As Newberg High School wrestling coach Neil Russo explained last week, no matter how you feel about it senior Dallas O'Bryan is going to do what he does.
He's going to smile, stay upbeat and find a way to make a positive contribution in his own quirky way. Sometimes, Russo said, even he doesn't know what to do about that.
Last week wasn't one of those times, because Russo and the rest of the coaches at Newberg High School knew exactly how to react now that O'Bryan is set to graduate with honors and wrestle for Umpqua Community College, as Russo presented him with the Carolyn DeCrevel Award of Excellence May 31 at the school's annual All Sports Awards Dessert.
"I want to thank you for demonstrating to all of us that you are what you decide you are going to be and that circumstances don't have to define us as individuals," Russo said. "Things happen, sometimes horrible unfair things that we cannot control. We all have to decide if we are going to let those things bring us down or if we are going to soar despite them."
The award, which is touted as the highest honor the athletic department bestows, is meant to recognize two seniors who exemplify the citizenship traits that NHS strives to develop in its student athletes and that are epitomized by the woman for which it is named.
The circumstance that Russo referred to was the unexpected death of O'Bryan's father during winter break of his junior year, a tragedy the all-state wrestler and all-league football player has endured while remaining unapologetically himself.
Who else, after all, would bring up how he was the "smelly kid" when he lived in Sherwood, but has felt nothing but accepted in Newberg?
"No one wanted to hang out with me," O'Bryan recalled after the event. "I'm just happy and as Neil said, take it or leave it. I like the fact that people enjoyed me so much they gave me an award for it."
Also receiving the Carolyn DeCrevel Award was track star Madison Hergert, who seemed to be the biggest winner on the night, having also shared Most Outstanding Senior Female Athlete honors with teammate Savanna Milroy.
She was lauded by track coach Brandon Ramey for being perhaps the most decorated athlete in the program history after winning a state title in the 400 a few weeks prior, but is also one of 13 valedictorians this year, a member of the Associated Student Body, member of the volleyball team and an active volunteer in events like Relay for Life.
"I'm just very honored," the Concordia-Irvine recruit said. "They kind of caught me off guard with the last one, but I was really thankful for everyone, all the coaches and teachers, all my peers in the crowd, for supporting me. All the hard work really paid off and I'm glad it came to this moment and the series of events the last couple of weeks."
It was a big moment for Milroy, who first made becoming a 12-sport (three sports, four letters each) athlete and winning Most Outstanding Senior Athlete major goals when she was a freshman attending the awards banquet.
Milroy has been a star in track & field, basketball and volleyball, earning all-league honors a total of nine times. She has qualified for the state meet in three events in her career — the pole vault, high jump and 4x100 relay — and accepted a scholarship to compete for Portland State University.
The award caught her off guard, especially because her name was announced after Hergert and with no indication that the award would be shared.
"It was pretty unreal," Milroy said. "I was really excited. I don't know how to explain it. I've seen them (award) two before, but I was surprised when they called me up second. It's one of my biggest accomplishments in life. It's been my goal forever."
Milroy also got to share the stage with her longtime beau, Anthony Adams, who was named Most Outstanding Senior Male Athlete.
Adams, who will also attend Portland State to play football, was named to the all-conference first team five times in football and recognized as Defensive Player of the Year in the Three Rivers League as a senior. He collected first-team all-state honors as a defensive back this past season and has also earned all-conference recognition eight other times in track & field, baseball and basketball.
"Portland State has gotten an absolute gem," Ramey said. "He's the real deal. Every game we played this year, he was the best player on the field."
Athletic director Tim Burke also set aside time to announce that senior basketball star Taylor Rarick, who has also received an athletic scholarship from NCAA Division II Concordia-Irvine, was recently named an Esmark All-American.
"Our hope is that this award will be a stepping stone for continued excellence and a mirror to others who follow your path," Burke said, reading from the letter sent with the award. "This achievement is not only the result of hard work and dedication, but is also balanced by the adversity and obstacles that come with perseverance. All-American status will always be a reflection of your success. Be mindful of what lies ahead, but be confident that no task is too great, no gesture too small to make a difference."
Burke also announced that this year's OSAA Award of Excellence, which honors efforts made behind the scenes, went to boys rugby assistant coach Lynne Patrick. Principal Kyle Laier later named boys rugby head coach Rick Rogers NHS Coach of the Year 10 years after he founded the program as a club team.
"Rick took a leap of faith and helped create a program for kids who were looking for something different," Laier said. "Ten years later, Rick has established a first-class program. Ricks' devotion to his players is clear in practice and beyond."
Longtime water polo coach Jim McMaster not only announced Cari Blanchard as the assistant coach of the year, but also announced that she will take over head coaching duties for the girls next season.
"Last year we won the girls state championship and that was a lot because of Cari," McMaster said. "This year we got third. Cari just does a great job of supporting me and supporting the girls."
The Newberg Booster Club also awarded $1,000 scholarships to runners Quinton, Read and Grace Hanna, water polo player and swimmer Katie Kisling, and Brandon Takahashi, who played baseball and soccer.