High School Spirit of Sport Award

About High School Spirit of Sport Award

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award is annually conferred to eight section recipients as well as one national recipient. The recipient must be an individual from a high school that is a member of an NFHS-member athletic or activity association.

High School Spirit of Sport Award Winners

  • Marissa Walker

    As a youngster at Quaker Hill (Connecticut) Elementary School, Marissa Walker was an exceptional athlete with natural talent who appeared to have a very bright future.

    That changed forever on February 2, 2009, when the then-nine-year-old Walker was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma and had a massive tumor on her left knee that needed to be removed. To address that, she underwent 10 weeks of chemotherapy followed by “limb salvage” at University Hospital in New Jersey where doctors removed 70 percent of her femur. Despite numerous days in the hospital and an additional 18 weeks of chemotherapy, Walker remained upbeat and certain that she would continue to play the sports that she loved.

    While soccer and basketball were no longer participation options for her, pitching a softball was something that she could still do. Impressively, she pitched her Waterford North Little League team to the district championship game less than two years after her diagnosis. 

    The expandable prosthetic joint and femur that was designed and placed in Walker’s leg had to be adjusted every two to three months as she grew – a total of 23 times. After each lengthening, weeks of grueling physical therapy followed. The prosthetic piece broke when she was in sixth grade, which necessitated another surgery to replace it. Two years later, that expandable joint broke, which resulted in yet another surgery in which the doctors placed a permanent titanium rod in its place. Despite three more surgeries during her high school career, Walker has continued her determination to return to the field.

    Walker was chosen captain of the 2018 Waterford High School softball team. Despite the many surgeries and thousands of hours of physical therapy, she is expected to pitch this spring and to contribute in a very strong program and conference.

    • Marissa Walker Student-athlete
      Section 1 Waterford Connecticut
    • Molly Skaggs Student-athlete
      Section 2 Elliott County Kentucky
    • Mark Russell Official
      Section 3 Huntsville City Council Alabama
    • Bryce Ladwig Student-athlete
      Section 4 Plymouth Wisconsin
    • Alexander Schellpeper Former Student-athlete
      Section 5 Stanton Community Nebraska
    • Austin Denton Student
      Section 6 Albuquerque La Cueva New Mexico
    • Luis Fernandez Student-athlete
      Section 7 Indio Shadow Hills California
    • Clayton Auzqui Student-athlete
      Section 8 Arvada-Claremont Wyoming
  • Like most other students at Moose Lake, a school with only 184 students, Danny Lilya plays a variety of sports. Unlike those other students, however, Lilya was born with a broken back, is a paraplegic, and has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life. However, that has not prevented him from participating in the sports he loves. Among those are football, sled hockey, wheelchair softball and track. Last fall, Lilya was the holder on extra points and field goals for the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels football team. He also plays left wing for the Minnesota Wild competitive sled hockey team, where he is 10 years younger than the rest of the athletes on the team. During the past three years, he has attended the USA Hockey sled hockey development camp in Buffalo, New York. A National Wheelchair Softball Association player with the Junior Rolling Twins in a Minneapolis suburb, Lilya has competed in Baltimore, Chicago and Nebraska.

