2014 Sun Scholar Athletes of the Year
Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 6:19 p.m.
While Brittney Olinger and Wesley Olmsted took similar paths to achieve athletic and academic excellence in high school, their destinations after graduation will provide opportunities oceans apart.
After spending countless hours in the classroom to maintain flawless grade-point averages and in training to become state championship-caliber endurance athletes, both seniors are preparing to depart to dream schools far from home.
Olmsted is leaving Eastside High for Palo Alto, Calif., as one of his school's co-valedictorians with a weighted 5.0 GPA, three state championship medals in swimming, including two this season, and a scholarship to continue competing in the pool at Stanford.
A member of the FHSAA's academic all-state team, Olinger is heading to England to attend the University of Oxford after also finishing as the co-valedictorian of her class at Oak Hall with a weighted 4.84 GPA. One of the most decorated distance runners in area history, Olinger led the Eagles to second- and third-place finishes at the Class 1A cross country and track and field meets, respectively, this season.
Though the student athletes had their pick of academic-minded Ivy League universities or athletic-focused schools in power conferences, each of The Sun's Scholar Athletes had a similar objective in mind when making their college choice.
“I think about academics first,” said Olmsted, who is part of the International Baccalaureate program at EHS. “That's my priority, because after these four years in college I doubt I'm going to be swimming anymore. I don't see myself being a professional, and I just think that I'm only going to be a swimmer so long. If you do go pro, you definitely retire by your mid-20s.”
Olmsted is coming off his most successful season in the pool after winning Class 2A state titles in the 100-yard freestyle (45.03) and 100 backstroke (45.94) with school record and automatic All-American times. A two-time area swimmer of the year, Olmsted was a state champion in the 50 freestyle last season and also placed second in the 100 butterfly.
After taking recruiting trips to Harvard and Michigan, the 58th-ranked swimming prospect in the nation decided in November to spend his next four years on the Farm, home of 113 individual NCAA swimming and diving champions.
For the second straight year, Stanford also had a lower acceptance rate than Harvard at just 5 percent.
“I kind of thought Harvard was on one end of the spectrum in terms of academics and Michigan is on the other side in terms of they won NCAAs last year in swimming,” Olmsted said. “Stanford was kind of in the middle.”
Olmsted, who is considering majoring in management science and engineering, was able to maintain both a stringent academic and athletic workload this year. In a study by The Washington Post, Eastside was ranked the 18th most challenging school in the South and 27th overall in the nation.
“He practices at least four hours a day, six days a week,” said EHS swimming and diving coach Jon Allen, who is also a Pre-IB Biology teacher. “To manage your time well is an obstacle that a lot of athletes can't get past, but Wesley has figured out a way to do it.”
Time management skills were also critical for Olinger, who had to take her assessment test for acceptance to Oxford three days before her final state cross country meet Nov. 9.
Dubbed the Thinking Skills Assessment, or TSA, the exam is also part of the admissions process to the University of Cambridge and University of London.
“Needless to say, I didn't have a lot of time to prepare,” said Olinger, who will be studying economics and management. “But I took the online practice test that they had given me. I ran through it once, so I knew the format. Then focused in on a couple questions I had trouble with and crossed my fingers and went in.”
After scoring in the top 10 percentile on the exam, Olinger was informed in December she made the university's first cut and did an hour-long Skype interview with two of her future professors, who grilled her knowledge of economic theory.
It wasn't until a month later, while sitting in her AP Microeconomics class on Jan. 8, that Olinger received an email notifying her that she was admitted.
At the same time, she was enjoying one of her most successful seasons in a running career stretching back to middle school.
Olinger, a five-time Sun Cross Country Runner of the Year, paced the runner-up Eagles with a third-place finish of 18:31.89 at the Class 1A state finals following district and regional title wins. During the Class 1A track and field meet on May 2, Olinger crossed the line in sixth in the 3,200 meter and also ran the first leg of the Eagles' state title win in the 4x800 relay.
“Her cross country season this year, of course, was really good,” OHS cross country and track and field coach Edwin McTureous said. “I'm very proud of her for ending with her best season, but it hasn't surprised me at all what she's been able to do because of how committed she's been to both ever since before she was a ninth-grader. She's been doing it all along.”
Ahead of their college departures, Olinger and Olmsted are spending their final months before leaving in preparation to continue their athletic careers.
A seven-time All-American, Olmsted is slated to train this summer at Jacksonville Bolles with fellow sprinter Caeleb Dressel, a UF signee and high school record holder in the 50 freestyle. Olinger, meanwhile, will be registering miles in hopes of making Oxford’s Full Blue athletics team.
“Oak Hall prepared me to think outside the box and be confident enough to take risks,” Olinger said. “But running definitely gave me a level of discipline and maturity in all areas of my life that translated into me being comfortable enough to shoot for a goal like that.”
