Libertyville’s Newsom Awards go to Lee, Mathewson
Libertyville senior MK Lee, seen here on the tennis court, earned the female Newsom Award. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:59PM
Near the end of last month’s spring sports awards assembly at Libertyville High School, soon-to-be Class of 2012 graduate Mary Kate Lee was half paying attention, half chatting quietly with friends.
The annual Newsom Award recipients were about to be announced. One male senior and one female senior would be honored for outstanding career achievements in academics and athletics, as well as character and leadership.
Lee had been nominated.
“I threw out the possibility of getting the award well before that night,” recalled Lee, a tennis, lacrosse and basketball player.
And then Lee got … the Newsom.
“The first thing I said, when I heard my name, was, ‘What?’ ” she recalled. “I was shocked. Then I thought, ‘This has to be a mistake; somebody else’s name should have been announced.’ ”
Make no mistake, MK Lee deserved it. She qualified for the state tennis meet twice in doubles with partner Meg Ahlgrim; she played on the lacrosse team that placed fourth at the IHSWLA state tournament in 2011; she earned team MVP honors in lacrosse (2009, ’12) and tennis (’09); she received conference sportsmanship recognition in lacrosse and tennis; she hit the books hard (4.2 grade-point average) when she wasn’t hitting forehand winners; and she’s as humble as a first-year ball girl at Wimbledon.
“So many great athletes were nominated for this,” Lee said. “Blessed — I truly felt blessed to be honored. I’m still amazed.”
Lee’s primary goal as a senior had nothing to do with sports. She wanted to be accepted by the U.S. Naval Academy. When she wasn’t, Lee reacted as if she had simply lost the first set of a tennis match.
Lee remained positive — and looked ahead.
“I’m thinking seriously of applying again next year,” she said.
Lee, one of Robert and Nancy’s eight children, will study and play tennis at Ava Maria University (Fla.). Two of her brothers (Robert and Sean) graduated from AMU, and her sister, Eileen, is a rising junior at the school.
All six of her older siblings have caddied at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Caddying at Conway Farms will be one of MK’s two jobs this summer. Lee also will teach tennis alongside Wildcats tennis coach Dan Kiernan at a summer camp.
“She was always willing to lead and help others,” Kiernan said. “She also always wanted to practice longer. MK never complained — always hustled — and her attitude was contagious around her teammates and coaches.”
What drove Lee to succeed in sports at LHS had little to do with wins and trophies. Something else — something intangible — motivated her.
“Ever since I was young, I wanted to be the best,” she said. “Not for any kind of glory but for that feeling you get after working so hard for something. There’s nothing like that feeling.”
Lee played hard, studied hard and made others laugh hard. Months after playing doubles as a junior with Ahlgrim at the 2010 state tennis meet, Lee told Ahlgrim: “You abandoned me.”
Ahlgrim, though, had a pretty good excuse for deserting her partner. She was a freshman at Hope College in Michigan.
“MK’s passion extends far beyond the field and will carry her to achieve greatness in all of her endeavors,” said former Wildcats varsity lacrosse coach Dana Brady. “Her relentless determination to be the best athlete helped create the most positive and motivating atmosphere for the team.”
After Luke Mathewson was named the male recipient of the 2011-12 Newsom Award, one of the happiest seniors at the assembly was Lee.
“He definitely deserved it,” Lee said. “Luke is an amazing kid. I didn’t know him until this year. But I’m so glad I know him. He is athletic, incredibly nice and so respected. I was so happy for him when his named was called.”
Mathewson amassed three varsity letters in both football and basketball at Libertyville. Retired Wildcats football coach Randy Kuceyeski (the 2011 season was his 34th as a coach) noted that Mathewson was one of the best leaders he had ever coached.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Mathewson served football and basketball teams as a captain, and was an NSC Sportsmanship Award honoree in both sports. The defensive end/tight end earned all-state academic honors after his senior football season, as well as a scholarship to play football at the University of North Dakota.
“Luke Mathewson is the epitome of a person with high character and leadership, and he always represented Libertyville well,” said Libertyville basketball coach Scott Bogumil. “Luke demonstrated a passion for competing in a manner that all athletes should emulate.”