Noah Lambrecht, a former student-athlete at McCool Junction (Nebraska) Public School, has been selected the 2020 national recipient of the “National High School Spirit of Sport Award,” and Cailin Martin, a student at Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, has been selected the 2020 national recipient of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
SPIRIT OF SPORT AWARD
The “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
Normal for Noah Lambrecht is different than it is for other young people. However, that is all he has strived to be since a small child.
Born with a life-threatening heart defect, Noah endured three open-heart surgeries in the first seven weeks of his life. He was then orphaned and left at a Chicago hospital before being adopted by Sheri and Gaylord Lambrecht. The Lambrechts accepted Noah into their family in McCool Junction, Nebraska, fully knowing the challenges he would face.
Noah’s desire just to be a normal kid endured even after his fourth heart surgery and pacemaker installation at age 8. Eventually, normal meant running cross country as an eighth-grader. After his doctors cleared him to participate, Noah joined the team and continued to run the next year with the high school team.
Running was grueling for Noah. With one of his lungs half the size of the other, he usually gasped for breath and finished last in workouts and meets, but he was determined to finish each race. That determination was infectious as his teammates – and eventually opponents – began to go back and finish races with Noah.
Noah explored a variety of activities while at McCool Junction, which led to a full high school experience. He was a 12-sport athlete, participating in cross country, track and field and basketball all four years. In addition, he participated in drama, choir and band for four years. Band rivaled cross country as his favorite activity. Noah excelled as a drummer earning multiple honors, including as one of six percussionists selected nationwide to be part of the National Honor Band.
Whether it was on the cross country course or in the band room, Noah’s dedication and commitment have inspired his teammates and peers. His story has touched many outside of his school, as well. Noah was profiled as “The Runner with a Broken Heart” in Runner’s World, has been featured on the Hallmark Channel to share his story and was U.S. Senator Ben Sasse’s guest at the 2019 State of the Union.
Noah currently attends Wayne State (Nebraska) College where he plays in the marching band and majors in communications. His goal is to be a motivational speaker, helping other kids find the strength to do what they desire.
About the Award
In addition to the selection of Noah Lambrecht as the national award recipient, the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee chose eight individuals for section awards. Following are the 2020 National High School Spirit of Sport section winners:
Section 1 – Haley Lespier, student-athlete, Meriden (Connecticut) Maloney High School
Diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 7 and facing lifelong health challenges, Lespier has excelled as a high school student-athlete earning varsity letters in soccer, basketball and tennis.
Section 2 – Sena Fulmore, student-athlete, Louisville (Kentucky) Assumption High School
Fulmore was a promising lacrosse player who was dealt a series of setbacks. Through an emergency appendectomy, flu complications and, most seriously, thyroid cancer, Fulmore never wavered in her dedication to her team and teammates.
Section 3 – Courtney Holmes, student-athlete, Miami (Florida) Columbus High School
Holmes is an outstanding football and track and field athlete, who is a role model for younger kids in his community, despite facing numerous challenges. After his father left his family and his mother was killed in a car accident, Holmes lived with his aunt and cousins before they were tragically murdered. Even more adversity followed as he was shot in the buttocks before his senior year, risking his life.
Section 4 – Marlee Smith, student-athlete, Jonesboro (Illinois) Anna-Jonesboro High School
After playing varsity golf and basketball as a freshman, Smith was diagnosed with T-Cell leukemia. During treatment, there were numerous setbacks along the way, including a stroke that took away strength and her coordination. However, Smith beat cancer and returned to play golf and basketball, and even started a toy drive in her community.
Section 5 – Noah Lambrecht, student-athlete, McCool-Junction (Nebraska) High School
Section 6 – Tyler Jenson and Max McGaha, student-athletes, Albuquerque (New Mexico) La Cueva High School
Jenson and McGaha are two student-athletes from across New Mexico brought together at a hospital in Albuquerque to battle cancer together. Becoming friends during treatments and hospital stays, the two eventually became classmates at La Cueva High School, where Jenson returned to the football field and McGaha returned to the baseball diamond.
Section 7 – Jonathan Stott, student-athlete, North Logan (Utah) Green Canyon High School
Born with a rare genetic mutation that causes muscle paralysis, Stott was told he probably would never walk, run or ride a bike. However, he proved that prediction wrong and was not deterred from enjoying high school athletics, serving as the football team manager for three years. His dedication to the team led to him earning a snap as starting quarterback, completing a pass to start the game.
