One was a state champion and the other was honored as the state’s best volleyball player.
On Tuesday night at State College’s annual sports awards banquet, Will Cather and Taylor Leath were named recipients of the James Snyder Award.
The award, sponsored by the Centre Daily Times, is given in memory of Snyder, a former CDT sports editor, who was killed in an automobile accident in December of 1957. The award is given to the male and female letterwinners who also demonstrated excellence in the classroom as well as being a good citizen in the school and community.
Cather capped his high school athletic career Memorial Day weekend by teaming up with Kyle Adams, Mason Post and Chris Golembeski to win the PIAA Class AAA title in the 3,200-meter relay, breaking a 45-year-old school record in the state finals.
“I would definitely say winning the state title in the 4x8 outdoors is definitely the highlight,” Cather said. “That was definitely the most difficult accomplishment we had all high school, probably. To actually be able to say we’re state champions is pretty surreal and amazing.”
That followed the team winning the state indoor title and running in the historic Millrose Games and Penn Relays. He also finished sixth in the 800-meter run at the PIAA meet, and was a part of a 1,600 relay team that captured sixth. As a team the Little Lions finished tied for fourth.
Cather was a four-year letterwinner in cross country, an all-state selection and a part of a fourth-place team finish, in addition to winning four letters in track. Cather also works as a lifeguard and volunteers as a swim coach and as a student tutor. He also is a member of the student senate, is a Faculty Scholar and holds a 4.4 GPA.
The son of Dave and Jen Cather, he will study accounting and finance at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State, as well as run with the Nittany Lion track and cross country teams.
“It’s an amazing team there — one of the best in the nation in the middle distance,” Cather said. “I’m probably going to get my butt kicked the first couple years, but I’m willing to work hard and move up the ranks there, hopefully, the next couple years.”
Cather also is the second member of the Little Lion 4x800 relay team to earn the CDT’s Snyder Award, following Sam Bollinger last year.
“I was pretty excited about it,” Cather said. “Last year my friend Sam Bollinger won it, and that was a big honor for him. It’s a big honor for me. It just shows all the hard works pays off both in the classroom and outside the classroom on the track. I’m really proud that I was able to do these accomplishments and it paid off.”
While Cather picked up his award at the banquet Tuesday — and made sure to show off a picture of his plaque on Twitter minutes later — Leath found out she won while riding in a car hundreds of miles away.
Leath was on her way home from freshman orientation at North Carolina as she prepares to join the Tar Heels’ volleyball team.
“It’s definitely different and exciting,” said Leath, who will study business management. “I’m kind of just getting a taste of it from what I’ve been around, the people I’ve been around, it’s something I’m going to really enjoy.”
Leath helped the Lady Little Lions to the District 6 Class AAA title last fall while on her way to a slew of individual awards, including being named a prepvolleyball.com Senior Ace and earning the honor as the Gatorade Player of the Year for Pennsylvania, the first-ever winner for any sport at any Centre County school.
The daughter of Randall and former CDT publisher Susan Leath, Taylor Leath is a Faculty Scholar with a 4.0 GPA who has volunteered as a State College volleyball camp coach and as an IPV league volunteer.
“The whole experience of having to balance being an athlete with being not just an average student but being a student who excels, I think State High worked wonders,” Leath said. “It helps you manage your time, work with your teachers and work with your teammates, and having an atmosphere where you let kids and students grow in whatever field that they choose to pursue.”
She is also recovering from a torn ACL in her knee, and will sit out the fall season with a medical redshirt year. She also moved with her family to Delaware in January, but has continued working on her high school degree through online courses. She will be back in State College for Saturday’s graduation ceremony at Pegula Ice Arena.
“I’ve been there for seven years and I think it was only right for me to graduate from that high school,” Leath said. “It wouldn’t make sense to go anywhere else. I’m definitely excited to go back and see all my friends and kind of say good-bye to them, because I really won’t return any other time besides (Saturday). I want to be able to wish them all the best and move on the the next stage.”