MERIDEN — Just as it does during the school year, the Scholar-Athletes series bridges the gap between seasons in the “Best of the Bunch” rollout.
But, really, Scholar-Athletes is more than a bridge. It’s part of the foundation of what we do, and it’s been that way since long before we dreamed up an annual awards event.
When school is in session and the games are on, the Record-Journal sports section reports the triumphs and travails of athletes on the field.
From that, we pick our Athletes of the Week and our All-Record-Journal teams.
And then, before one season segues into another, we spotlight our Scholar-Athletes, who deserve recognition as much as anybody, if not more, because they combine excellence in academics and athletics.
One per team from every team. Coaches make the selections. We don’t ask them to merely pick the kid with the highest GPA. We ask for the student-athlete with a strong GPA and character who also made a meaningful contribution to the team.
Our finalists for Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year reflect that to a T. They are the same kids named by our schools as their CAS-CIAC Scholar-Athletes for 2019-20.
Our schools chose well. These 14 student-athletes, all seniors, didn’t just have an “A” average. They had an “A” game.
So let’s cross the bridge: the seven boys finalists today, the seven girls finalists on Tuesday. The winners announced on June 18 will each receive a $500 scholarship from the Record-Journal.
A third scholarship is up for grabs. That’s the Bongiovanni Insurance & Financial Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Specializing in Finance Award.
Yes, that is a mouthful. It is also a tidy sum: $1,000.
We are very happy to have the Bongiovanni family aboard for our awards series. If memory serves, both Ty and Trey Bongiovanni were R-J Scholar-Athletes in their Maloney days some 20 years ago.
Time flies, and the Scholar-Athlete tradition endures. This year’s group of finalists has seen to that.
■Derrick Arnold, Sheehan: This young man ranked in the Top 10 of Sheehan’s Class of 2020 with a 4.17 GPA. Derrick Arnold was an All-SCC Academic selection and a SCC Great Blue Research Scholar-Athlete.
He was also one of Sheehan’s better distance runners over the past four years. An All-Record-Journal Cross Country selection in 2018, Arnold made the All-SCC Second Team in 2019 after placing 21st in the SCC Championship at East Shore Park with a time of 17:55.
Arnold will continue running at Southern Connecticut State.
■Jake DelMonte, Southington: The backbone of Southington’s 2019 Class LL state runner-up baseball team and one of its Top 10 students of 2020, catcher Jake DelMonte will continue playing at Worcester Polytechnical Institute, where he’ll study civil engineering.
DelMonte definitely brings an engineer’s mindset to baseball. No detail is left unattended. Last season, as a junior, he batted .325, managed a pitching staff that threw to a 1.11 earned run average and made no errors.
DelMonte got on base at a .443 clip. He led the team in doubles with 12, drove in 25 runs and was named All-Conference.
■Andrew McCarty, Platt: Here’s another baseball guy who, like Jake DelMonte, missed out on what promised to be riveting senior season.
But, like DelMonte, there will be more baseball for Andrew McCarty. He’s going on to play at Springfield College.
The parallels between McCarty and DelMonte are remarkable. McCarty also roped 12 doubles last spring. His 12 go into the books as Platt’s single-season record.
McCarty batted .313 as a junior and drove in a team-high 20 runs.
With a 4.3 GPA, he was an Academic All-American with the National High School Coaches Association. McCarty also received this year’s Joseph Luca Award as the top student-athlete at Platt as well as the E.J. Dudley Award that goes to the Platt athlete who displays total team dedication.
■Nate DeMaio, Wilcox Tech: Don’t be surprised to see this guy coaching basketball some day, probably sooner than later.
The son of Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio, Nate DeMaio was the point guard for Wilcox Tech and the quintessential “student of the game.”
This past season, he averaged 7.5 points, dished 50 assists and swiped 35 steals to help the Indians return to the Division III state tournament.
DeMaio also amassed a 96.285 academic average that ranked him the Top 20 of Wilcox Tech’s Class of 2020.
■Matt Desimone, Maloney: Incomplete though it was, the 2020 swim season was still a very good one for the Meriden Co-op team, which won a program-record eight dual meets.
Matt Desimone was a key contributor to that success. He was one of the Meriden swimmers to qualify for the never-to-be-held Class LL championship meet. Desimone made it in the 100-yard butterfly.
Academically, Desimone compiled a 4.5 GPA that ranked him No. 4 in Maloney’s Class of 2020. He will study Biology in college.
■Brendan Mellitt, Cheshire: Back around the nomination block comes Brendan Mellitt.
A finalist for Cross Country Runner of the Year, a title he holds from 2018, Mellitt is in the Scholar-Athlete running as Cheshire’s CAS-CIAC selection.
Mellitt is heading to Bucknell University. He departs Cheshire after a senior year in which he set the cross country course record at Cheshire Park at 16:16) and won the SCC championship in the 3200 meters in indoor track.
■Matt Pettit, Lyman Hall: “A” game and “A”grades — that was Matt Pettit in multiple sports.
During his four-year career at LH, Pettit was a Scholar-Athlete and All-Record-Journal pick in both hockey and lacrosse.
Pettit made his deepest mark in hockey. He compiled 150 points in a Lyman Hall Co-op career that was highlighted by the 2019 Division III state championship.
The Trojans made the move up to Division II this year and Pettit led the Trojans with 18 goals and 17 assists. He was named to the All-State Division II Second Team and was also the Co-op’s Hobey Baker Award winner
A U.S. Presidential Scholars nominee, Pettit graduated with a 3.96 GPA. He is going to UConn to study kinesiology.
The Record-Journal Boys Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be announced on Thursday, June 18 during the airing of the “Best of the Bunch” awards video on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. The video will also be available on myrecordjournal.com after that initial airing. Finalists in the various awards categories will be unveiled now through June 18. Up next: Girls Scholar-Athlete of the Year.