Being a great athlete is wonderful. Being a great athlete and a great person makes you a James O'Melia Jr. Award winner at Rock Island High School.
The annual award, which now comes with a $1,000 scholarship, goes to only the best male and female student/athlete in the senior class.
This past school year, the award took on a new addition — the first time the award has been shared with girls' Brea Beal and Ashley Peters tying for the female award. Bryce Trask was named as the male winner.
Trask was a Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline All-Metro performer in football and basketball and will attend Wisconsin-Platteville to play football. He admits he is a little overwhelmed to get the award.
"The first thing is I think of the recent athletes who have won this and I have played with are guys I put on the pinnacle of Rocky athletes," he said. "I'm not saying I am on the same level but I am proud to be on that list. Then, I looked at the list of winners and saw so many of the legends of this school and that is even more awesome."
Likewise, Peters remembers looking at the the plaque in the school lobby and dreaming she could join her mom, Debbie (Styx) Peters, a 1987 winner. Still, she was never expecting to get it. Peters, who will play softball at Purdue, is a three-time Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Player of the Year in Softball and a two-time all-state selection.
"Honestly, I didn't think I had a chance to win it," Peters said. "Coach (Chris) Allison believed in me and when he told me I had a chance, I started thinking he might be right. To represent Rock Island athletes means so much to me."
Beal was a four-time Dispatch-Argus QCOnline Player of the Year in Basketball. She was also a three-time Ms. Basketball and Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year. Beal will play basketball at South Carolina. She did not return messages for an interview.
The key to success and the reason all three were honored was not just their athletic ability, rather their ability to be terrific people.
That is something both Peters and Trask take quite seriously.
"It is very important to be involved in your team, your school and your community," said Peters, who was an honor roll student for all eight of her high school semesters, a two-time IHSA academic award winner, a two-time RIHS scholar pin winner and a Western Big 6 All-Academic Award winner.
"I have always had my heart in Rocky and the community. Even when I am at Purdue, I will be rooting for the Rocks in everything."
Trask believes that being an athlete at Rock Island carries a lot more than just being good on the playing field.
"Being an athlete is about understanding you don't represent just your team," he said, "You represent your school and your community. While we are competing for wins, we also have to remember there are a lot of people in the community who know who we are, and when we are out to eat or shopping, they are watching how we act and how you are representing Rock Island High School."
Beal is a two-time RIHS academic pin winner and is a speaker in area youth groups. Peters and Trask were also student council members.