Meet the nine finalists for the 2020 Newsday Marcus A. Henry Award.
This award, in memory of former Newsday sports reporter Marcus A. Henry, is presented annually to a Long Island high school student who excels in the classroom and in athletics, and also displays great leadership.
The winner will be announced this week at Newsday.com/HS and a profile of the recipient will be published in Newsday.
Priya Katwala, Whitman, Track
For distance runner Priya Katwala, there’s no such thing as too much. Whether on the track or in the community, the senior pushes herself to do as much as she can, and she doesn’t see the point in wasting any time.
“She’s just a born leader,” said Rufus Shepard, Whitman’s girls track and field coach. “She has a tremendous work ethic. She’s always the first one at practice . . . She’s just a great kid.”
In addition to being a hands-on captain of the track and field team, Katwala loves to give back to the community, especially when it involves children.
“You get to show them how to learn,” Katwala said. “That’s so important in life, being there to guide them.”
Since 2012, Katwala has volunteered with the Kiwanis Club of Huntington, of which her father, Sunil, is a long-time member.
Among her favorite events is the annual Christmas Shopping Tour that gives underprivileged children a chance to buy clothing and shoes.
“Just being able to help them get the necessities that they need, I think that is really important,” she said.
Katwala has also leant her time to a SAFE Halloween Event at Whitman, which provides a secure environment for elementary-aged children to participate in a controlled and supervised setting.
Katwala also works at Reddy-Care Physical Therapy in Farmingdale each Saturday as a technician, aiding the physical therapists and learning about the field that she hopes to one day be a part of.
Katwala has a 99.91 grade point average, Shepard said. She is a member of the National Honor Society, English Honor Society, and World Language Honor Society. As for college, she is deciding between Utica College and Quinnipiac University.
— JORDAN LAUTERBACH
Jordan Tobin, Amityville, Basketball/Soccer/Lacrosse
Jordan Tobin has made it impossible to pick just one thing she’ll be remembered by when she graduates from Amityville.
“I want to make sure when I graduate, I’m not just being remembered as a good student or a good athlete,” Tobin said. “I want to be remembered as someone who helped people and touched the hearts of little kids and inspired them to go after something more.”
A standout three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball, lacrosse) with a 103.73 grade point average - No. 7 in her class - Tobin volunteers for the TEACCH program for autistic and special-needs children at Park Avenue Elementary School in Amityville. She’s volunteered at various school events, including youth basketball and lacrosse clinics.
“She’s involved in so much, but nothing holds her back from excelling,” said girls soccer coach Angela Steiger.
Tobin helps to support her family by working at McDonald’s. She has worked between 35-45 hours a week during the COVID-19 pandemic, covering shifts for employees either feeling sick or afraid to work. And even during breaks, she stays busy.
“I always make a point of having my schoolwork with me so I can do it on my break,” Tobin said. “My co-workers were looking at me like, ‘Jordan, what are you doing?’ And I say, ‘I’m sorry. I have to get my homework done.’ ”
Tobin will attend Five Towns College and major in audio business with a specialty in music production.
“I just love listening to music and hearing the sounds and emotions that go behind it,” Tobin said. “I want to get on the production side of it so I could help people write their own stories, write their own music, so they can tell their stories.”
— OWEN O’BRIEN
Billy Kephart, Garden City, Football/Lacrosse
Billy Kephart knows well the good feeling of winning a championship. The senior was part of two Long Island lacrosse champions and a state title-winner. He also helped the Trojans to three Nassau football crowns and two Long Island championships.
But other feelings can rival those for Kephart. He has seen impoverished families receive the gift of a Christmas tree and decorations for the holiday. And he’s heard gratitude from some who got a needed home repair they couldn’t afford through Habitat for Humanity
“It’s a really rewarding feeling to help underprivileged people,” said Kephart, who volunteers with the Garden City Service League of Boys. “There are things we take for granted living in Garden City. The sight of a family getting a Christmas tree when they thought they wouldn’t have one? That’s a feeling that fills you up.”
Kephart is a high-achiever in the classroom with a 102 weighted GPA, a 1,520 SAT score and a National Football Foundation Golden 11 Award. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the New York State Business & Marketing Society, and was captain of the football and lacrosse teams.
“Not everyone is ready to lead a young team, but he was,” Trojans lacrosse coach Steve Finnell said. “He’s responsible and accountable.”
“He has a mind for communicating what a coach wants to the whole team,” football coach Dave Ettinger said. “He’s a ‘go-to guy’ when we need a play and behind the scenes.”
