C. Milton Wright's Maggie Gallagher and Patterson Mill's Eric Eckstein were honored Wednesday night as the female and male winners of the annual $5,000 Al Cesky Scholarship.
The two were selected from a group of 24 Harford County scholar athletes, all of whom were in attendance at Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood, along with teachers, coaches, parents, administrators and scholarship fund directors, for Wednesday's awards banquet, the 29th held since the Al Cesky Scholarship Fund began in 1986.
Gallagher and Eckstein gave similar thank-you speeches, though one of them had their address prepared, while the other went off the cuff.
"My mom told me I should write a little something down, just in case," Gallagher said after the banquet was over. "I was still in shock after hearing my name called."
"I didn't have a speech or anything written down," Eckstein said. "I just went up there and winged it. I was so nervous I even pronounced Maggie's name wrong, but that's okay. It was such a thrill to hear them call me, out of all those students."
Gallagher gave thanks to her parents, field hockey coach Janice Rhodes, swim coach Cathy Bendis and lacrosse coach Brent Ritz. Eckstein also said thanks to his parents, as well as wrestling coach Ryan Arist and Patterson Mill athletic Director Jason Bellamy.
In winning the $5,000 scholarship, Gallagher became the third straight female student from her school to be honored, as CMW's Abigail Smucker and Danielle King were the winners in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
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"It was a real shock when I heard, 'and from C. Milton Wright," Gallagher said. "I knew that we had won the scholarship the last two years in a row, so to be the third in a row is just a huge honor. I'm really excited, really happy."
Eckstein became the second Patterson Mill student in that school's history to win the $5,000 scholarship. Monica Negron, the female winner in 2010, was Patterson Mill's first.
"It was such a rush when I heard them call me," Eckstein said. "There were 23 other students out there, so I knew how tough a [field] it was."
Gallagher, a four-year starter on CMW's varsity lacrosse, field hockey and swim teams, the latter of which went undefeated in county competition during Gallagher's high school career, will graduate in June in the top 10 percent of her class. She is a member of the National Honor Society and German Honor Society, and plans to attend Penn State this fall.
Eckstein, a four-year varsity member of Patterson Mill's track and field team, and a three-year member of the wrestling team, was a captain on both of his teams. He won back-to-back individual UCBAC championships in wrestling, and was a regional qualifier in shot put and discus. After graduating in the top three percent of his class, Eckstein plans on attending Elizabethtown College.
The remaining 22 nominees, who were each honored at the banquet prior to the announcement of the $5,000 scholarship winners, all received a $2,000 college scholarship. The Al Cesky Scholarship Fund committee selects two students, one male and one female, from each of the county's 12 public and private schools based on the criteria of academic achievement, athletic achievement, school-related activities, propensity for service and significance of sports participation.
Recipients of this year's $2,000 scholarships are: Chloe Akers, Harford Christian; Cole Alban, John Carroll; Casey Baker, Fallston; Jarrett Booz, Harford Tech; Lindsay Krause, John Carroll; Paul Butz, Havre de Grace; John Cross, Bel Air; Emily Lewis, Havre de Grace; Caroline Lozzi, Bel Air; Dan Gorski, Edgewood; Gen Mayo-Johnson, Joppatowne; Anna Muckerman, Patterson Mill; Nic Hammer, North Harford; Paul Hubner, Fallston; Megan Poniatowski, Edgewood; Bailey Saneman, North Harford; Manny Mastromanolis, C. Milton Wright; Seth McCarty, Harford Christian; Abbey Sasdelli, Aberdeen; Trinity Sprague; Harford Tech; Devin Warbington, Joppatowne; Eric Whittie, Aberdeen.