By BRETT MARSHALL
It should come as no surprise that Hannah Mehl has an appreciation for excellence in the classroom and hard work in the world of competitive athletics.
The recent graduate of Wichita County High School's father, Shad, is both a school teacher, a coach, and for her, a role model.
"He's probably the person I admire the most," Mehl said. "He's living his life the way he wants. He had a good job in Arizona, gave it up to come back here, and farm, and teach and coach. That's what he wants to do and he enjoys the things he does. I want to be like him."
Mehl, one of the two recipients of the inaugural Garden City Telegram Senior Scholar-Athlete Award (see related story on Jonathan Miller), has demonstrated that balance of excellence in both the classroom and the athletic world.
Mehl may be leaving WCHS as one of the greatest all-around athletes in school history. She earned an amazing 15 varsity letters, missing only a perfect 4-for-4 in her sophomore year when she didn't compete in cross country. She earned four varsity letters each in volleyball, basketball and track.
"Definitely, basketball has been my favorite, by far," Mehl said. "I'm not totally into the running sports, but with basketball, it's more than that. I like the team sports; working with everyone. I like the pace of the game. It keeps you moving and keeps things interesting."
Mehl earned first team honors in 2011 on The Telegram's All-Area basketball list after making the second team her junior season and honorable mention as a sophomore. She made the honorable mention All-Area volleyball team her senior season, and then ran on the Lady Indians' third-place cross country team both her junior and senior seasons.
Her athletic success carried into the spring with track where she was a fourth place finisher in the Class 2A javelin as a sophomore and then placed fifth in the 300-meter hurdles her senior year.
"There's not much to do in Leoti," Mehl said. "So, it's playing sports, finding activities, getting together with friends, and watching movies and just talking."
Mehl said her greatest moment came in her final basketball game in the Class 2A sub-state where she scored a school record 38 points in a tough loss.
"I had been hoping for a chance to beat the record my last two years," Mehl said of the previous mark of 36 points. "I wish we could have won the game, but to get the record in my final game is something I'll always remember."
The level of excellence for Mehl was also demonstrated in the classroom where she compiled a perfect 4.00 grade point average through four years. She was the class valedictorian, ranking first in her class of 30 students. When she took the college preparatory ACT test, she scored a 26, with the average score for Kansas graduates being 22.
"I worked really hard through school trying to keep my grades up," Mehl said. "It feels so good that people are recognizing me not only for sports, but for academics."
Her favorite classes are math and science. Her least favorite is English, citing the difficulty of putting thoughts into words.
Mehl received an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Pratt Community College.
"I'm very honored to get this award," Mehl said in her acceptance. "I mean, this is really great. It will help a lot and I want to do my very best."
Mehl, who said she hopes to major in physical education and pursue a career in exercise science. If she had an opportunity, she would like to meet Ben Franklin, the great American of colonial times.
"He did a lot to help the U.S., and he went overseas and did some cool stuff there," Mehl said. "He's greatly looked upon by many people and I just think it would be neat to talk to him."
Notes: Other girls who were nominated included Kelsey Blair of Satanta, Traci Martinez of Garden City, Amy Stegman of Holcomb and Mikayla Skidmore of South Gray.
Hannah Mehl Bio:
High School: Wichita County, Leoti
Parents: Shad and Connie Mehl
Nominated By: Keith Higgins, Principal, Wichita County High School.
Recommendation letters: Higgins; Betsy Breitkreutz, teacher and Student Council sponsor.
Sports/Years Played: Cross Country (3), Volleyball (4), Basketball (4), Track (4). Letters earned: 15.
Athletic Honors: Basketball--1st team Hi-Plains League (Unanimous), 2009/2010/2011; 2nd team, Garden City Telegram All-Area, 2009/2010; 1st team, Garden City Telegram All-Area, 2011; Hutchinson News, 1st team, Class 2A, 2009/2010/2011. Volleyball--Honorable Mention All-Area, Garden City Telegram, Honorable Mention, 2009/2010. Track--4th place, Class 2A state, javelin, 2009; 5th place, Class 2A 300-meter hurdles, 2011. Cross Country--Member, 3rd place team Class 2A state, 2009/2010.
Civic/School Organizations: National Honor Society; Student Council; Science Olympiad; Church youth group; Community Clean-Up; Vacation Bible School.
Cumulative Grade Point Average/Class Rank: 4.00/1st of 30. ACT Score: 26.
Future Plans: Will attend Pratt Community College on a basketball scholarship. Major area of study: Likely physical education, exercise science.