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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Highlands Students Turn Hard Work Into Wins

Highlands bowler Andy Campbell talks about his championship win. His coach is Glenn Schmidt.
--> Students from Highlands High and Middle schools stepped into the winner’s circle at the March meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent School Board.

Anticipating the room would be filled with family and friends, the board moved its monthly meeting to Woodfill Elementary to have room for several students who would celebrate earning special honors that night.

Students in athletics and the arts were honored for outstanding achievement.

Andy Campbell breaks records, grabs state championship

First up was Highlands senior Andy Campbell, fresh from earning the state bowling championship title. He won the honor handily, with scores of 239, 236 and 233 in his first three games and an overall five-game score of 1107, a full 84 pins ahead of the second-place score, according to his coach Glenn Schmidt.

For Campbell, it was a culmination of a dream he’d had since middle school. "I started bowling five years ago in the eighth grade and I really wanted to be on the bowling team. At the time I was not very good to be completely honest with you. I went to Glenn and said I wanted to join the team and he said maybe next year."

Instead of getting discouraged, Campbell took it as a challenge. "I used that as motivation to work really hard. So in the last three or four years I put in thousands of hours practicing every single day to get to where I was able to. With all our practice and Glenn’s help I was able to finally pull it off at state, and I couldn’t have done it without him."

"And I’m sure glad we hung in there together because Andy has done an awful lot for the Highlands bowling team," said Schmidt. "He’s become an extraordinary bowler, you just wouldn’t believe what his record shows. I couldn’t be more proud of Andy."

Campbell broke state records the season before last with an average of 244, said Schmidt. "I think it’s gonna be a state record for years to come."

The coach said he looks forward to following his student's career. Campbell will attend the University of the Cumberlands (also known as Cumberland College) in Williamsburg this fall and has already signed up for the bowling team.

RELATED: Highlands Senior Bowls to Individual State Title

Diver Finn Murphy and his coach Bernie Brungs receive hardy congrats from school board members.

Finn Murphy’s hard work pays off

Perseverance was key for Highlands diver Finn Murphy who took the championship crown at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association state competition just a few weeks ago.

Murphy admitted the path had been rough at times. He had come close before, coming in second at the Region Seven meet. But he says he has learned not to worry so much about the past and to concentrate on what lay ahead. He did that and won, receiving high points—and had the opportunity to perform a favorite new and difficult dive, the inward two-and-a-half.

The sophomore credits his hard work, his family’s support and the guidance of his diving coach, Bernie Brungs. In fact, it was Brungs who helped the diver turn his head around to prepare for the competition.

"Not many people know this but Finn was about ready to quit diving last year after the state meet," said Brungs. "He is a lot like my son who used to dive, and sometimes as divers we get in our own heads. It’s not an easy sport…I knew I could help him with the mental side."

Shortly after they began to work together, Murphy asked his coach if he could learn a particularly difficult dive, the inward two-and-a-half. It was a dive rarely done at the high school level, but Brungs told him to go ahead and try it.

"So he did it and he came up excited. And that is so exciting when a kid learns a new dive and you see that look on his face. That was my main focus. When I was hired, I came on with the idea I wanted the kids to dive, I wanted them to enjoy and I wanted them to learn."

At the state meet, competition was high but Murphy remained focused, scored high and even risked doing the difficult two-and-a-half, scoring 5.5s and 6s from the judges and taking the championship.

The Bluebirds capped off an excellent season overall. The team came in third in the statewide event.

"What a feeling as a coach to be there and watch it. To be able to celebrate with his family and friends, all the work we did to get there....It was a pleasure coaching Finn and the rest of the kids all year long. They did everything I could possibly ask of them."

RELATED: Bluebirds Finish Third at State Swimming, Diving 

Coach Samantha Reynolds introduces the Highlands Middle School dance team.

Dance Teams Take Energetic First Place Wins

Both the Highlands Middle School and Highlands Junior Varsity dance teams had reason to celebrate. Both teams took first place in state competition in pom, and the junior varsity team also earned first place for their hip hop routine.

First up were the members of the middle school dance team in grades six through eight with their coach Samantha Reynolds.

"This was a remarkable group," said Reynolds. "It really was a big year of change for us. I came from junior varsity last year to middle school, so they had a new coach. And, half the team is new this year so we had a big turn over."

Despite the challenges and a mix of new and experienced dancers, the team really came together, she said. "Each one of these girls truly earned it. This was not one of those years where we thought we had it in the bag. It was a big surprise, and I think the win was so much sweeter this year because [the team] really worked so hard to get here."

Team members each listed experiences they felt were the highlights of the year. Winning state was a favorite moment, of course, but many mentioned working together preparing for routines, learning new moves and making new friends.

Sixth grader Samantha Heilman said, "This is my first year on the dance team and my favorite was being with all these amazing people every morning and every afternoon on Fridays."

Junior Varsity dance team gathers on stage. Coach Jessica Dattillo is at the podium.

Jessica Dattillo coaches the junior varsity team. Like the middle school, her team had to get used to a new coach, she said. "These girls worked hard, and I was impressed throughout the year at their hard work. They were willing to do and learn anything."

Megan Ellison, a junior, said the wins at state were a great boost because they had faced a number of injuries this year and it had been rough, but "all the hours of practice and conditioning really paid off."

RELATED: Highlands Dance Teams Perfect Routines

School board member Lisa Duckworth congratulates art student Libby Birkley and teacher Andy Eckerle

Art student Libby Birkley designs state school boards banner

Each year the Kentucky School Boards Association holds a competition for students to design a banner representing their school district to be displayed at the organization’s annual conference. The banners are required to incorporate the conference theme. This year, it was "Adapting and Achieving."

Libby Birkley entered the competition to represent Fort Thomas and won. Her banner depicting changing computer technology was displayed at the conference held at the beginning of March in Louisville.

Highlands art teacher Andy Eckerle introduced Libby. "It’s no surprise Libby would be selected. Besides being recognized for this banner, she is the first student I’ve had who received a Gold Key Award for her portfolio…. She has the gift of being talented technically while also being creative. And she has that other gift of being able to take constructive criticism, which is essential in being a good visual arts student."

Campbell Co. YMCA. 
Birkley added, "I’ve always been interested in art and that motivated me to get involved with art classes and camps in the summer and to go to the governor’s school last summer, but I do think that part of it was because of the great environment in the art room here. I know next year when I’m in college I will miss that."

She will enter the Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) program at the University of Cincinnati next fall.

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