By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Southington High School athletic department presented their annual sportsmanship awards, and this year’s winners are Morgan Raymond and Mike DeFeo. Raymond earned the Val Leach Memorial Award and Mike DeFeo earned the Spirit Award.
Raymond could be described as one of the best female athletes to grace the halls of Southington High School by her coaches, but she’s much more than that.
Whether she was an outside hitter for the volleyball team during the fall or a center midfielder for the lacrosse team during the spring, Raymond either led or was near the top of almost every statistical category. But if Southington was down by a lot in a contest or there was a disputable call, she always stayed even-keeled.
“It’s not like I’m trying to go over the top in everything that I do,” said Raymond. “I’m just being myself. Even if I’m feeling down inside some days, I just try to push it out. Playing always makes me super excited and happy.”
Raymond’s class was never more evident than after Southington’s 3-2 collapse at Amity in last year’s girls volleyball Class LL quarterfinals.
“She talked to the underclassmen about that experience, and the girls just gravitated to her,” said Southington athletic director Greg Ferry. “She’s always bought into doing better, even after some tough, challenging losses.”
The Val Leach Memorial Award, started by the Class of 1971, is designed to recognize a student that best demonstrates the values shown by former Lady Knight Val Leach in her battle for her own life.
DeFeo put his body on the line for his team countless times.
If there was a 50-50 ball that needed to be won on the soccer pitch during the fall, DeFeo was usually the first one there. During the winter, he dove after loose basketballs on the hardwood at all costs to fight for possession.
“In all of my four years here, I worked hard to achieve excellence,” said DeFeo. “I always try to be the best that I can be, and it’s just nice that people noticed it.”
DeFeo is just as much of a team player off the playing field as he was on it. Whether it’s coaching kids at summer soccer camps or refereeing town basketball games, he’s always willing to help out the community in any way he could.
Whenever Southington athletic director Greg Ferry asked DeFeo to show new students around the high school, DeFeo never blinked an eye.
“I used to put him out of his comfort zone,” said Ferry. “But he’s just a good person, and always had a very good demeanor. I liked watching him perform because he never got real high or too low. His performance was consistent day in and day out.”
Each year since 1981, Southington High School coaches cast their vote for the male student-athlete that best demonstrates the qualities of sportsmanship, academics, and athleticism to bestow upon them the annual Spirit Award.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.