Section 8 – Ethan Asher, student-athlete, Powell (Wyoming) High School
Asher narrowly survived a car accident driving to school in August, requiring life-line transportation to Montana for emergency surgery on his torn aorta. Asher’s long recovery rallied his community and an entire state, as more than $130,000 was raised for his medical bills. In November, before Asher’s teammates played for the state football championship, he was well enough to join his team in a wheelchair and be recognized with a standing ovation during the game’s coin flip.
Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members. While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Denver, Colorado, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.
The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was started in 2008. Including this year, 13 individuals and three teams have been chosen national award recipients.
The previous award recipients follow:
2008 – Tammy Dufford, cheerleading coach, Evergreen (Colorado) High School, and Megan Bomgaars, cheerleader, Evergreen (Colorado) High School
2009 – Dakota Dana, student-athlete, Afton (Wyoming) Star Valley High School
2010 – Tori Clark, student-athlete, Roselle (Illinois) Lake Park High School
2011 – New Kensington (Pennsylvania) Valley High School Softball Team and Umpire Bill Dithrich
2012 – Jacob Goldberg, student-athlete, Fort Lauderdale (Florida) Pine Crest High School
2013 – Magoffin County High School, Salyersville, Kentucky, and Logan County High School, Russellville, Kentucky
2014 – Zach Pickett, student-athlete, Shingle Springs (California) Ponderosa High School
2015 – Grace Cummings, student-athlete, Madison (Connecticut) High School
2016 – Ashley Carson, student-athlete, Ord (Nebraska) High School
2017 – Danny Lilya, student-athlete, Moose Lake (Minnesota) High School
2018 – Marissa Walker, student-athlete, Waterford (Connecticut) High School
2019 – Amanda Merrell, student-athlete, Huntingtown (Maryland) High School
HEART OF THE ARTS AWARD
Now in its sixth year, the National High School Heart of the Arts Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities.
From the time she was in fifth grade at Thompson Middle School in Newport, Rhode Island, Cailin Martin’s artistic talents stood out among her peers, as did her willingness to go the extra mile. After showcasing knowledge far beyond her years during class, she was often seen eagerly cleaning up students’ messes regardless of who made them.
Now a senior at Rogers High School in Newport, Martin has used course offerings and independent studies to develop her expertise in a variety of creative disciplines and has evolved her service mindset to address the needs of both her school and community.
In addition to the murals and props she has painted for each of the last three yearly musicals at Rogers, Martin adorned one of the school’s hallways this past summer for her senior project. That mural, which takes up more than eight feet of wall space, bears the words of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta – “Walk the street with us into history. Get off the sidewalk” – and serves to inspire those walking by.
During the same summer, Martin dedicated even more of her free time to be a digital art tutor for a seventh-grade girl in the area. Both girls enjoyed the interaction so much that they have continued their working relationship into the fall, obliging Martin to simultaneously balance a class schedule loaded with Advanced Placement (AP) courses. To this point, the 2019 AP Scholar Award winner has handled that challenge with relative ease, as her grade-point average ranks third in the senior class.
Martin’s most notable contribution came as a part of “Project Playhouse,” an initiative formed by a management class at nearby Bryant University to provide custom-built playhouses for children with serious and life-threatening illnesses. Martin’s role in the project was to depict a Transformers theme on one of the 9-foot by 9-foot by 9-foot structures, a task that required more than 21 hours of labor.
In addition to her work with Project Playhouse, Martin volunteered with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Moving Wall in 2019 and the Norman Bird Sanctuary Harvest Festival in 2018 and 2019, and she has worked as a performer and set painter for the Rogers Theatre Company for the past five years.
Pieces of her artwork have also been included in community showcases, including the Irish History Exhibition at the Museum of Newport in 2017 and the Newport Yacht Club Art Show, where she received Best in Show First Runner-Up in 2019.
About the Award
Along with the selection of Cailin Martin as the national award recipient, the NFHS National High School Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee chose an additional six individuals and one group for section awards. Following are the 2020 National High School Heart of the Arts section winners:
Section 1 – Cailin Martin, student, Newport (Rhode Island) Rogers High School
Section 2 – Kyla Goldsby, student, Leesburg (Virginia) Heritage High School
Goldsby stands as a tremendous example of personal growth and empowerment through activities participation. Goldsby found a way to express herself and connect with others as a member of Heritage’s forensics team. Her first original oratory piece was “Sometimes It’s A Zebra,” which teaches individuals not to make assumptions about other people and to treat everyone with kindness since you can't always see their struggles from the outside. It started her down a path to self-confidence and has allowed her to become a champion and community voice for the various medical obstacles in her life.
