By Kevin Price
For GCS Athletics
Two local athletes have been announced as regional winners for the state’s Positive Athlete award.
Sage Perez, a cheerleader for Glynn Academy, and Kalyn Harris, a Brunswick High softball player and track and field competitor, were recognized recently for being among the Southeast Georgia recipients of this special honor during a ceremony held inside the Athletics Center at Glynn County Stadium.
“This award honors kids who are truly student-athletes,” said Glynn County Schools athletic director Steve Waters. “They take care of business in the classroom and on the field and are positive role models for their classmates.
“It’s a pretty big deal. We have two (recipients) this year, so it’s great.”
Georgia has been participating in the Positive Athlete program the last five years. The organization, which is based out of Atlanta, was started by Hines Ward, who played high school football in the Peach State before going on to star for the University of Georgia and the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Student-athletes earn the award based on the desired qualities that make up Positive Athlete’s OPERATE acronym, including optimistic, puts team first, encouraging, respectful, admits imperfections, true heart for others and embraces service.
“Hines Ward had all those characteristics and created this award to honor high school student-athletes who do as well,” Waters said.
The regional winners from across the state are considered for the state scholarships that will be announced soon.
Partners for the Positive Athlete program in Georgia include the Georgia High School Association, Georgia Athletic Coaches Association, the Atlanta Braves and Hawks, Delta and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Deserving student-athletes in grades nine through 12 can be nominated by coaches, administrators, fans, teachers and parents.
At the ceremony to honor the local student-athletes, GA cheerleading coach Jorgiene Eleser, who submitted the nomination for Perez, had high praise for her senior cheerleader.
“She is truly a remarkable young woman,” Elseser said. “Having coached and taught literally thousands of students and athletes, Sage is in the top echelon.
“If asked to describe Sage, I would attach attributes such as intuitive and eager to learn, quick to understand and relate to the needs of others in an organized environment, team player, outgoing, friendly, organized, enthusiastic, generates a positive attitude, beautiful intrinsically and extrinsically, disciplined, goal-oriented and unselfish. It has been a pleasure to serve as her coach.”
Perez was humble in her acceptance of this award.
“It does mean a lot,” she said. “I’ve been a cheerleader since seventh grade and loved it and everything about my school. I’ve always wanted to show what Glynn Academy is all about, represent the students at the school and be a face for it.”
At Brunswick, Harris, who will be a senior next school year, received strong praise from both her coaches.
“She is very deserving of this award,” said BHS track coach Nagene Thomas. “All the things this award is about, she is all those things. She’s just a great kid, always has a great attitude. And, she gets her job done. You don’t have to worry about her.”
Brunswick softball coach Nicole Bailey, who is completing her first year with the Lady Pirates, agreed.
“I’ve nominated kids for this award for several years now, and Kalyn is one of the most deserving,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot I could say about her, but she has this spirit about her. She’s always positive and very energetic, always up and ready to go. Her commitment to both softball and track is unwavering.”
When asked about receiving this honor, Harris was also humble, saying it’s just her nature to be positive.
“I’m a happy person, always smiling. I just like being happy,” she said. “And, this is not just about me. This is a team award. It’s something that puts us on the map.”