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Meet the 2020 Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalists

Greg Hardwig
Marco Eagle

The coronavirus isn't keeping the Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award from being given.

The selection committee met virtually Wednesday to go over the applications submitted by 12 Collier County schools and pick a winner.

Organizers announced April 13 that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 31st annual banquet, which had been scheduled for Thursday at Naples Grande Beach Resort, wouldn't happen. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, and is expected to fill that role at next year's banquet.

"The part I really miss is interviewing these kids and getting to know them," Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete chairman Bud Hornbeck said.

The Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Foundation will give $5,000 to each of its finalists. The winner receives a $10,000 scholarship – $2,500 a year for four years. The other finalists receive one-time stipends.

Graduating seniors from Collier County high schools are eligible for the award, which was first given in 1990 by the Collier Athletic Club.

Collier County high schools each determined their candidate after completing an extensive application process in order to be considered. Schools had a May 15 deadline to submit their candidates, which were then announced.

St. John Neumann football player Jensen Jones won the award last year, when former baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. was the keynote speaker.

The major sponsors are the Lutgert Companies/Premier Sotheby’s International, Barron Collier Junior Foundation, Gallagher Lutgert Insurance, Iberia Bank and Grant Fridkin Pearson P. A. 

Hornbeck said the majority of those major sponsors, plus table and school sponsors, allowed their donations to remain. He said the foundation will still be accepting donations, and anyone interested can contact him at bud_hornbeck@ajg.com.

Here are the 12 finalists: 

Araceli Anzualda, Immokalee High School Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.

Araceli Anzualda

Immokalee High School

Anzualda was a four-year varsity player in softball, helping the Indians to CCAC championships as a sophomore and a junior, and a district championship as a junior. She also was team captain in golf.

From recommendation letter: "As a friend and supervisor to Araceli, her character and perseverance still impress me to this day. She is a role model not only to her students but her relatives and other members of the Tutor Corps program. She is constantly improving herself and working to achieve her goals. When she is facing issues or a difficult problem, she does not waver and she continues to embody greatness. Araceli has become a wonderful tutor, one who is not afraid of feedback, one who can search for help when necessary, and one who I can heavily depend on." — Daniel Martinez, Guadalupe Center

Jay Beshears, Community School baseball

Jay Beshears

Community School of Naples

Beshears, who has signed with Northwestern to play baseball, was a four-year varsity player in baseball and for three years in basketball, helping the Seahawks to a 29-2 season and the state semifinals as a senior. He was a Daily News first-team selection in both basketball and baseball, the latter as a junior.

From recommendation letter: "Jay Beshears led the team by competing to win every single drill in practice. And when I say every single drill that is what I mean. He would be upset with himself if he did not win each and everything that we did. No one needs to push Jay to play harder or compete because that great burning desire comes from within Jay." — basketball coach Greg Donahue

Lauren Faremouth, Marco Island Academy Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.

Lauren Faremouth

Marco Island Academy

Faremouth, who has signed with Division II Lynn for swimming, competed in varsity soccer, swimming, tennis and volleyball. She was honorable mention all-area in soccer and swimming. She was a three-time MVP in tennis and won one in swimming.

From recommendation letter: "Ms. Faremouth proved herself time and time again to be a strong leader of our team, oftentimes giving her teammates the encouragement they needed to finish challenging practices. Her leadership skills are unparalleled. She has been the captain of our team for the past two seasons. Her ability to

motivate her teammates through both incredible wins and painful losses is one of her greatest qualities." — swimming coach Morgan Joseph

Christian Garcia, Palmetto Ridge

Christian Garcia

Palmetto Ridge High School

Garcia was first-team all-area in cross country as a senior, and also competed in track. He was 56th at the cross country state meet. Garcia was a three-time MVP in cross country.

From recommendation letter: "Though Christian has many qualities that make him a great person among society, what really helps separate him is his drive; his passion to accomplish his goals. Distance running can be an incredibly stressful sport with the time that can go into it, the poor performances that may result, the time constraints put on other obligations, and the outright physical exhaustion. Despite the difficulties, Christian always rises above it all and works hard even if not for himself, but for his teammates." -— strength and conditioning, girls cross country coach and assistant track coach Matthew Cevallos 

Isabella Garcia, Seacrest Country Day Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.

Isabella Garcia

Seacrest Country Day

Garcia was two-time honorable mention all-area in volleyball, and also played soccer for the Stingrays. She was team captain in volleyball as a junior and senior.

From recommendation letter: "I have had other volleyball players on the team these past years who told me of life-changing conversations with Isabella where they have felt inspired and encouraaged to not give up or settle, but rather to relentlessly pursue their dreams and become all they were created to be. This unselfish gift of seeking the best for others and not for her is the highest quality of character." — volleyball coach Jan Class

Naples High School's Brady Gibson

Brady Gibson

Naples High School

Gibson, who is going to the University of Kentucky to study nursing, was a Daily News Cross Country Runner of the Year finalist as a sophomore, junior and senior, winning the award as a junior. Gibson also was on the Daily News All-Decade Team. He was second-team all-area in track as a junior.

