By ED PUSKAS
It was pure coincidence that Nate Solak and Emily Williams both wore red to the Curbstone Coaches Basketball Recognition Banquet at Mount Carmel on Sunday.
The seniors from Lowellville (Solak) and Jackson-Milton (Williams) have other things in common. Both are three-sport athletes and 4.0 students whose favorite subjects are math and science.
Ninety minutes into the event, the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference athletes also had checks and hardware in common after they were announced as the winners of the Curbstone Coaches’ 2017-18 Byrd Giampetro Scholarships.
Solak’s award will go toward his pursuit of a degree in pharmacy at the University of Toledo.
“I want to be a pharmacist — I want to help people,” said Solak, the son of Ivan and Gina Solak, who are both math teachers. “I want to try to make the community a better place in general.”
Williams’ plans are to study pre-med with the goal of becoming a dermatologist.
The only question is where that quest will begin. Williams has narrowed her college choices to Ohio State or Mount Union.
“I have to decide if I want to go to a small school or a big school,” said Williams, the daughter of Thomas and Melissa Williams.
Sports will remain part of her life whether she chooses the sprawling, big-city campus in Columbus or the cozy, small-town atmosphere of nearby Alliance.
“At Mount Union, I would do track and at Ohio State, I would be on the women’s rowing team,” said Williams, who played volleyball and basketball at Jackson-Milton and competes in the long jump, discus, 4x100 and 4x200 relays for the Blue Jays’ track and field team.
Rowing is new to her, but she was recommended to Buckeyes rowing coach Andy Teitelbaum, who was seeking three-sport high school athletes who met Ohio State’s entrance guidelines.
“I wasn’t sure about [rowing] at first, but then when I went down there I was like, ‘Wow, this is a real possibility,’ ” Williams said.
She will make another visit to Ohio State before the time will come for a decision.
“Mount Union — I’ve always loved that school,” Williams said. “I’ve always gone there and visited multiple times. [Teammate] Michaelina [Terranova] and I have both gone together. It’s definitely a hard choice.”
Solak played football, basketball and baseball at Lowellville. Once the Rockets’ baseball season ends in a few weeks, he won’t be involved in competitive sports any longer, but expects to apply the lessons he learned in those pursuits in new areas.
“Sports taught me leadership qualities that I would never have learned otherwise,” Solak said. “They helped me be a better person. I had to push through tough situations in sports and that’s really going to help me throughout the rest of my life.”
Williams and Solak both said they’ll miss the camaraderie and relationships involved in high school sports. Both credited their parents and coaches for pushing them to excel in the classroom and in sports.
Youngstown State men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun was the guest speaker.
Boys finalists for the Byrd Giampetro scholarships were Holden Lipke (Boardman), Bryan Gabrielson (Bristol), Drake Batcho (Champion), Kade Hilles (Western Reserve) and John Ritter (Springfield).
Girls finalists were Jillian Baker (Canfield), Alexis Cross (Columbiana), Kayla Jackson (Leetonia), China Tate (Liberty), Bella Gajdos (Poland), Alexis Bury (Struthers) and Alexis Hughes (Western Reserve).
The Curbstone Coaches and The Vindicator also recognized players from the All-American Conference, Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference and Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference who were first-team, all-conference selections and others who were first-team all-district selections.