By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
To label Hannah Cornelius simply as an athlete would be a terrible injustice.
Yes, the senior is Cullman High’s No. 1 tennis player and a three-time state champion, but she’s also an exceptional student, an active participant in too many extracirriculars to count, as well as at her church, and a selfless member of her community.
For all those reasons — and so many more — Cornelius was selected as a regional winner of the Bryant-Jordan Scholar-Athlete Award early last week. She’ll receive a $2,500 grant and has the opportunity to earn up to $6,000 more in Birmingham on April 8, when Cornelius and the state’s other regional honorees are recognized at The Bryant-Jordan Foundation’s 28th annual awards banquet.
“Her resume is unbelievable,” Bearcat tennis coach Nathan Bates said. “I know her and everything, but when I started looking at that, not only on the tennis court, but in the classroom, as a leader and in the community, it was just amazing how much stuff she had done.”
Name a club and Cornelius is probably involved in it. This year alone, the senior is a member of Key Club, the German National Honor Society, the German Club, the Diamond Dolls, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Southerner Yearbook Staff, the National Honor Society and the school’s Student Ambassador program.
In two of those endeavors, Cornelius is the one her classmates look to as a leader. Not only is she the staff editor of the yearbook, but she’s also the president of the FCA and Key Club’s acting treasurer.
Academically, it’s not easy to find a more polished and dedicated student than Cornelius, who plans to major in architecture, pursue her master’s degree in the field and eventually open her own firm.
The brainiac achieved a perfect score on the science portion of the ACT, was a school winner of the 2012-13 Wendy’s High School Heisman Award and has received academic gold letter honor certificates all four years in high school. Cornelius, who’s currently taking Dual Enrollment Calculus I and II in addition to AP Physics, has also been chosen as the varsity tennis team’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year following her past three seasons. That streak is likely to increase to four when the squad hold its annual banquet later this spring.
Cornelius isn’t exactly a slouch when it comes to the realm of community service, either. Over the years, she’s assisted mentally impaired adults at the Margaret-Jean Jones Center and volunteered with organizations like the Special Olympics, United Way Tornado Relief and Recovery, and Relay for Life. Additionally she’s helped teach local children at tennis clinics and has spent time reading to and assisting kindergarten and first-grade students.
Though the term “athlete” certainly doesn’t define her, no one can deny Cornelius’ excellence on the tennis court. Last year, she teamed up with Allison Howell for a state title in Class 5A No. 1 doubles and added a second championship by winning it all in No. 2 singles. Cornelius was the state’s best in No. 5 singles her freshman campaign and helped Cullman’s girls rope in a 5A team title with runner-up results in No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles.
“She’s done as much as anybody has ever accomplished individually as a tennis player at this school,” Bates said. “She’s in the finals every year at state, and her overall record at the highest level of competition we face is just crazy.”
Individual class winners will be selected out of the remaining 48 regional winners at the upcoming awards banquet. The event will conclude with the announcement of an overall Bryant-Jordan Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Bates doesn’t know any of the other contenders, but he knows Cornelius, and he firmly believes she has a shot to head back home with the top honor.
“I really do,” the coach said. “I can’t imagine anybody that’s more qualified. She’s the definition of that award. She’s a scholar-athlete. She’s exactly what they’re looking for to me.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.