Pair of Hampton personalities win WPIAL Athlete-Scholar Awards
Saturday April 23, 2022 | 9:01
A banner year for Hampton athletics just got even more special.
Hampton volleyball champion Kai Herchenroether and state champion swimmer Will Retsch were among 20 WPIAL student-athletes to be named the recipients of the James Collins Scholar-Athlete Award on April 13.
The seniors were selected from a field of 142 applicants from 80 schools, the highest number of nominations for the program since 2017. They will each receive WPIAL gold medals and $1,000 in scholarships.
“I was just really excited because I’ve watched the athletes who have won it in the past, and they all seemed super accomplished and really good students,” Herchenroether said. “I was really excited to be nominated at first, then when I found out I had won, I was super excited.”
Each WPIAL school is allowed to nominate two student-athletes – one boy and one girl – and the winners are selected based on their excellence in their respective athletic and off-court activities.
Hampton joined Peters Township as the only WPIAL schools with multiple winners. Hampton has had only one other winner since 2013 (Anastasia Russ in 2019).
“It was awesome,” said Retsch, who pledged to Gannon. “I knew there was a lot of tough competition for this, so I was very surprised when I found out.”
Herchenroether last fall led the women’s volleyball team to the most successful season in program history, with trips to WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A championship games. The 6-foot average hitter was named all-state, while carrying a 4.61 GPA and participating in a dizzying amount of other activity. She will play volleyball at Carnegie Mellon and major in biomedical engineering.
“Honestly, I don’t really know how I made it, especially this year,” she said. “It has been the busiest year of my life so far. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it.
Only five other Hampton students have won the WPIAL Researcher-Athlete Award since 2006. Among them is Joe Cangilla, who was selected in 2007. He is an assistant coach in football, basketball and track and field at his alma mater.
“It’s really special, and it’s a credit to those two,” Cangilla said. “Having two (winners) is a bit surreal. … It speaks to the quality of the student-athlete at Hampton.
Retsch won the WPIAL Class 2A gold medals in the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly while leading the Talbots to their second consecutive team championship. He capped off his season with the PIAA 200 IM title—the school’s first state gold in 15 years—and set three school records. Throughout that time, he posted a 4.78 GPA and participated in an impressive list of extracurricular activities.
“It’s a lot of time management,” said Retsch, who picked Gannon over Lehigh and Bucknell. ” It’s very hard. It’s a lot of stress, a lot of late nights. But it works in the end. Everything is worth it.
Herchenroether has also sacrificed a lot for his activities off the pitch. While several of her friends and classmates were at a Hampton football game on a Friday night last fall, she went shopping for her H2GO SERVES program. The organization provides 50 home-cooked meals for the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
Herchenroether said winning the WPIAL College Athlete Award was a rewarding honor for all his hard work.
“In the fall, I was just extremely busy with volleyball and school, and sometimes it was a little too much,” she said. “But I was able to do it all and now, looking back, I’m so proud of myself and everything I was able to accomplish.”
The best of the best
Here are Hampton’s winners of the WPIAL/James Collins Scholar-Athlete Award since 2006
Kai Herchenroether, 2022
Will Retsch, 2022
Anastasia Russ, 2019
Noah Shulman, 2013
Haley McDonald, 2011
Mallory Schaffer, 2009
Joseph Cangilla, 2007