COLUMBUS, Ohio — Heather Ward, a 2012 graduate of Gallia Academy High School, was recently honored along with 53 other student-athletes from the state during the 20th annual OHSAA Scholar-Athletes Scholarship Banquet held on Friday, June 15, at the DoubleTree Hotel at Crosswoods/Worthington.
Ward — who earned eight varsity letters in volleyball, basketball and softball during her career as a Blue Angel — was one of seven recipients from the southeast district, joining Taylor Hale (Oak Hill), Timothy and Paige Grosel (Marietta), Meelim Lee (Athens), Brett Hood (Wheelersburg) and Austin Loop (South Webster) as the area’s other scholarship winners.
Ward, who carried a 4.0 GPA at GAHS, plans to attend Coastal Carolina University in the fall and major in dentistry. Ward, a two-time SEOAL Most Valuable Player in softball, is also going to attempt to walk on to the Lady Chanticleers’ softball team. CCU is Division I NCAA program located in Conway, South Carolina and is also a member of the Big South Conference.
Ward, who claimed All-SEOAL and all-district honors in volleyball, basketball and softball during her senior campaign, was simply flattered to be one of only a small number of high school kids to receive such an accolade from the OHSAA. Ward, who was also one of three students to speak at the recent GAHS graduation, was just as humbled by the significance of what the award means both academically and to the community.
“I take so much pride in the way that I have succeeded in athletics as well as academics. The rewarding thing about it though is the fact that I have worked so hard to get to this point. It’s funny the way that school work and sports are similar, at least in my mind they are anyway,” Ward said. “To receive the OHSAA scholarship simply sums up all that I have been working toward the past four years at Gallia Academy.”
Scholarship recipients are selected based on a point-system which rewards students for GPA, ACT or SAT scores, varsity letters earned, individual and team athletic honors, and an essay. The recipients were selected by special committees within each of the six OHSAA athletic districts, and recipients of athletic scholarships from NCAA Division I or II institutions are not eligible for the award.
The hardest thing that Ward has had to deal with during this past school year was deciding where to continue her education. During the OHSAA banquet, Ward appeared to be headed to the University of Cincinnati. But, after some second thoughts about wanting to be an athlete at the collegiate level, she changed course and headed to Coastal Carolina.
“Choosing the place where I would be spending the next four-plus years was perhaps the most strenuous process I have ever experienced. Perhaps that is why I continued to put it off until I eventually had to choose. I just couldn’t decide,” Ward said. “I thought choosing between UC and CCU would be the death of me. These schools are polar opposites in almost every aspect, and it’s weird how I was attracted to both, but one was missing a huge part of me. I never could’ve imagined myself anywhere but UC, but it lacked a softball program and I just couldn’t stop thinking about that, about the opportunities I could possibly be missing out on.
“After achieving all-league and all-district honors in each season of my senior year, it made me crave those same honors at the next level, the highest level. It’s everything I have ever imagined myself doing. All that I can do now is try my best and the rest will simply be a big bonus.”
Ward also noted that she feels more than ready for the next chapter in her life.
“After four years at Gallia Academy, academically I feel strong entering the college scene because I know how hard I work to maintain outstanding grades. It’s about pride,” Ward said. “I think this is only normal, but athletically, I am a little intimidated. I definitely lack the confidence present when considering academics. At this point, only the best of the best succeed. But I’m ready to give it my best shot.”
Heather is the daughter of Tim and Lori Ward of Centenary.
A full list of the 2012 OHSAA Scholar-Athlete Scholarship Banquet winners are available on the web at ohsaa.org