while training for the upcoming season. His parents scheduled a doctor’s appointment with the expectation that with some medication this problem would be corrected. Connor was referred to specialists who diagnosed him with everything from Exercise Induced Asthma to Bronchitis. He was seen by Ear, Eye Nose and Throat specialists and was given several prescriptions that were administered in hopes that they could medicate a solution. Eventually, the medical experts discovered that Connor was suffering from Vocal Chord Dysfunction. This situation was brought on by a sinus infection that went undetected for a period of time. As his sinuses would drain into his respiratory system, his vocal cords would close and block the flow of air in and out of his lungs. This made running and wrestling near-impossible because of the demands both put on an individual’s cardiovascular system. In Connor’s own words, ‘If there is one thing that this great sport has taught me, it is to never give up.’ In spite of his continuing health problem, Connor started the season and earned a spot on the varsity squad. His physician refused to allow him to compete in the first match of the year, so as a senior he sat and watched as a younger athlete represented the team at his weight class. The next match, Connor convinced the doctor and his parents and coach to allow him the opportunity to compete. He never missed another contest. There were times when his breathing became so labored that he was forced to take an injury timeout to try to reestablish a more normal breathing pattern. Connor worked hard in practice and led the team by his example. Although he was faced with breathing issues, Connor refused to allow anyone to feel sorry for him. He was a vocal presence on our bench and in the practice room. He wrestled his heart out every single match. I credit Connor with the success that our team experienced this past season. As he began to master a new breathing technique, his wrestling began to improve. He was forced to change his style of wrestling to a more tempo-conservative pace. Although this new style of wrestling tended to limit his ability to fully utilize his strength and ability, it did make it possible for him to control his breathing. With his diligence and effort, Connor finished the season with a 32-7 record. Most importantly to him, he qualified for the Maryland State Wrestling Tournament. While it is unfortunate that Connor did not place in that event, it is amazing that he was able to qualify. Connor is a fine student and great example of how athletes can overcome adversity. As his coach, I feel blessed to have been able to sit in his corner during these past four years.

Emmett Orfan, Saint James School
Sports: Cross Country, Boys Basketball, Tennis
Corporate Sponsor: Thompson Gas

“Emmett Orfan has not rested for a moment as an athlete at Saint James School. He was the top runner on the cross country team, a starter on the varsity basketball team and the No. 1 player on the tennis team. He did all this while keeping a 3.5 GPA and serving as a school prefect. Emmett’s presence on campus is one of constant optimism and he is a reliable friend and peer to the entire Saint James community.

Karen Tejeda, Highland View Academy
Sports: Volleyball, Girls Soccer
Corporate Sponsor: Hagerstown Kitchens, Inc.

“Karen embodies the attitude and spirit of Christian competition. Every practice and every game, she puts forth her very best effort and encourages and motivates her teammates. She has been a member of both teams all four years and a captain for both teams her junior and senior years. She also is a terrific leader on campus and has been instrumental in helping other students succeed in the classroom as well as in athletics.”

Zach Wolfe, Broadfording Christian Academy
Sport: Boys Basketball
Corporate Sponsor: Valley Mall

“Zach Wolfe is a deserving recipient of this year’s True Grit Award. Zach started playing basketball when he was in middle school and soccer when he was a senior. While not a star athlete, Zach worked just as hard as any other athlete on the team. He battled through adversity as he has dealt with asthma (when he was younger) and injury. He broke his wrist in the 10th grade, causing him to miss a good portion of that basketball season. He’s overcome family challenges and disappointments at various times. Zach is a diligent, hard-working young man who has learned to persevere in athletics and in life. The values Zach has gained on the basketball court and on the soccer field will be of great help as he pursues his dreams and goals in life.”

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