State High’s Kyla Irwin and Ben Alexander, of Penns Valley, were the top winners announced Sunday as part of the CDT’s Inspiring Athletes Awards.
The CDT launched the awards in 2015 to recognize the best scholastic student-athletes in Centre County.
Irwin and Alexander, both seniors, were selected from a field of 40 semifinalists and 20 finalists. The 40 athletes were honored in a ceremony Sunday afternoon at Mount Nittany Medical Center.
Irwin lettered all four years in both volleyball and basketball at State College Area High School. She plans to attend UConn, where she will play basketball for the perennial NCAA champion Huskies and is contemplating a major in occupational therapy.
In her senior season, Irwin became State High’s all-time leading scorer in basketball (best for the boys and girls programs) with 2,032 points. She is just the second high school athlete, boy or girl, to record 2,000 points in Centre County history. In her career, she recorded double-doubles in 79 of 96 games played.
Irwin, the Inspiring Athletes Awards female winner for the second year in a row, was a three-time all-state basketball player and was all-state in volleyball her junior year.
Alexander, a football and basketball standout, had 955 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns last season in football and averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds a game in basketball.
He was an all-Mountain League selection in both sports. During his junior season, he ran for a record 384 yards and scored six touchdowns and four two-point conversions — in one game.
Alexander was on the distinguished honor roll and student council. He said he plans to pursue a degree in business management at Liberty University, where he will play football.
Inspiring Athletes Awards nominees were collected from the CDT’s Athlete of the Week feature, as well as nominations from athletes, coaches, administrators, friends and family.
From those nominations, the CDT's sports staff selected the 40 semifinalists, from which it chose 20 finalists and ultimately the two winners.
In addition to being top athletes, honorees also were evaluated based on academics, extracurricular activities and character.
The CDT will feature all 40 semifinalists on May 29 in a special section.