By Darren Lum
Emma Casey couldn’t hold back the tears when she learned she was named the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Casey learned the good news online from the virtual Red Hawks ceremony on Thursday morning with her family present.
“I started crying. I was so excited. It had been something that I’d been striving to get for so long. I was just so happy” she said.
The goal to be included among the collection of recipients whose faces are displayed in framed photos along the top of the wall in the athletic wing of the school was set when she started high school she said.
“As soon as you walk into the high school there’s just like so many … all the pictures are up on the wall at the athletic complex. My uncle is actually one of the people” she said referring to Andy Dawson. “It’s just something I’ve always [wanted] for as long as I can remember.”
Casey curled played volleyball field hockey and competed in the field events of track and field (discus and javelin). She played in the OFSAA volleyball championship earned multiple trips to the East Regional OFSAA event in track and competed in two COSSA finals with the field hockey team.
Her volleyball and field hockey coach Steve Smith started off the posted video saying “I really wish I could personally give this award to this year’s Female Athlete of the Year but this virtual introduction will have to do.”
He called her an “amazing young athlete” and “a vocal leader.”
Smith also said Casey never minced words.
“If you ask her a question you’re going to get an honest and sometimes blunt answer. There’s no sugar coating and that’s what I love about her” he said.
Other coaches Smith said described Casey as a “pleasure to coach and she represents HHSS athletes with class.” Another said “Whatever the role she’s asked to play she does it without complaining and with joy.”
Her teacher and other volleyball coach Janice Scheffee said she appreciated Casey’s humour and wit.
She also always put the team before her own desires and her level of drive matched the calibre of competition.
This was evident during the team’s run in the COSSA championship tournament.
“It was pretty amazing to watch how one person can help. First of all team chemistry and second of all really rally a team to put forth their best showing on the biggest stage” she said.
Scheffee remembers the numerous conversations she had with Casey about being able to be an athlete of the year while walking through the athletic complex hall adorned with the photos of previous winners.
“Well Emma Casey you did it. Congratulations for being our 2019/2020 Female Athlete of the Year” she said.
Casey said the honour wasn’t diminished despite missing out on the conventional annual evening event when student athletes dress up and gather together. The in-person event was cancelled as a COVID-19 precaution.
“But I think it was really cool the way the slideshows were put together. And then that’s a video I can have for the rest of my life” she said.
Among her highlights she said includes the time she was called up as a junior player in Grade 10 to play for the senior volleyball team when it advanced to OFSAA.
She also appreciated all the intense practices whether it was with the hockey or volleyball teams.
“When the team was working so hard and everybody was putting all they had into it. That was huge for me” she said.
Volleyball was her favourite sport during her athletic career but was also her favourite for her teammates who she loved.
Casey felt overcome with emotion crying when Steve Smith presented the acronym using her name.
“I was crying the whole time” she said.
E for enthusiastic. M for motivated. M for mastery. A for athletic. C for committed and competitive. A for attitude (positive). S for says it like it is. E for everyone has to have fun. Y is for yearning to learn.
Next year Casey said she’ll work and plans to pursue post-secondary education to become an arborist which she hopes to parlay into a job as a linesperson for Hydro One. It affords her a chance to be outside regularly and move around Ontario with the possibility of returning to the Highlands.
Casey appreciates her coaches and teammates.
“I would like to thank my coaches for always pushing me to be the best I can be and recognizing the work that I put in. I would also like to thank my fellow teammates for working hard to achieve the goals that we made together” she wrote in an email.
She said she had struggled with lack of closure of the school year particularly for graduating students since COVID-19 had forced students to learn online.
“This just closes it all off and that’s really [important]” she said.