GAINESVILLE — Hannah Schneidewind and Elijah Suh were understandably floored.
It was one thing to be nominated for one of the FHSAA’s 24 Academic All-State scholarships. It was another thing entirely to be seated with 22 other recipients from across the state Monday night in Gainesville.
Schneidewind, a senior from Niceville, and Suh, a senior from Rocky Bayou, used the same word — “crazy” — to describe their experience at the 24th Annual Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Banquet, where both were presented with a $1,700 scholarship.
“Definitely a little crazy to be surrounded by so many people who have been doing the same caliber of stuff all throughout the state,” Schneidewind said. “It was definitely crazy to see 24 of us in the same room.”
Said Suh, “It was honestly amazing. It was just crazy to see how many amazing kids there were across Florida … It’s really encouraging to see there are so many other kids who are so driven to pursue excellence in service, athletics and academics and to know they’re my peers.”
Both Schneidewind and Suh had to meet a set of requirements, including lettering in two sports while performing community service and maintaining good grades, to be nominated by their respective school for the scholarship.
“It’s a huge honor because only 12 males and 12 females got it from the entire state,” Schneidewind said. “The requirements to even be eligible — the fact that I even achieved the minimum is incredible to me.”
Suh said he felt as if he almost didn’t belong among such a prestigious group of students, though both his résumé and that of Schneidewind are nothing short of outstanding.
Both carried unweighted 4.0 GPAs. Schneidewind’s GPA ranks second in her class of 499 students. She will attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, come fall where she plans to study mechanical engineering. At Niceville, Schneidewind was a member of both the cross-country and track teams, earning a state championship medal as part of the Eagles’ 2017 4x800-meter relay team. She was also a member of Humanities Club, Key Club, Outdoors Club and served as editor of Niceville’s yearbook.
Suh will join Schneidewind in Massachusetts where he will attend Harvard with plans to study on a pre-medicine track after graduating from Rocky Bayou at the top of his class. He successfully balanced cross-country, track and soccer with his classwork, finishing as a finalist for a National Merit Scholarship. Suh also served as Rocky Bayou’s head prefect, a position Josh Childers, Rocky Bayou’s athletic director, equated to being student government president.
“From my standpoint, Elijah’s been an awesome kid,” Childers said. “He’s worked tremendously hard ever since I started coaching him back in, like, seventh grade… He’s super smart but he’s never flaunted that or been arrogant. He’s always wanted to serve and help out and do what was right.
“I think Elijah Suh’s one of the all-around greatest kids you could be around.”
After teaching and coaching Schneidewind during her high school tenure, Jaime LaFollette, co-coach for the Eagle’s track and field team, felt similarly about Schneidewind. He said Schneidewind was more than deserving of the honor and the scholarship that accompanies a spot on the academic all-state team. LaFollette said Schneidewind holds herself to a higher standard and her drive has rubbed off on her teammates.
“Hannah’s been a high achiever academically, athletically, in the community all four years of high school, and this is a wonderful recognition of all of her accomplishments,” LaFollette said.