Section 3 – Winnsboro (South Carolina) Fairfield Central High School Theatre Tech Team (T3)
Along with a variety of school-related projects, the Fairfield Central High School Theatre Tech Team (T3) has been involved in helping create public-service announcement short films on topics including mental health, serving students with special needs and animal rescue. The T3 Team played a critical role in the creation of “A Pony and His Boy,” the story of an eight-year-old boy with Down syndrome who has a life-changing experience when he meets a rescued pony. The T3 Team assisted the film’s creative team with critical input on the current practices of serving students with special needs, and, after seeing the success of equine therapy on the main character, eventually had therapy sessions set up for students with special needs at FCHS. The FCHS sessions were equally as beneficial, which inspired the T3 Team to organize a showing of the film for students, parents and invited guests. Afterward, many of the viewers were able to connect with the film’s main character via social media.
Section 4 – Carter Schott, student, Orland Park (Illinois) Carl Sandburg High School
Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Schott has not allowed his physical limitations to impede his involvement or passion for the performing arts. A participant in seven activities and a member of the Carl Sandburg bass fishing team that finished second at the Illinois High School Association Bass Fishing Unified Division competition, Schott serves as an inspiration to his school community. These effects may have been most prominent this fall when Schott marched with the marching band for the first time, a feat that required him to play his instrument with both hands and operate his chair with his right forearm, all while staying in sync with the rest of the formation.
Section 5 – Sara Given, theatre teacher, Mexico (Missouri) High School
Given, an awarding-winning, multi-discipline theatre teacher with 26 years of experience, has been highly successful in increasing competitive opportunities for special needs students through the creation of two specially designed programs. The first – Readers Theatre – was launched in 2013 using a script from The Jellybean Conspiracy Foundation, an organization that sponsors theatre shows that include students with and without disabilities. Following the “Jellybean” students’ second-place finish at the district tournament that year, Given started the Jellybean Olympics, which is similar in format to a speech festival. Starting with just two teams and 11 performers in year one, Given has grown the program every year since, and now travels around the state leading workshops for interested schools.
Section 6 – Ashley Ledezma, student, Tulsa (Oklahoma) Edison Preparatory High School
From a very young age, Ledezma had been completely deaf, legally blind and stricken with a rare auto-immune disease but decided to pursue music anyway. Against tall odds, she rose to become flute section leader in both her middle school and high school bands and also learned to play the alto saxophone and percussion instruments. While many feared for her safety, Ledezma courageously marched with the marching band starting in her sophomore year, and, with the help of a sign language interpreter, became skilled enough to be the band’s second drum major as a junior. Tragically, Ledezma contracted an illness midway through her senior year and passed away November 17 as a result of complications with her pre-existing condition.
Section 7 – Howard Summers, band director, Lehi (Utah) Skyridge High School
In a matter of four years, Summers has grown the Skyridge band program into one of the state’s powerhouses through exemplary student-focused leadership. The 2019 Skyridge High School Teacher of the Year has increased marching band membership from 99 members to 130 in that span, and leads concert bands that consistently register Superior ratings at festivals. Summers is also known for his inclusivity. He is a heavy promoter of involvement from all students, including those with significant disabilities, and has also been known to make accommodations for those with extenuating circumstances. In one example involving a Skyridge student musician who had suffered a broken leg, Summers found a way for him to compete with the band as a member of the percussion section.
Section 8 – Shelbey Colt, student, Gresham (Oregon) Centennial High School
A multi-faceted leader on Gresham Centennial’s speech and debate team, Colt is the quintessential team captain. In addition to producing excellence in her own work, she plays an integral role in preparing team materials for events, keeps a great pulse on the well-being of her teammates and has even used her own funds to purchase scripts well-suited for her peers. Colt has performed these leadership duties through a great deal of adversity in her own life, as she has endured occasional stretches of homelessness and oftentimes must play the role of adult for her sister with special needs. In the classroom, she maintains a 3.7 grade-point average and takes several Advanced Placement and college-level courses.
Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS National High School Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members. While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Denver, Colorado, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.
The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was started in 2014. Including this year, seven individuals, one band and one theatre group have been chosen national award recipients.
The previous award recipients follow:
2014 – Leia Schwartz, student-athlete/performing arts student, Miami (Florida) Coral Reef High School
2015 – Ethan Gray, performing arts student, Chicago (Illinois) St. Rita of Cascia High School
2016 – Midland City (Alabama) Dale County High School Marching Band and Band Director Sherri Miller
2017 – Josephine Ross, student, St. Paul (Minnesota) Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School
2018 – Cecelia Egan, student, Riverside (Rhode Island) St. Mary Academy-Bay
2019 – LaRaine Fess, drama teacher at Beaufort (South Carolina) High School and the Beaufort High School Theatre Department