Kephart will play lacrosse at Cornell, where he will be enrolled in the Industrial and Labor Relations School.
“The school’s slogan is ‘One Major, Endless Possibilities’ and I like that,” he said. “That’s a degree I can use in whatever I choose to pursue.”
— ROGER RUBIN
Belle Smith, Westhampton, Basketball/Lacrosse/Volleyball
Belle Smith is as dynamic of a high school athlete as they come, and while the Westhampton senior’s athletic achievements are impressive, they are just a snippet of the type of person and student she is.
The three-sport star owns a 96 GPA, and is a member of the National Honor Society, Foreign Language National Honor Society and Mathematics National Honor Society.
In October, she organized a charity spike ball tournament to raise money and awareness for leukemia. A month later, she spearheaded two volleyball fundraisers, “Dana Strong” and “Hurricane Grace”.
Dana Strong supported a gymnast and athlete from East Quogue who was paralyzed in a diving accident and Hurricane Grace helped raised money for an eighth-grader at Westhampton Beach Middle School who was diagnosed with cancer.
“Belle makes everyone around her feel special and loved,” Westhampton basketball coach Katie Peters said. “Her athletic ability is a window into her larger journey of impacting others, which I have no doubt she will continue to do throughout her life.”
Smith is Westhampton’s all-time leading scorer with 1,735 points. This past season she led the Hurricanes to their first county title in 15 years.
The Boston College lacrosse commit was the named the top midfielder in the country by US Lacrosse and ranked as the second overall recruit by Inside Lacrosse for the Class of 2020.
“To me it’s all about balance. You have to set priorities and goals and focus your time and energy on the things that are most important to you,” Smith said. “I always made it a priority to focus most on helping and impacting others, whether it’s through service, character or out on the field or court.”
— PETER KERSICH
Jackie Mason, Bayport-Blue Point, Lacrosse
Being busy is a way of life for Jackie Mason, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
A three-sport athlete, Mason was part of the Phantoms’ Suffolk Class C lacrosse title in 2019, is a member of the National Honor Society, earned a perfect score on the biology regents, and served as the vice president of the Leo Club during her junior and senior years.
She also volunteers for several organizations, including Inclusive Sports and Fitness, which she said resonates the most with her. Mason started with ISF when she was 12, working with special-needs children to help them become more involved in sports and recreational activities. Of course, that includes lacrosse and, for Mason, the chance to share her love of the game is something she’s relished.
“To be able to teach these kids something that I love so much, it makes me super happy because I can pass my love onto them,” Mason said. “I’ve formed so many great relationships with these students and these kids.”
Those relationships last long after the ISF camps end, and Mason said she’s worked to bring awareness to special-needs children at school. Ryan Gick, who coached Mason in soccer and lacrosse, lauded her efforts, calling her a “a genuine kid.”
“It’s not just do this for [her] resume," Gick said. "[Kids] see her in the hallway, they talk to her, she runs right up and hugs them.”
Mason, who will play lacrosse at Brown University and is excited for another jam-packed schedule, is proud of everything she’s accomplished in high school.
“It’s an honor to say that I’ve done these things for my community,” Mason said.
— LAURA AMATO
Emma Ward, Babylon, Lacrosse/Basketball/Soccer
Emma Ward is used to being a leader.
Whether it’s the soccer field, the basketball court, the lacrosse field, the classroom, or the almost two dozen school clubs and community organizations she volunteers, she enjoys making others better.
Ward estimates she spends an average of 10 hours a week coaching youth sports, tutoring, and helping with school activities, including Babylon’s Safe Halloween, Super Bowl of Caring, Jingle Walk, and Color Run events.
But as an eighth-grader and freshman, Ward had to take a more secondary role in athletics after she tore her right and left ACL, respectively, in consecutive years.
“I learned so much more about myself,” Ward said, “and I’m so much better off now than I could be.”
The Syracuse-bound Ward shares that perspective with others, including a member of Babylon’s JV soccer team who missed a penalty kick in an overtime loss this past fall.
Fast forward to the Long Island Class B title game. The first goal of the game was scored by Sophia Conti -- the same player that missed the penalty kick and had received a pep talk from Ward -- who had been called up to varsity. (Babylon won, 2-1.)
“I knew,” Ward said, “she had something bigger to achieve.”
When it comes to achievements, few can match Ward, who captained her soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams.
The four-time All-County lacrosse player has a 101.3 weighted average, and is a member of the National Honor Society, as well as those in English, Science, and Spanish.