    • Danny Deitz Student-athlete
      Section 1 Simsbury Connecticut
    • Gunnar Eaton Student-athlete
      Section 2 Glasgow Barren County Kentucky
    • Hasaan Hawthorne Student-athlete
      Section 3 Pelham Alabama
    • Hunter Gandee Student-athlete
      Section 4 Temperance Bedford Michigan
    • Danny Lilya Student-athlete
      Section 5 Moose Lake Minnesota
    • Brittlyn, Madalyn and Mikyla Massey Student-athletes
      Section 6 Frederick Colorado
    • Keshaun Mata Student-athlete
      Section 7 Santa Paula California
    • Boys Basketball Team Team
      Section 8 Sitka Alaska
  • Ashley Carson and her twin sister Andrea were born six weeks premature. Due to a blockage of an artery while developing in the womb, Ashley was born with numerous facial deformities that included a cleft lip and palate, no left eye or left ear, and deformities to her nose and jaw structure. In short, Ashley was born with little or no structural development on the left side of her face. To date, Carson has been through eight surgeries – the first one at six months. Carson played an integral role on the Ord High School varsity volleyball team that finished the 2015 season as the Nebraska School Activities Association Class C1 state runner-up. As a seventh-grader, she was a member of the 4x800-meter Nebraska Junior High Track Championship relay team with a time of 10:25.37. In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Carson excels in the classroom with a 4.456 grade-point average. Among her other activities, she has served as class secretary and as class treasurer, and currently is a member of the prom committee, including numerous other community service projects.

    • Sam Peterman Student-athlete
      Section 1 Amherst Sweet Home New York
    • A.J. Digby Student-athlete
      Section 2 Tontogany Otsego Ohio
    • Liana Mutia Student-athlete
      Section 3 Raleigh Millbrook North Carolina
    • Wolfgang Kemp Student-athlete
      Section 4 Woodstock Illinois
    • Ashley Carson Student-athlete
      Section 5 Ord Nebraska
    • Joe Martel III Student-athlete
      Section 6 Beggs Oklahoma
    • Football Team and Booster Club Football
      Section 7 Forestville El Molino California
    • Acey Shaw Coach
      Section 8 Dietrich Idaho
  • Since literally before she can remember, Grace Cummings of Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Connecticut, has endured life-threatening health issues related to her liver.

    A highly accomplished three-sport student-athlete and a performing arts standout, she also is an excellent student with a 3.98 grade-point average while taking all honors or advanced-placement college-level courses.

    Her liver situation gradually worsened as she was diagnosed with Sclerosing Cholangitis and showed evidence of portal hypertension and cirrhosis – all of which put her on a list for a liver transplant in May 2012.

    With the assistance of the Yale Transplant Team, the Cummings family sought a donor. Using Facebook among other means, they located one within three months – a young man named Brady Dolan who was about to become a father. After Dolan underwent a battery of tests, the transplant took place August 14, 2012.

    Cummings enjoyed a full recovery and now is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame, where she majors in engineering.

    • Grace Cummings Student-athlete
      Section 1 Madison Daniel Hand Connecticut
    • Willie Burton Student-athlete
      Section 2 Louisville Fairdale Kentucky
    • Kayla Montgomery Student-athlete
      Section 3 Winston-Salem Mount Tabor North Carolina
    • Luke Vervynckt Student-athlete
      Section 4 Plymouth Indiana
    • Rachel Woell Student Manager
      Section 5 Fridley Totino-Grace Minnesota
    • Josh Derrough Student-athlete
      Section 6 Dallas Adamson Texas
    • Jonathan Stern Student-athlete
      Section 7 Scottsdale Desert Mountain Arizona
    • Hunter Gopp Student-athlete
      Section 8 Fruitland Idaho
  • Zach Pickett, a water polo player at Shingle Springs (California) Ponderosa High School, has swum competitively since age 5, including three years as a talented player on the Ponderosa High School varsity water polo team. At an athletic 6-foot-1 with great upper-body strength, his athletic future appeared very bright.

    That all changed forever on the hot summer afternoon of August 5, 2012.

    With the temperature a sultry 100 degrees, Pickett and his longtime friends Hayden Cooksy and Frankie Kennedy were on break from their lifeguarding duties at Cameron Lake Park and dove into the water to cool off.

    While Cooksy and Kennedy essentially belly-flopped, Pickett instead lowered his head into a diving motion and struck a sandbar submerged in the murky shallow water. That action crushed his seventh vertebra, compressing it into his spinal cord. As a result, Pickett was instantly paralyzed from the chest down.

