Athletes recognized for accomplishments on, off the field [Commentary]

A week ago, I had the pleasure of attending The Baltimore Sun's High School Athletes of the Year luncheon and awards ceremony.

It was the 47th annual event in which high school student athletes from Baltimore City and surrounding counties were invited to lunch along with family and in some cases, school personnel.

Dan Duquette, the Baltimore Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations, was the keynote speaker chosen to address the 20 young persons, 10 boys and 10 girls.

I knew heading down there, there were going to be a few familiar faces from right here in Harford County. Abby Smucker from C. Milton Wright and Jimmia McCluskey from Aberdeen were among the female recipients.

As it turned out, Harford did not have a male representative. Well, sort of.

Tevon Saddler, an Aberdeen resident, was in attendance by way of St. Frances Academy. Of the remaining 17 students, seven were from other private schools, but I can't confirm that any were Harford residents.

I had a pre-conceived notion that all the student athletes were seniors. Well, I was wrong. By my count, five were underclassmen, including the overall female winner, Ellie Gonzalez, a junior track athlete from Catholic High School in Baltimore.

Gonzalez had not chosen a college as of yet, but it was noted that the number of letters brought to her door was keeping the mailman busy.

The male winner was Deryk Kern, a football-basketball player from Westminster High School. It will be football that Kern continues as he takes his talents to Wesley College in Delaware. Kern set a Maryland record for touchdown passes in a season with 63.

None of our local connections brought home the big prize, but each will be continuing their journey on the big stage.

McCluskey is heading to Temple University to continue her talents on the track and in the field, while Smucker, like McCluskey a three-sport athlete, will stick with lacrosse at Penn State University. The Nittany Lions are up and coming, and Smucker might be a great fit.

Saddler, a basketball talent, is heading south to University of North Carolina-Greensboro to continue his career.

One other award, one of integrity, was also handed out to Aaron Leeds of Boys' Latin. I don't know Leeds, but his lead is something we can all follow.

Very simply, Leeds found an envelope with $3,000 inside during a visit to a restaurant in December. Leeds promptly gave it to the cashier inside and went about his business as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

A customer saw what transpired, and being a Boys' Latin alum, he made a $3,000 donation in Leeds' name to the school for tuition assistance.

Leeds wasn't there as a student-athlete last week, but rather, a true stand-up citizen in our slowly eroding positive society.

In all, a good day recognizing many worthy young people.

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