“When I think of the three top kids [I coached],” girls soccer coach and Math teacher Frank Mancuso said, “Emma Ward will be at the top of the list every single time.”
— JOHN BOELL
Trey Cole, Connetquot, Volleyball
Trey Cole knew very early on where he would be playing collegiate volleyball.
In fact, when the Connetquot star received an offer from Pepperdine and made a verbal commitment in the middle of his sophomore season, he became the youngest boys volleyball player in Long Island history to do so, according to his coach, Jess Perry.
“Connetquot has only started to get better over the last few years,” Perry said. “And it’s solely because of Trey Cole . . . He’s meant everything.”
After becoming one of the top liberos in the nation and competing at the USA High Performance Volleyball Championships, Cole began his junior season seamlessly transitioning to outside hitter and earned Newsday All-Long honors.
As a senior, Cole helped lead the Thunderbirds to their first regular-season league championship since 2005 and was named Newsday’s 2019 Long Island Player of the Year.
Cole finds just as much success in the classroom. Fresh off his 97.63 GPA, he’s leaning toward majoring in business at Pepperdine. Cole said earning a Marcus A. Henry Award nomination means a great deal to him because of how it recognizes talent, leadership and character.
“Even more than my academic and athletic achievements, I pride myself in who I am as a person and how I impact the people in my life,” Cole said.
Cole’s impact in the community includes his role in fundraising efforts such as Dezy Strong – a foundation to support cancer research begun by Matt “Dezy” DiStefano, the late Sachem North boys volleyball assistant coach – and also taking part in the Dig Pink breast cancer fundraiser at Connetquot. He’s also made sandwiches for the less fortunate as part of his church’s Sandwich Society.
— MIKE RUIZ
Lance Henry, Baldwin, Basketball
On the basketball court Lance Henry is a natural leader.
A captain of the Nassau champion Baldwin Bruins, Henry was second on the team with over 12 points per game, and led the squad in three-point shooting.
But it’s off the court where his star shines the brightest.
“He exemplifies everything that we stand for as a program,” Baldwin coach Darius Burton said. “He’s a great student-athlete. He leads by example on the court and in the classroom.”
Henry takes particular pride in being able to help children in the Baldwin community.
He took part in drives through his church that helped supply underprivileged kids with shoes, backpacks and school supplies. He’s also spent the last two summers as a coach and instructor at the Coleman Country Day Camp and the Bruins basketball camp.
“The best experience for me has been helping kids,” Henry said. “To see the look on their faces when they’re able to achieve something is so rewarding.”
As a member of the FBLA club Henry was a part of a group that went to elementary schools in the district and taught students about financial literacy, something close to him as he plans on majoring in finance at St. Joseph’s next year.
He’s already ahead of schedule after taking 14 credits at Suffolk Community College in the fall and another 17 this spring. That would entail taking a 6:30 a.m. bus to get to the campus in Brentwood for classes and getting back to Baldwin by 3 p.m. for basketball practice.
He did that while attaining a 4.0 GPA this year and earning high honor roll as a junior.
“He’s just a pleasure to coach and be around,” Burton said. “He’s a role model of what kids should want to become.”
— GENE MORRIS
Xavier Arline, Shoreham-Wading River, Lacrosse/Football
Xavier Arline has a way of making things happen when he steps onto a field. He helped to lead the Wildcats to the Class C lacrosse state title in 2019, then a Long Island Class IV football championship. But some of his best work has been done in giving back to his community.
“There’s never an excuse to put others in front of yourself,” Arline said. “You want to take care of other people.”
Since his freshman year, Arline has been part of the school-sponsored NEXUS Program. The group splits time volunteering at an animal shelter in Riverhead where, Arline said, students “clean the whole place up, do the laundry, wash the dishes,” and the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook.
Spending time with veterans was especially meaningful for Arline, who will play football at the Naval Academy, and while he hasn’t been there since his commitment, he said the experience helped bring “everything into perspective.”
Arline also volunteers with the Shoreham youth lacrosse organization and the LaxOut Cancer event.
“Xavier has become a lacrosse hero to our Shoreham-Wading River youth players,” Wildcats lacrosse coach Mike Taylor said. “His core values of honesty, integrity and respect set the standard.”
Added football coach Aden Smith: “He’s a tremendous athlete and competitor, but an even better person.”
Arline holds a 3.6 GPA, Taylor said, and this year took AP macroeconomics.
“That’s another reason why I’m blessed to attend the Naval Academy,” Arline said. “Because I get to do what I love, plus be a part of something bigger.”
— LAURA AMATO