    • Isaac Lufkin Student-athlete
      Section 1 Providence Classical Rhode Island
    • Mackenzie Guilford Student-athlete
      Section 2 Defiance Ayersville Ohio
    • Scott Hamilton Student-athlete
      Section 3 Dallas Paulding Georgia
    • Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin School
      Section 4 Illinois
    • Nick Lawson Student-athlete
      Section 5 Plankinton South Dakota
    • Mitchell Marcus Student-athlete
      Section 6 El Paso Coronado Texas
    • Jonathon Montanez Student-athlete
      Section 6 El Paso Franklin Texas
    • Zach Pickett Student-athlete
      Section 7 Shingle Springs Ponderosa California
    • Dillon Gilpin Student-athlete
      Section 8 Evanston Wyoming
  • Magoffin County High School & Logan County High School

    Two Kentucky high schools from opposite ends of the state – separated by nearly 300 miles and until recently strangers to each other – are the 2013 recipients of the NFHS’ National High School Spirit of Sport Award.

    Those two high schools – Magoffin County High School in Salyersville at the foothills of the Appalachians in the eastern part of the state and Logan County High School in Russellville out west – had not traditionally been opponents or rivals in sports, nor do they have much in common. However, they were brought together in a manner that changed both schools and communities forever.

    • Kendra Cimaglia Student-athlete
      Section 1 Johnston High School Rhode Island
    • Logan County High School & Salyersville Magoffin County High School Student-athlete
      Section 2 Elmwood High School Kentucky
    • David Goldstein Student-athlete
      Section 3 Ransom Everglades High School Florida
    • Todd Hollis Teacher
      Section 4 Elmwood High School Illinois
    • Justin Volkman Student-athlete
      Section 5 Chapman High School Kansas
    • Charlotte Brown Student-athlete
      Section 6 Emory Rains High School Texas
    • Carson Jones Student-athlete
      Section 7 Queen Creek High School Arizona
    • Kory Puderbaugh Student-athlete
      Section 8 Centennial High School Idaho
  • Athlete Jacob Goldberg from Pine Crest School, Florida

    Goldberg does volunteer work at an Alzheimer’s Day Care center, studies macular degeneration and diabetes under the direction of a doctor, and in 2007 cofounded with his sister, Rachael, “Together We See,” a foundation that has raised more than $45,000 to help send blind and disabled youth to summer camp.

    Goldberg is extremely active within the school, as he is a member of several clubs, including the Pine Crest Beta Club, the Spanish Honor Society and the Math Club.



    • James Burgoyne Student-athlete
      Section 1 Darien High School Connecticut
    • Grace Firestone Former student-athlete
      Section 2 Wilmington Tower Hill School Delaware
    • Jacob Goldberg Student-athlete
      Section 3 Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest School Florida
    • Alysia Bennett Student-athlete
      Section 4 Sullivan High School Indiana
    • Josh Ripley Student-athlete
      Section 5 Andover High School Minnesota
    • Bastrop High School Football Team
      Section 6 Bastrop High School Texas
    • Jessica Yasin Student-athlete
      Section 7 Lake Isabella Kern Valley High School California
    • Michael Lamb Student-athlete
      Section 8 Big Horn High School Wyoming
  • New Kensington Valley High School softball team, and umpire Bill Dithrich, Pennsylvania

    Umpire Bill Dithrich correctly called “illegal pitch,” which enabled Wilmington’s Ashley Gardner to trot home from third and score the winning run. In that split-second, Wilmington won the game, 5-4, and Valley’s perfect season and shot at the state title were both summarily dashed. 

    Shortly thereafter, the Valley High School booster club sought a keynote speaker for its June 29th year-end softball banquet. Eric Felack, an umpire and a Valley High School team booster, came up with what many might have considered to be a very improbable choice – none other than Dithrich himself.

