MIDDLETOWN — Shenandoah’s Rylee Johnson is one of 13 senior student athletes who will be honored with the 2020 C. Eugene Cato Memorial Scholarships, the Indiana High School Athletic Association announced Monday.
Those selected were chosen on the basis of excellence in academics, school and community involvement, character, sportsmanship and citizenship. Each individual will receive a $2,500 scholarship for their prep accomplishments and be recognized at this year’s Thomas A. Brady Sports Achievement Awards Dinner established by Methodist Sports Medicine.
Former Purdue quarterback David Blough is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the upcoming dinner, which was recently postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and will be rescheduled for a date to be announced.
Johnson is carrying a 4.0 grade point average and has earned seven varsity letters in basketball, track and field, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. She said sports taught her the value of teamwork and helped her stay organized so she could balance academics and athletics.
“The athletics helped me manage my time,” she said. “Without them, I’d probably get distracted. Having the athletics, I do sports, then homework and study, and that’s the routine I picked up. It’s kind of normal to do sports and study 24/7. I like it.”
Johnson’s mother is Shenandoah middle school teacher Angela Johnson, who said seeing her daughter’s lifelong hard work pay off with this scholarship was the ultimate reward.
“I think I jumped up and down and gave her a hug,” Angela Johnson said. “We’re very excited. She’s a very hard worker, and we’ve pushed her to apply for scholarships. I’m just happy that she saw benefit from all of her hard work.”
An avid soccer fan, one who played in the Knightstown schools, Johnson wanted to get the sport started at Shenandoah. Along with other students and softball coach Allison Merritt, she was able to get the ball rolling with club soccer this year. With the team able to compete as a junior varsity team in 2021 and making its varsity debut in 2022, Johnson enjoyed getting soccer started for future Raiders, even if she herself won’t get to play.
“I have always wanted to play soccer,” she said. “It was just super cool to see this new team formed. … We got girls that didn’t necessarily play sports usually. It was cool to see a new group of teammates.”
Johnson has done plenty of community work as well. She helped with the National Honor Society’s “Pennies for Patients,” which raises money for leukemia and lymphoma, and has taken part in multiple mission trips through her church.
Those trips involved working in the inner city areas of Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. She says those activities, including feeding and praying with drug addicts, have been rewarding experiences for her, as well as those the mission trips were designed to help.
“It was eye opening to see how other people live and how their communities differ from ours,” Johnson said. “The most recent trip I went on was to Philadelphia, which was different from the others I’d been on, which were usually physical labor. This was more about ministry and sharing the gospel. … It was probably the roughest part of the community, and we prayed with them and gave them bags of food. It was eye opening to go up to someone with the bag of food and they were willing to pray with us.”
Johnson is currently undecided on her college of choice. She plans on pursuing an engineering degree at Purdue, Rose-Hulman or Lipscomb, in Tennessee.
The scholarship program is named in tribute to the late commissioner C. Eugene Cato who led the IHSAA from 1983 to 1995 and served as assistant commissioner from 1976 to 1983.
This year’s recipients were chosen from a field of nearly 100 applicants from across the state.