When it comes to athletic and academic excellence, weightlifters reigned supreme in 2016.
Navarre’s Olivia Brahms and Pace’s Adrian Acevedo were named recipients of the Troy Rafferty Scholarship Award at the Pensacola News Journal’s 10th anniversary sports banquet Wednesday night.
The scholarship, which is normally valued at $5,000, was doubled to $10,000 for this year’s lucky recipients.
“Whenever he was first talking about the scholarships and how they’d doubled it I was just thinking, ‘Oh my God, I wish. That’s so much money, I need that,’” Brahms said. “Then they started saying dual enrollment and that made me say ‘wait.’ Then they said state champion, and I was just like ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it.’ ”
Upon receiving the award, Brahms broke into tears of joy before embracing her family.
“I’ve been trying to get as many scholarships as I can, so this is going to help so much” Brahms said. “This will help pay for books and tuition and take financial burdens off my family.”
Brahms posted a 3.70 GPA in high school and was a dual-enrollment student her senior year at Navarre, obtaining her associate’s degree by the end of the year.
She is headed to Auburn in the fall where she plans to study pre-veterinarian medicine and is considering trying out for track and field. Between out-of-state tuition and books, Brahms said the scholarship will help alleviate the financial burden for her parents.
Brahms’ decorated high school career ended with a team and individual lifting championship, where she lifted a total of 380 in the 169-pound class.
Keeping things in the gym, Pace’s Adrian Acevedo won the boys’ $10,000 scholarship.
“I didn’t think I’d stand out that much with my classwork and athletics considering the whole room of crazy athletes and students,’’Acevedo said. “It was unbelievable.”
The class treasurer and student body vice president, Acevedo was a leader in the classroom and finished a 3.57 GPA along with his active participation in National Honor Society and Beta Club.
When he wasn’t winning state championships in the 119-pound division, Acevedo was a spirit squad leader for the rest of the Patriots’ sports.
Acevedo is headed to the University of West Florida this fall where he’ll major in pre-pharmacy and hopefully continue his competitive lifting career.
“They’re actually starting an Olympic weightlifting team at UWF so hopefully I’ll be lifting there,” Acevedo said. “Maybe I can even lift in some big competitions nationally.”
Even if his future isn’t as a professional lifter, Acevedo said the scholarship will help him achieve his goal of attending the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.
“I think with this check my full tuition will be paid for and I will still have money for books so it is definitely going to help my parents out a lot,” Acevedo said.
Bindi, McAnally named athlete of the year
Tate’s Gavin McAnally and Gulf Breeze’s Tori Bindi were named the Pensacola News Journal’s male and female athlete of the year Friday.
A University of Florida signee, Bindi will leave Gulf Breeze as an eight-time state champion after successfully defending the 50 and 100-meter freestyle titles she won as a freshman. No athlete has achieved such a feat in the modern era.
Bindi’s 50.38 100-meter time at the 2A state meet was All-American Automatic while her 23.52 50-meter time earned All-American Consideration.
McAnally was a first-team all-area offensive line selection by the News Journal this season, but it was his work on the wrestling mats that ensured his award.
At 220 pounds, McAnally won the district championship and finished as the region runner-up before finishing fifth at state in wrestling. His finish was the best ever for a Tate wrestler and one of the most accomplished in the area.
Pensacola News Journal Award winners
Boys scholarship – Adrian Acevedo (Pace)
Girls scholarship – Olivia Brahms (Navarre)
Boys athlete of the year – Gavin McAnally (Tate)
Girls athlete of the year – Tori Bindi (Gulf Breeze)