Eason, Kang claim top honors from Sports Club
Both Durham Academy’s Elizabeth Eason and N.C. School of Science and Mathematics’ Jin Kang this weekend will play for state championships in lacrosse and tennis, respectively.
Those two seniors hit the sweet spot again Thursday night, going home with top honors from the Durham Sports Club Scholar-Athlete Awards Night at Croasdaile Country Club.
Eason and Kang each received $1,000 college scholarships that they will use at the University of North Carolina.
NCSSM’s Anne Kelly and Durham Academy’s Cameron Simpson each received $500 college scholarships from the club, which annually honors seniors from Durham’s public and private schools based on their excellence in academics, athletics and community service.
Kelly is headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while Simpson will attend Duke.
“It’s very important to see these athletes, because they’re the ones who paved the way and showed that it can be done,” Durham Public Schools athletics director Larry McDonald said.
Eason blazed a trail from the lacrosse field, where Durham Academy won a semifinals match and showed up at the banquet still in her uniform.
That’s the sort of juggling act and improvisation that Eason and the other 19 honorees will become more familiar with when they exchange the comforts of home for the brave, new world of college, Duke associate head basketball coach Steve Wojciechowski said.
Wojciechowski, the guest speaker, walked down memory lane and recalled the time he was at such a banquet in 1994 in Baltimore, where he said he was named Maryland’s scholar-athlete of the year.
Duke was Wojciechowski’s next stop, where he was named the top defensive player in the nation during his senior year. He said sports taught him so many life lessons and allowed him to meet some really great people.
“It’s been that way for me since I was a little boy, and it’s carried on,” Wojciechowski said.
Wojciechowski was tasked with having something meaningful to say to a group of student-athletes with average non-weighted grade-point averages of 3.82, average weighted GPAs of 4.71 and average SAT scores of 1,915.
“Folks, this is one heck of a group we’re honoring,” banquet chairman Jon Fletcher said.
Wojciechowski understood as much, and with that in mind he said he wanted to make sure he left the student-athletes with something they’d remember.
“Stay true to yourself,” Wojciechowski said, reminding the student-athletes that hard work is why they were sitting where they were sitting. “Don’t change.”
College likely will be the first time the student-athletes will be on their own and making adult decisions that could altar the rest of their lives, Wojciechowski said.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Wojciechowski said, encouraging the student-athletes to hang tough and learn from all of it. “Independence is a good thing.”
Wojciechowski said his early years at Duke had him feeling like he was in over his head. But he realized that he didn’t have to change what he believed in — the hard work, the commitment. He just had to do all of that stuff at a higher level, Wojciechowski said.
The line of work Wojciechowski is in routinely has him keeping company with high achievers, which comes with some unnecessary pressure, he said.
“You don’t have to be perfect,” Wojciechowski said. “Don’t let trying to be perfect get in the way of enjoying the journey.
“Keep your eye on the prize. Keep moving forward. Remember who you are. Stay true to that. Surround yourself with good people and keep trying to pursue excellence.”
The sports club gave $250 to each school’s athletics department.
Voyager Academy was not represented at the banquet because the school has no seniors, Fletcher said. Voyager, a public charter school that started in 2007, will yield its first senior class in the upcoming school year, Voyager athletics director Mike Germino said.
Here is the list of nominees:
Cresset Christian: Melissa Devlin, Jake Ladd; Durham Academy: Elizabeth Eason, Cameron Simpson; Durham School of the Arts: Kellie LeVine, Brian Lobo; Hillside: Mariah Reese, Marius McAllister De Pierre; Jordan: Rachel Barron, David Marron; N.C. School of Science and Mathematics: Anne Kelley, Jinyoung Kang; Northern: Emily Bierman, Matt Eddinger; Riverside: Carly Speight, Michael Tillotson; Southern: Charity Shaw, Jalen Peterkin; Trinity: Bryn Morgan, Alex Gould.