For Lakewood Ranch's Hallie Monserez, putting together a high school athletic career worthy of awards is academic.
Monserez, a senior at Cardinal Mooney High, was named to the Florida High School Athletic Association/Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team April 6. The award is for an athlete in any sport.
She is the only athlete in Manatee or Sarasota counties to receive the honor this year. It's a prestigious one. Only 24 graduating athletes — 12 boys and 12 girls — are named to the team each year. Members of the team are awarded with a $1,700 scholarship toward schooling, so it is a fruitful honor as well as a prideful one.
The FHSAA and Florida Dairy Farmers consider a number of factors when deciding its team each year, including grade point average. Monserez is a National Merit Finalist and has a 4.0 GPA.
Monserez also is a top contributor in soccer, cross country and track and field. She even contributed to a school record time in the girls 4x400 meter relay (4:07.64) at last year's FHSAA track and field championships in Jacksonville.
Community service? Monserez has a list of more than 150 community service events. Extracurriculars? Besides sports, Monserez is involved with student government, the National Honor Society, the Mu Alpha Theta mathematics society and plenty more.
You get the picture. In everything she does, Monserez excels. She's an obvious candidate for the award, yet she still handles the recognition with humility.
"It's such an honor," Monserez said. "I think it is a recognition of my work but also the help I have received from my coaches and teachers and counselors. I'm happy I was selected."
Monserez said she didn't use any fancy tricks to manage her time, other than making sure she notes her various appointments on a calendar and checks it often. Mooney's online work system, Canvas, tells students when assignments are due, Monserez said. She makes sure to not miss a deadline. Other than that, her success in school might come down to the fact that she genuinely enjoys learning. Monserez said her favorite subjects are math and history, though that could change depending on the day. AP Statistics, Monserez said, is one of her all-time favorites.
"I think it's so fun," Monserez said with a laugh, baffling the high school version of myself and, I'm sure, plenty of her peers. "It's applicable to everyday life. You have to take it for basically any major in college anyway, but I like it."
For Monserez, that college will be Notre Dame. Her family has ties to the South Bend, Indiana area and Monserez grew up rooting for the Fighting Irish. She checked out other schools, Monserez said, but none could match Notre Dame's mix of academics, high-level sports and spirituality. She is Catholic and said that visiting places like the school's Grotto and Basilica is powerful in a way that is difficult to describe.
Monserez spent time working on her spiritual relationships while earning community service hours last summer. But unlike other students who, understandably, volunteer with local churches, Monserez did something a bit different. She spent two weeks in Wauchula with a group of nuns at St. Michael's Parish, helping them run their religious education camp. Despite being raised Catholic, Monserez had never met a nun before the trip.
In Wauchula, she lived like them, too, getting up at 6 a.m. for "adoration," where you sit in the presence of the Eucharist (the Communion bread and wine) for an hour and meditate on what it means to you. She took kids to mass and to a morning and evening prayer. It was a refreshing experience, sure, but her ultimate takeaway?
"Those nuns work their butts off," Monserez said.
Monserez tentatively plans to major in marketing at Notre Dame. She's been working alongside Mooney's marketing manager, Melissa Tomasso, to learn about best practices and has helped the school start a TikTok account among other ventures.
One thing she will not be doing at Notre Dame, though, is playing sports. Once the track and field season ends next month, Monserez's competitive athletic career is over. She's concentrating on having a well-rounded collegiate experience, one she might not be able to have if the bulk of her time was spent playing a sport. It is something she has thought about a lot and has resulted in some positive changes, even while still in high school.
"This year, there has been a lot less pressure on me," Monserez said. "I know I don't have college coaches watching me. I'm just doing this for myself and my teammates. I'm truly having fun again. I think I'm in the best place I've ever been mentally."
That mental freedom has resulted in Monserez making some of her favorite memories this year, like when the Mooney girls soccer team beat Oxbridge Academy 1-0 in the Class 3A regional quarterfinals on Feb. 8. With a 10-7-1 record, the Cougars were not a powerhouse this year. Oxbridge was 11-4-1 and heavily favored to win. MaxPreps had them ranked 10th in the class while Mooney was 24th. That didn't matter much on the field. When the Cougars withstood the opening 10 minutes of the match, they realized they could hang.
"We played as an entire unit," Monserez, a defender and team captain, said. "We were at home. The crowd was into it. We could feel that we could do it."
Monserez said her renewed mental strength has her feeling confident as the track and field postseason meets approach. Who knows how those will go. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. As Lakewood Ranch's own Dick Vitale likes to say, Monserez is a winner in the game of life. Whatever she decides to do in the future, her track record says she's going to do it well — and with a unique curiosity.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.