For the last 22 years, the Wendy’s High School Heisman award has honored more than 600,000 high school student athletes for their accomplishments both on and off the field of play.
Four area students have been selected for the honor; two were announced as school winners from Smith-Cotton High School.
Blake Grupe and Rachael Meyer recently spoke to the Democrat about their success and what it takes to be a high school athlete.
“I was very appreciative when I was acknowledged for what I’ve been doing,” Meyer said. “Athletics for me are an escape from everything else.
“They take time, but I really enjoy what I am doing,” she added.
Meyer is a two-sport athlete, competing in both swimming and tennis.
“I’ve been involved with swimming for the last four years,” Meyer said. “I started tennis two years ago and I play both single and doubles.”
In the two years Meyers has played tennis, she has seen a great deal of success, being named all-conference in only her second year. She finished with a record of 10-2 in singles.
Along with her doubles partner, Allison Burton, the duo won the conference title last year, also finishing with a 10-2 record. The two achieved a fourth place finish in districts.
“Both sports I participate in are individual but yet you become a team,” Meyer said. “You know when you are competing that your teammates on the sidelines are there for you and are supporting you because they are trying for the same goal.
“Sports have helped me develop as a leader,” she added. “They have helped me to reach my individual capabilities and allowed me to grow as part of a team.”
Meyer credits not only her teammates and her coaches, but also her parents for her success.
“My mom is a book person and I get a lot of my drive and athleticism from my dad,” Meyer commented. “He played three sports and I think he wishes he would have gone on to play in college.
“I hope to compete in tennis when I go to college, at Johnson and Whales, which is a culinary school,” she added. “I really think my parents are pleased with how I plan to go on and I really want to thank them for the support they have given me; everything I am I owe to them.”
Blake Grupe shares a similar sentiment as Meyer in regard to his parents.
“My mother was an All-American gymnast at Southeast State University and my father attended school there as well,” Grupe said. “He played soccer there until they eliminated the program because of Title IX cuts.
“He went on to become a football kicker for their program,” Grupe added. “He was the one who taught me how to kick and I owe so much to my parents and my family.”
Grupe plays three sports for S-C — baseball, soccer and football.
He competes in both soccer and football during the fall, which he admits is definitely not easy.
“During the season I would have two or three soccer games each week, and then there would be a football game every Friday,” Grupe explained. “I’m a captain for both soccer and football so I’m in the game pretty much the whole time.
“I will admit my leg does get tired because of all the kicking both in the game and practice,” he added. “But, it’s what I choose to do.”
Grupe said he is still considering his choices for college, adding he plans to study either business or medicine.
“If I had to choose I would pick soccer or football over baseball,” Grupe said. “I have an opportunity to compete in both sports at the next level.
“A factor in my decision of the college I chose will be based on what types of scholarships are available,” he added. “I’ve experienced success in both sports and they have taught me a lot about leadership this year and how to help people.”
Grupe was an all-conference, all-district, all-region soccer player. He was also selected to the all-region football team.
“These students are known by their teachers and friends for the commitment to excellence,” Smith-Cotton High School Principal Wade Norton said in a press release announcing Meyer’s and Grupe’s selection. “We are excited and honored that a program like Wendy’s High School Heisman is also recognizing their hard work.”
Next week the Democrat will profile two Kaysinger Conference Wendy’s Heisman selections, Jake Neil and Garren Powell.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.