Three local students have joined the elite. Each fall, the Wendy's High School Heisman program recognizes the nation's most esteemed high school seniors for excellence in academics, athletics and community/school leadership.
Aaron Washington and Sarah Kellogg of Thomson High School and Lizzie Keen of Briarwood Academy have earned the designation as School Winners. School winners who advance to the state and national levels are in the running for two national finalist awards.
"It means a lot to me because I'm representing my school, and it shows how dedicated I am to sports and academics," Aaron said. "It takes hard work and dedication to do both."
The award obviously shares the same name as college football's Heisman Trophy. The Heisman Memorial Trophy Committee helped create the high school award, according to the Heisman Web site.
To be eligible, students must have had at least a "B" grade average through all grades of high school and must have participated in at least one of the 27 sports officially sanctioned by the National Federation of State High Schools.
Students are judged based on their academic achievements, community service involvement and athletic accomplishments.
"They're just great kids," Thomson High guidance counselor Pat Farner said of Aaron and Sarah. "They are involved in activities, they do well in their classes, they're just always easy to work with. They're just true leaders and we're very proud to call them our seniors. ... They have a pattern of helping others."
Aaron said he has been on the THS golf team throughout high school, and he played baseball in ninth grade. The son of Stonewall and Tiffany Washington, Aaron plans to go to Augusta State University next year and later transfer to Vanderbilt University to major in medicine.
Sarah plays as the goalie on the THS Lady Bulldog soccer team. She is the daughter of Anne and George Kellogg, and plans to attend North Georgia College and State University, where she will major in secondary education and minor in history.
"Being named the Wendy's High School Heisman for Thomson is a huge honor, because I know the other girls who competed for it, and they are very capable," Sarah said.
Mrs. Farner said both Aaron and Sarah are senior adopters at the school. She said other THS students who were nominated for the Wendy's award are Cody Adkins, Kierra Brown, Denzel Burley, Heather Davis, Hannah Pereda and Jordan Ramos.
At Briarwood, Lizzie was the only applicant for the award, but she is still proud to receive it.
"I think it's a pretty good accomplishment," she said.
The daughter of John and Rhonda Keen, Lizzie recently was selected as Briarwood's homecoming queen. She also serves as president of the school's National Honor Society and belongs to Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Lizzie is a three-sport athlete -- she has been a majorette since K-5, a softball player since seventh grade and a basketball player since sixth grade.
Lizzie plans to attend the University of Georgia to become a pharmacist.
Two national winners, narrowed from the field of 54,000, will be honored this weekend on ESPN's telecast of the Heisman Memorial Trophy presentation. Each receives a trophy, a patch, a $500 Wendy's gift card and $10,000 for their high school. To read about the winners, go to www.wendysheisman.com.
Staff Writer Billy W. Hobbs contributed to this article.