Pair of Hampton standouts win WPIAL scholar-athlete awards

Saturday, April 23, 2022 | 9:01 AM

A banner year for Hampton athletics just got even more special.

Hampton volleyball standout Kai Herchenroether and state champion swimmer Will Retsch were among 20 WPIAL student-athletes to be named James Collins Scholar-Athlete award winners April 13.

The seniors were selected from a pool of 142 nominees from 80 schools, the most nominations for the program since 2017. They will each receive WPIAL gold medals and $1,000 in scholarship money.

“I was just really excited because I looked at the athletes in the past who have won it, and they all seemed super accomplished and really good students,” Herchenroether said. “I was really excited to be nominated at first and then when I heard I 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 sports and off-the-field 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 ‘19).

“It felt great,” said Retsch, who has committed to Gannon. “I knew there was a lot of tough competition for it, so I was very surprised when I found out.”

Herchenroether this past fall led the girls volleyball team to the most successful season in program history, with trips to the WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A championship games. The 6-foot middle hitter was named all-state, while carrying a 4.61 GPA and participating in a dizzying amount of other activities. She will play volleyball at Carnegie Mellon and major in biomedical engineering.

“Honestly, I’m not really sure how I pulled it off, especially this year,” she said. “It’s been the busiest year of my life so far. I’m not sure how I did it, but I did it.”

Only five other Hampton students won the WPIAL scholar-athlete award since 2006. Among them is Joe Cangilla, who was selected in ‘07. 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 kind of unreal. … It speaks to the quality of the Hampton student-athlete.”

Retsch won WPIAL Class 2A gold medals in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly while leading the Talbots to their second consecutive team championship. He capped his season with the PIAA 200 IM title — the school’s first state gold in 15 years — and set three school records. All the while, he posted a 4.78 GPA and took part 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 tough. It’s a lot of stress, a lot of late nights. But it works out in the end. It’s all worth it.”

Herchenroether also sacrificed a lot for her off-the-court activities. While many of her friends and classmates were at a Hampton football game on a Friday night this past fall, she went food 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 scholar-athlete award was a rewarding honor for all of her hard work.

“In the fall, I was just extremely busy with volleyball and school, and sometimes it felt like a bit much,” she said. “But I was able to get everything done and now, looking back, I am so proud of myself and everything I was able to accomplish.”

Cream of the crop

Here are Hampton 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


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