    • Juliann Tefft Student-athlete
      Section 1 West Greenwich Exeter/West Greenwich Senior High School Rhode Island
    • New Kensington Valley High School and Bill Dithrich Softball Team; Umpire
      Section 2 New Kensington Valley Pennsylvania
    • Dylan Rebeor Student-athlete
      Section 3 Columbia Central High School Tennessee
    • Maynard Newhouse Student-athlete
      Section 4 Decorah High School Iowa
    • Anita Boeck Coach
      Section 5 Arlington High School South Dakota
    • Nathan Potts Coach
      Section 6 Shepherd High School Texas
    • Jim Tracy and girls cross country team Coach
      Section 7 San Francisco University High School California
    • Lucas Lish Student-athlete
      Section 8 Arimo Marsh Valley High School Idaho
  • Illinois Volleyball Player Selected as National Recipient of NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award

    Tori Clark, a student-athlete at Lake Park High School in Roselle, Illinois, has been selected the 2010 national recipient of the “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

    • Jackie Quetti Student-athlete
      Section 1 Pittsfield High School Massachusetts
    • Jason E. Meade Coach
      Section 2 Mechanicsville Lee-Davis High School Virginia
    • Kaleb Eulls Student-athlete
      Section 3 Yazoo County High School Mississippi
    • Tori Clark Student-athlete
      Section 4 Roselle Lake Park High School Illinois
    • Jim Christy Coach
      Section 5 Minneapolis South High School Minnesota
    • Justin Ray Duke Student-athlete
      Section 6 Shepherd High School Texas
    • Corey Reich Coach
      Section 7 Piedmont High School California
    • Huslia Huslers Girls Basketball Team
      Section 8 Jimmy Huntington School Alaska
  • Wrestler Dakota Dana from Star Valley High School, Wyoming

    Dakota is one of the top wrestlers on the Star Valley wrestling team, which comes as no surprise to the community. His father, who grew up in the same town, also was an outstanding wrestler for the school.

    On the way back from a tournament in Riverton, Wyoming, in February 2008, the Dana family vehicle was hit coming down a mountain by a semitrailer truck that had lost control. Dakota's parents and older brother Scott were in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Dakota's mother was killed on impact, and his father died several weeks later in the hospital. His brother was bedridden for several months, but is learning to walk again after the accident. 

    • James Orrigo Student-athlete
      Section 1 Reading Austin Preparatory School Massachusetts
    • Berwick varsity baseball team Baseball
      Section 2 Berwick High School Pennsylvania
    • Lonny Schraeder Coach
      Section 3 Hattiesburg Oak Grove High School Mississippi
    • Amy Brechon Student-athlete
      Section 4 Belvidere North High School Illinois
    • Derek Johnson Student-athlete
      Section 5 Aberdeen Central High School South Dakota
    • Steve Hohenberger Coach
      Section 6 Irving Nimitz High School Texas
    • Heather Meyer Student-athlete
      Section 7 Blanding San Juan High School Utah
    • Dakota Dana Student-athlete
      Section 8 Afton Star Valley High School Wyoming
  • Colorado Coach, Cheerleader Selected for NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award

    Tammy Dufford, cheerleading coach at Evergreen (Colorado) High School, and her freshman cheerleader, Megan Bomgaars, have been selected as the 2008 national recipients of the “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). 

    • Connor David Student-athlete
      Section 1 King Philip Regional High School Massachusetts
    • Diane Dennis Coach
      Section 2 Churchland High School Virginia
    • Leah Dorsett Student-athlete
      Section 3 Crossville High School Alabama
    • Curt Bladt Coach
      Section 4 Harlan Community School Iowa
    • Josh Jones Student-athlete
      Section 5 Omaha Central High School Nebraska
    • Tammy Dufford Coach
      Section 6 Evergreen High School Colorado
    • Porter Ellett Student-athlete
      Section 7 Wayne High School Utah
    • Eric Ragan Student-athlete
      Section 8 Lander Valley High School Wyoming