FORT WALTON BEACH – A tie? Really?
That was the All Sports Association’s reaction when, twice, 80-plus members failed to come to a consensus on the Female Scholastic Award voting.
With no quantifiable formula to decide the split between athletics and academics – leadership, a strong GPA and athletic success serving as the only prerequisites – one half sided with Choctaw’s Nadia Fingall, a 6-foot-4 forward on the Indians basketball team. The other half went with Fort Walton Beach’s Emma Rudman, a four-year star in both cross country and track.
After the second tie, the solution seemed obvious: Just give the award to both.
On Monday, Fort Walton Beach’s drum line, family and a cafeteria full of first-period lunch-goers broke the news to Rudman.
“It was a little bit of a surprise because I knew I had competition – there are great students and athletes in this county,” Rudman said. “But I was definitely shocked. I was preparing for a test when Mr. (John) Spolski got me.”
For Fingall, there was no drum line. Just beakers and lab equipment, her IB Biology III class serving as the perfect backdrop as her sister, basketball team, school administration and the All Sports Association surprised her with the honor.
“It was fitting that I found out in the classroom,” Fingall said. “I didn’t know anything about it. But when my team walked in and I saw everyone, I was like, ‘Oh, OK. I get it now.’ It was a complete surprise.”
The tie is not unprecedented. Fort Walton Beach’s E.G. Green, Niceville’s Julian Pittman and Pace’s Thad Busby split the award in 1993, while Choctaw’s Larry Keefe and Fort Walton Beach’s Bob Kurzu each accepted the honor in 1979.
Just don’t call Rudman and Fingall, who are set to accept the award at the 47th annual banquet on Feb. 12 in Fort Walton Beach, co-champions.
“Both ladies are outstanding,” ASA President Bill Kuhn said. “We don’t like the word ‘co-’ or ‘dual.’ They’re winners, plain and simple.”
Stacked next to each other, the seniors’ résumé’s are tantamount.
Rudman’s GPA hovers around 4.5, good for sixth in her class.
Fingall has a 4.5 GPA, easily top 10 in her class.
“I feel like this award is more holistic,” Rudman said. “There’s more to me than just running. It’s good to know that when running’s not going my way, I still have other things going for me.”
“Academics have always been first,” added Fingall. “When I was little, that’s what I was always good at. Academics were my first passion, and athletics followed.”
Rudman has won Runner of the Year twice in her respective sports, leading to the coveted Female Athlete of the Year the summer before her junior year.
Fingall is the two-time reigning Female Basketball Player of the Year, her 20-point, 15-rebound double-doubles becoming routine.
Rudman has nine state medals, none bigger than the 3,200-meter gold she won as a sophomore.
Fingall has helped led the Indians to back-to-back Elite Eights, a Final Four in 2014 and a 37-3 record since transferring in her junior year.
Rudman, who was just selected as one of the two state finalists for the Wendy’s High School Heisman, is still mulling over myriad college options.
Meanwhile Fingall is bound for Stanford University on a full basketball scholarship.
Of course both still have time to add to their decorated résumés.
“State’s always been the goal,” Fingall has said on numerous occasions, the Indians’ 11-1 record this season portending postseason suc-cess.
Added Rudman, “I’m excited for our girls’ 4×800-meter relay because Maddie (Fulmer) joined and she’s a great 800 runner. So I think we’ll have a good chance to win state.
“Individually, I’ll focus more on the mile because I’ve already won state in the two-mile and I think I’m a bit of a miler now, just the way I’m built. So I’m excited for that.”