Maclay track coach Gary Droze admits star pupil Kristin Sweeney doesn’t do everything he asks.
For starters, she does not get quite enough sleep.
He also would like her to rest her legs a little more, to properly recover from all of her distance training.
“She has skimped on all of that and still managed to be a great athlete,” Droze said.
This is one case where all that “skimping” has obviously paid off.
Sweeney, who pushes herself relentlessly in athletics, academics and even in the workplace, received quite an honor Monday night during a Florida High School Athletic Association banquet in Gainesville.
The Maclay senior and 23 other student-athletes from across the state — a combination of 12 females and 12 males — were there to be honored as members of the FHSAA Academic All-State team. Then after each recipient was introduced, two students were singled out for being a cut above the rest.
Sweeney, who was valedictorian at Maclay and helped the Marauders’ track team win the Class 1A state championship this spring, was honored as Florida’s female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was joined by Simon Shuham of Cooper City, who took the top boys honor.
“I felt very humbled and honored when they announced my name,” said Sweeney, who plans this fall to attend Rice University, where she will run track and study biomedical engineering as a pre-med student. “Being selected from all of those other people there … it was very humbling.”
Humbling, perhaps, but not surprising.
“She’s a fantastic student without the athletics,” Droze said. “Even if she never set foot on the track, she was an outstanding academic achiever. So she was way up top academically, and she also was a total contributor to our state title. I think that’s why she won the award.”
The Marauders were not necessarily favored to win a state title this year, but Sweeney and her teammates delivered a brilliant performance. She was part of the winning 4×800 relay team, and she also scored in the one-mile and two-mile runs.
“We ended up winning, and it was largely due to her contributions,” Droze said. “I just feel really lucky to have had her on my team for the last four or five years.”
Sweeney said the feeling is mutual. She credited Droze and assistant coach Stephen Cox with inspiring her to run after she entered Maclay as a swimmer five years ago.
“I started swimming competitively when I was 10 years old,” Sweeney said Tuesday after getting off from one of her three — yes, three — part-time jobs. “But I’ve become less and less of a swimmer and more and more of a runner.”
Sweeney, who works as a lifeguard in the mornings, does clerical work at a medical office in the afternoons and works at Publix on the weekends, says she is saving up to help pay for expenses in college. Of course, the awards she won on Monday will help as well.
All 24 scholar-athletes received $1,000 scholarships. Sweeney and Shuman each took home an additional $3,000.
The only disappointment for Sweeney was that her mother, Renee, couldn’t attend the banquet. She was with one of Kristin’s four brothers at a national history fair in Washington, D.C.
Renee home-schools all of the children until they reach high school.
“She’s almost never missed one of my athletic events, which is pretty amazing,” Kristin said. “But my brother’s competition was a national event, so she needed to be there.”
Instead, Kristin drove to Gainesville with her father, Timothy, while one of her younger brothers covered for her at work.
“My older brother goes to Florida, so he was able to meet us,” Kristin said. “It was definitely a family affair, even if they all couldn’t be there.”
After the banquet, Kristin drove her father back to Tallahassee so he could rest during the trip. Perhaps she will find time for that later.