From recommendation letter: "Brady is one of the most enjoyable athletes I have coached. He is always positive and has an incredible work ethic. He is a talented runner who is giving, unselfish and dedicated to his teammates and coaches. ... We have always had a rigorous program and successful teams. Brady has helped continue that tradition. He has pushed himself and his team to strive to excel at a higher level and never settle." — cross country coach Mary Beth Watkins

Samantha Hussey, St. John Neumann High School Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.

Samantha Hussey

St. John Neumann High School

Hussey was honorable mention all-area in basketball, and was second-team all-area in track as a junior. She finished fourth in the state in the shot put as a junior, and was ranked second in the state as a senior before the season was cut short. She also played tennis.

From recommendation letter: "By her junior year I was faced with the tough decision of which team to assign her to. Our JV needed leadership and players, and Sam stepped right up to fill the role without any hesitation. She played on the JV team even though she was older than most and never complained to me. It was during this season that Sam improved more than I have ever witnessed a player improve. Her confidence grew, she got stronger, and she learned important lessons that would come in handy her senior year. Sam put in the work and effort to be the best version of herself and our whole team benefited from it." — basketball coach Sarah McFee

Andy Martinez, wrestling, Golden Gate, All-Area Athletes Winter 2020

Andy Martinez

Golden Gate High School

Martinez went 59-0 and won the 160-pound state title in wrestling as a senior. He finished his three-year varsity career 167-19, and is a Daily News Wrestler of the Year finalist. Martinez also competed in cross country.

From recommendation letter: "Andy's hard work and devotion to the sport of wrestling allowed him to capture the state wrestling championship at the 160-pound weight class. Further, he was voted as the FHSAA Class 2A Wrestler of the Year. This feat alone puts Andy in elite company, but what's most impressive is that he won the 2020 Russ Mauger Mental Attitude Award, an award that is given to one wrestler in the entire state of Florida who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, leadership, etchis and integrity during the FHSAA wrestling season." — wrestling coach Edwin Rey

Justin Mattia, Gulf Coast High School Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.

Justin Mattia

Gulf Coast High School

Mattia was one of the top quarterbacks in the county as a junior before injuries sidetracked his senior season. Mattia also was first-team all-area as a catcher as a junior. He also was a team captain for multiple years in both sports.

From recommendation letter: "Justin was the best leader on and off the field coming into his senior year. Unfortunately, Justin had an injury in the preseason football game. He never wavered as a leader, helping the freshman backup both on and off the field with unbelievable leadership. When he received a clearance to return to the field, he put the team and its needs before his own. This is something most could not handle. Justin asked what he could do to help the team. With injuries at running back, he stepped in and played there, wide receiver, defensive back, and every special team." — former football coach Tom Scalise

Malaya Melancon, girls soccer, First Baptist Academy, All-Area Athletes Winter 2020

Malaya Melancon

First Baptist Academy

Melancon, who has signed to play soccer at FGCU, is a Player of the Year finalist in the sport this season, and was Player of the Year and the Daily News Female Athlete of the Year as a junior. She also was first-team all-area in track as a junior.

From recommendation letter: "She is the first girls soccer player to receive a Division I scholarship (at First Baptist). She has been a two-sport athlete all through high school. I could go on and on about her soccer stats, but in addition to her soccer talent, she is an incredibly smart student in the classroom and respectful young adult. I've never had an issue coaching her. She's always respected my position as her coach, respected teammates, was determined, dedicated and hard working at every goal she set her mind to." — soccer coach Jackyson Bazile

Victoria Novotny, Lely High School 2020 Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete finalist.

Victoria Novotny

Lely High School

Novotny was honorable mention all-area in tennis as a sophomore and junior, and a four-year team captain and three-year MVP. She also played volleyball for the Trojans.

From recommendation letter: "The very first day I met Victoria in the gym I could tell she was a special athlete. It was obvious she possessed the physical gifts to be a great player. Over the course of our first practice, it also became obvious that her mental approach to the game was even greater. As a libero she led the defense and was like another coach on the floor. I never had to worry about Victoria being prepared for a match." — volleyball coach Chris Addeo

Drew Powell, Barron Collier High School Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.

Drew Powell

Barron Collier High School

Powell, who has signed with Cornell in the Football Championship Subdivision, was one of the top running backs in the county as a junior, rushing for 1,393 yards before injuries hampered him during his senior year. He was second-team all-area as a junior and senior, and also ran track.

From recommendation letter: "As fine an athlete as Drew is, he has also displayed selfless characteristics of a leader. Drew was twice elected a team captain for the Barron Collier Football program. He is a natural leader that cares deeply for his teammates, and would do anything to help them be successful on the field, in the weight room, and even tutoring them in the classroom." — football coach Mark Jackson

Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at ghardwig@naplesnews.com. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/