Her father’s penne a la vodka is Kelsi King’s favorite, and the pasta dish is a lot like the recent Baldwin High School graduate and winner of Newsday’s 2017 Marcus A. Henry Award. There are a lot of ingredients that go into the successful recipe.
“It’s a little bit on the spicy side,” Rick King said with a laugh.
Kelsi King, a captain of Baldwin’s field hockey and lacrosse teams, does have a little zest — “If we were having an intense talk at halftime,” she said with a mischievous grin — “I always had to put in my two cents in” — but mostly she is about substance over style. She scored 1,350 on her SATs, had a weighted average of 110, was president of the National Honor Society and is an active participant in several community service programs.
King, who will study medicine at Duke University, is, according to Baldwin High School principal Caterina Lafergola, “the embodiment of what Baldwin is. She is intelligent, civic-minded, giving, kind, respectful. She’s well-rounded, gifted in two sports, the total package.”
For all of those attributes, King was selected as the fourth recipient of the Marcus A. Henry Award, presented to Long Island’s top high school student-citizen-athlete. Henry was a Newsday sports reporter who died on April 1, 2014. He was an avid sports fan and dedicated journalist who was proud of being a graduate and resident of Baldwin, where he was a community leader.
“Being able to represent my community in such a positive light, I can’t even put into words how much it means to me,” King said, accepting the trophy while posing for photos, quite fittingly, beneath the science segment of a huge mural painted high on the wall of the high school lobby. “The best part of being who I am is being able to branch out into all these different facets of life. If you’re on a straight and narrow path and don’t branch out, you’re going to miss out on opportunities.”
She hasn’t missed many and has created quite a few. “Kelsi represents our school in the most amazing way,” Baldwin superintendent of schools Shari Camhi said. “She’s an all-around young lady. She is academically gifted, she is athletically gifted and she is an incredible participant in our community.”
King’s active lifestyle began quite early, according to her dad, the self-appointed cook for both of his daughter’s former varsity teams. His wife, Morain, attended many more of their daughter’s sports contests because of Rick’s work schedule, so he settled for what he called “a behind-the-scenes role” where on pasta nights, he said proudly, “I have many specialty dishes.”
He recognized his daughter’s special gifts in prekindergarten classes. “Traces of Kelsi’s abilities and capabilities came when she was quite young. She was very independent,” he said. “If she saw something, she went after it. She never sat back and said, ‘Can you help me?’ She looks at hurdles and her mindset is, ‘I can’t get over this hurdle; I need to go around this hurdle,’ knowing full well what the outcome has to be.”
There’s no better example of that determination than her field hockey experiences, which didn’t begin until her sophomore year and culminated last fall when the Bruins won the Nassau County championship for the first time since 1998. In both of her sports, she made a smooth transition from midfield to defense. “I had no idea what a field hockey stick looked like my freshman year,” Kelsi said. “Being able to grow with such a supportive group of girls, and make history, means the world to me. Honestly, the experience was insane.”
King, however, is quite rational. She speaks confidently and eloquently, with a quick, wide smile and the occasional quip. As a two-sport captain, she liked to lead by example but would deliver the occasional fiery pep talk. She chose Duke from among several top-level academic schools “because of the atmosphere. Being there is where I felt happiest.”
Making others happy drives her. Among her community service interests is Baldwin’s Athletes Helping Athletes program in which she speaks to elementary school students about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. “We volunteer things like Unity Day, which is an opportunity for all the fifth- graders who are about to go to middle school to meet new people,” King said. “We can watch them interact, help them play sports. It’s really fun.”
Her interest in science already had begun when she was that age. “When I was younger, I enjoyed school — mostly for recess — but I really enjoyed labs,” she said, flashing her ever-ready smile. “I liked discovering things. I liked experimentation. For a really long time, I thought my place in the world would be in research, but I couldn’t picture myself spending the rest of my life sitting behind a lab bench. I’d be happier engaging with people. I felt the best way to combine helping people with science was through medicine, which is why I’m going into the medical field. I’m thinking reconstructive surgery.”
Her dad’s pasta should help get her through those long days in med school.
Previous winners of Newsday’s Marcus A. Henry Award:
2014 – Joe Percival, St. Anthony’s
2015 – Thomas Cutinella, Shoreham-Wading River
2016 – Livingstone Harriott Jr., Central Islip
MARCUS A. HENRY
The award, created in memory of the former Newsday sports reporter, is presented annually to a Long Island high school athlete who not only excels on the field and in the classroom but displays great leadership. Baldwin’s Kelsi King embodies everything Marcus Henry stood for.