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Hawk, Charger Claim State Heisman High School Scholarships

Skill. Talent. Grit. Strength.

Words often used to describe winners of the Heisman Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the top U.S. college football player, also certainly can be used to define the Canyons District student-athletes who swept the state honors in the 2022 Heisman High School Scholarship competition.

Alta High’s Ryan Richards and Corner Canyon High’s Panasya “Ferne” Chirachanakul are the male and female Utah winners of the $1,000 scholarships provided through the Heisman Trophy Trust, which oversees the vaunted intercollegiate gridiron award.

The two top boy and girl national honorees, who receive a $10,000 scholarship, will be announced later this month. The student-scholarship program, which requires honorees to submit applications and essays, was created in 1994 through a partnership between the Heisman trust and Wendy’s.

Applicants must have at least a 3.0 grade-point average and be proven leaders and role models in their school and community. They also must have participated in the ninth, 10th, or 11th grades in at least one of the sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee in the Summer or Winter Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, or the National Federation of State High School Associations.

For Richards, the state honor is “pretty cool because I know there are a lot of great athletes,” he said. “This is kind of like a pay-off for the practice and the work I have put in. It is nice to look back and know that it did not go unnoticed.”

Each fall for four years, Richards has hit the links with the Hawk golf team — and finished in eighth-place in the region this year. During the winter months, he runs the hardwood with Alta’s hoops team, which this week landed in the Region 8 top spot in the pre-season coaches poll, and this spring, he and his Alta teammates will seek to defend their 2022 5A state championship in boys soccer.

The Alta senior doesn’t hesitate to say that it’s a challenge to play three sports and remain on the Honor Roll.

“There were times when I didn’t know if I wanted to continue playing all these sports. I wondered if I should just focus on one and be really good at it — but I just kept going,” he said. “I have really loved every second of it. I have made some amazing friends, and all of the teachers have been awesome.  I’ve also have had awesome coaches in all three sports.”

After learning about the state scholarship via an email from the Heisman trust, he immediately informed his parents, John and Stephanie Richards, and the rest of his family. “My family is super-pumped,” said Richards, who has applied to attend Brigham Young University. “It’s been pretty amazing.”

Chirachanakul also was excited and surprised when she received the message from the Heisman organization. She received the note when she woke up for the swim team’s before-dawn practice.

“I was pretty shocked,” she said, adding she immediately told her parents, Prasert and Natthiya Chirachanakul, the good news. “I said, ‘I don’t care if you are tired or want to sleep. You get to find out this, too.’”

The Charger senior swims the 50 free sprint on the high school team and has been a competitive figure skater since she was five.

Chirachanakul transferred to Corner Canyon for her sophomore year — the school year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — after attending another Salt Lake-area high school. The Honor Roll student says she knew few people, and “couldn’t tell who was who in masks,” she says, laughing.

“Beginning in the summer leading up to my junior year, I started to get a friend group and connected with people on the swim team,” she said. “It was definitely a lot more fun when I could go out.”

The aim for Chirachanakul, who has her sights set on a pre-med track, is to attend an Ivy League school — Harvard, to be exact.  The prospective radiologist submitted her application to the Cambridge-based school several weeks ago.

“I might as well shoot big,” she said. “Most likely I will go to the U., though.”

In the past 28 years, the Heisman High School Scholarship program has honored more than 600,000 stellar high school senior student-athletes and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships to students and more than a million dollars to high school academic and athletic programs across the country. The national high school Heisman winners will be announced Nov. 30.

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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