David Lee, Buchholz, senior
Grades/achievements: 4.38 GPA (weighted), 3.60 GPA (unweighted), attending Florida International on baseball scholarship
Tyler Anderson, Cedar Key, senior
Sports: Baseball, Basketball, cross country, track and field
Grades/achievements: 3.53 GPA (unweighted)
Payton Parnell, Chiefland, senior
Sports: Football, baseball
Grades/achievements: 3.30 GPA, ranked 39th in graduating class
Brayden Thomas, Columbia, senior
Grades/achievements: 3.92 GPA, 28 ACT, attending Air Force Academy on football scholarship
Andrew Kluess, Fort White, senior
Sports: Football, weightlifting
Grades/achievements: Salutatorian, 3.96 GPA (unweighted), 32 ACT, 1980 SAT, Ann Rumph finalist, Presidential Award, Bright Futures Academic Scholar, Stem Scholar, National Honor Society, Beta Club, attending UF
Cameron Guy, Gainesville, senior
Grades/achievements: 2013 Sun Scholar Athlete of the Year, 4.88 GPA (weighted), 4.0 (unweighted), attending UF Honors College
Jared Makatura, Interlachen, senior
Grades/achievements: 4.68 GPA (weighted), 3.94 (unweighted), attending UF
Alex Wilkins, Newberry, senior
Sports: Football, baseball
Grades/achievements: 4.5 GPA (weighted), 3.8 (unweighted)
Jake Kirschner, Oak Hall, senior
Sports: Football, lacrosse, swimming
Grades/achievements: 4.70 GPA (weighted), 4.09 GPA (unweighted), 31 ACT, 2040 SAT, FHSAA academic all-state selection, FHSAA student-athlete advisory committee, attending BYU on half-scholarship for lacrosse
Joseph Janson, P.K. Yonge, senior
Sports: Cross country, track and field
Grades/achievements: 4.27 GPA (weighted), 3.85 (unweighted), 1350 SAT (reading, math)
Tim Deen, Santa Fe, senior
Sports: Football, baseball
Grades/achievements: 4.06 GPA (weighted), 3.34 (weighted), 23 ACT, four-year “A/B” honor roll
Hunter Hamilton, Suwannee, senior
Sports: Football, track and field
Grades/achievements: Valedictorian, 4.4 GPA (weighted), 4.0 (unweighted), 33 ACT, National Honor Society, Beta Club, attending Florida State
Stephen Smith, Trenton, senior
Sports: Football, baseball
Grades/achievements: 3.52 (GPA), 3.43 GPA (unweighted), attending Virginia Military Academy on baseball scholarship
Courtney Cribb, Buchholz, senior
Grades/achievements: 4.63 GPA (weighted), National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Spanish Honor Society, WCJB Scholar Athlete of the Week
Lauren Bartholemy, Cedar Key, senior
Sports: Basketball, volleyball, cross country, track and field
Grades/achievements: Valedictorian, 3.93 GPA (unweighted), 29 ACT
Brittany Gilliam, Chiefland, senior
Sports: Volleyball, basketball, softball
Grades/achievements: 3.56 GPA, ranked 14th in graduating class
Kayli Kvistad, Columbia, senior
Grades/achievements: 3.96 GPA, 22 ACT, attending UF on softball scholarship
Madison Burger, Eastside, senior
Sport: Volleyball, lacrosse
Grades/achievements: 4.87 GPA (weighted), 3.98 (unweighted), 30 ACT, 1980 SAT
Ayla Gonzalez, Fort White, senior
Sports: Soccer, softball
Grades/achievements: 3.47 GPA, 23 ACT, National Honor Society, Beta Club, accepted to North Florida
Kelsey Watts, Gainesville, senior
Grades/achievements: 4.47 GPA (weighted), 3.72 GPA (unweighted), attending University of Tampa on volleyball scholarship
Hannah Ogle, Interlachen, senior
Sports: Weightlifting, softball
Grades/achievements: 4.04 GPA (weighted), 3.68 (unweighted)
Shelby Chatfield, Newberry, senior
Sports: Cross country, soccer, track and field
Grades/achievements: 4.79 GPA (weighted), 3.91 (unweighted), 27 ACT,
Kirsten Dana, P.K. Yonge, senior
Sports: Golf, soccer
Grades/achievements: 4.1 GPA (weighted), 3.66 (unweighted), 28 ACT, attending Florida State
Lauren Riley, Santa Fe, junior
Grades/achievements: 4.66 GPA (weighted), 3.90 (unweighted), 26 ACT, three-year
straight “A” honor roll
Farah Rajaee, St. Francis, senior
Sports: Volleyball, soccer
Grades/achievements: Valedictorian, 4.52 GPA (weighted), 4.0 GPA (unweighted), 32 ACT, 1720 SAT
Haejin Choe, Suwannee, junior
Sports: Golf, Weightlifting, softball
Grades/achievements: 3.8 GPA, 28 ACT, president of Interact Club
Madi Redd, Trenton, junior
Sports: Volleyball, softball
Grades/achievements: 3.97 GPA (weighted), 3.60 GPA (unweighted), 29 ACT
Holly Tucker, Union County, senior
Grades/achievements: 4.4 GPA (weighted), 3.8 (unweighted), 24 ACT, SWAT (officer-publicist), HOSA, Beta Club, president of Florida Junior Academy of Science, FCA, Student Government Class Treasurer, Envirothon Team, Science Olympiad, Science and Engineering Fair (school, regional and state winner), Florida FFA Agriscience Fair (fourth in nation), FFA Forestry Team, FFA Proficiency State Winner for Environmental Science
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