SOUTHINGTON — Evan Bender, a senior on the Southington boys swim team, returned to the State Open for a second straight year earlier this month.
This was no surprise to his coach, Evan Tuttle, who witnessed the work that led up to it.
”Quite simply, he enjoys the toil and sweat needed in order to overcome adversity that most others would shy away from,” Tuttle said of Bender. “He embraces the challenges, no matter how daunting, and relishes in the opportunity to be his best each and every day.”
This is clearly true in the classroom, as well. With a 113.3 academic average, Bender is on course to be the essayist of Southington High’s Class of 2018. He’s also on his way to Johns Hopkins University, where he’ll major in biomedical engineering.
In just the past year of his high school career, Bender has won academic awards for science (Bausch & Lomb), engineering (AP & Project Lead the Way) and leadership (Connecticut Association of Superintendents). He earned a Gettysburg College Book Award and an AP Scholar Award.
Bender is also the National Honor Society’s director of tutoring, a participant in Model United Nations and the intel officer of the Aspiring Medical Professionals Club. He’s in DECA and has been a leadership intern in the Southington school system’s Camp Invention.
And then there’s swimming. Bender swam on the 200 medley relay that won the CCC West championship. He competed on that relay, as well as on the 400 freestyle relay, at the Class LL meet and the State Open.
”There is little that Evan Bender does not excel at,” said Tuttle. “If there were ever a model of an ideal scholar-athlete, Evan is it.”
Bender was one of seven Record-Journal Scholar-Athletes selected at Southington for the 2017-18 winter season. All seven nominees will be invited to the R-J’s annual “Best of the Bunch” awards brunch at the Aqua Turf on Sunday, June 24.
They are also in the running for the two Scholar-Athletes of the Year scholarships that will be awarded at the event.
Jeff Hannigan, boys indoor track: Jeff Hannigan has led Southington’s track program through both is leadership and versatility.
This winter, the senior captain competed in the 600 meters, in the high and long jumps as well as in a pair of relays, the 4x400 and 4x800. He placed sixth in the 600 at the Class LL meet with a time of 1:27.34.
His academic pace is solid, too. His grade average stands at 106.7.
“Jeff has been a valued member of our team for four years and has continued to show skill not only in track and field, but in the classroom,” remarked coach Connor Green. “He is a high-achieving individual who has helped shape our team into the competitors we are today. He has been a great leader and is fully deserving of this nomination.”
Andrew Lohneiss, boys basketball: Senior Andrew Lohneiss led the Blue Knights to the CIAC Division III quarterfinals averaging a team-high 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. When the dust cleared on a 17-8 season, Lohneiss was named All-State, All-CCC West and All-Record-Journal.
He’ll be heading to Roger Williams University in the fall to study engineering. He heads into the homestretch at Southington High holding a 97.7 academic average.
“Andrew is the cornerstone of our program, not only with his play on the court, but also as the person he is off the court. He is quite possibly the largest component contributing to the growth our program has shown in the last four years,” said basketball coach John Cessario. “Andrew personifies what hard work and commitment can achieve He is an exceptional student and prides himself in the leaderhsip mandates our team captains are expected to bring forth every day.
“These past four years I have seen the growth of an exceptional young man whose drive to be the best student and basketball player is beyond compare.”
Julia McPherson, girls indoor track: Here’s a name that must be included in the discussion of the top student-athletes in Southington’s Class of 2018.
Julia McPherson, a hurdler for the indoor and outdoor track teams, a field hockey player in the fall, is carrying an academic average of 109.7.
The National Honor Society member is heading to Tulane University, where she’ll major in biochemistry on a pre-med track.
“Julia has been a valued member of our team and has a stayed consistent presence in our hurdle program,” said track coach Connor Green. “Her ability to balance school, practice and life in general is a credit to her maturity and skill as a future leader.”
Zach Monti, ice hockey: Hall-Southington goaltender Zach Monti earned All-State Second Team and All-CCC South status after a senior season in which he posted a 1,80 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
That nearly mirrors his academic average of 92.6.
For a second straight year, Monti was deemed the area’s top goaltender and selected to the All-Record-Journal Team.
“Zach has anchored the team in goal the last two seasons,” Warrior-Knights coach Brian Cannon commented. “He arrives early, has worked hard on the ice and contributed to the team off the ice. He has remained strong academically, which is not easy with the demanding and irregular schedule that hockey players endure.”
Jennifer Thai, gymnastics: Third-year gymnast Jennifer Thai was a regular scorer for the Blue Knights in her senior season this winter. She competed in vault, uneven bars and floor exercise in this year’s Class L state meet.
She also brought the intangibles as a team leader.
“Great team spirit and motivator,” said coach Kim Vaillancourt. “Jen was a pleasure to have on the team. She was always there with her good attitude and positive outlook for our sport. Jen is a great leader for the underclassmen to look up to. Jen always had a smile and positive energy to share with everyone. I look forward to her next big adventure after high school.”
Thai’s academic average is something to flip about, too. It stands at 102.2.
Janette Wadolowski, girls basketball: The athletic accomplishments of this senior have already filled these pages.
After a senior season in which she averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, Janette Wadolowski signed off as the second-leading scorer in Southington girls basketball history with 1,229 career points. She was named All-State and, for a third straight year, All-Conference and All-Record-Journal.
She is going on to play Division III basketball at Tufts University.
The Jumbos are getting an excellent student in the bargain. Wadolowski has a 103.4 academic average and is president of Southington High’s chapter of the National Honor Society. She’s on the math team and participates in DECA.
“Janette will be remembered as one of the greatest players ever to play at Southington High School,” remarked girls basketball coach Mike Forgione. “She leads by example both on and off the court and in the classroom.
“Janette’s finest quality is her willingness to help others in any way that she can,” Forgione added. “She always put the team first and is an outstanding representative of our program, school and town.”