Wonder Kids 2012

Marlin Brutkiewicz, 17, Will Glass, 17 • Olympic Trials Competitors

How they spent their summer vacations

Following a rigorous training schedule, in late June, the Mobile duo shared a pool with legendary pacesetters like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. Will, right, competed in the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke as well as the 100-meter butterfly, while Marlin swam the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events.

Practice regimen

They both train daily at the Bishop State Community College pool and hit the weight room three times a week.

Will and Marlin swim year-round for the City of Mobile Swim Association under the direction of coach Greg Davis. During the school year, Will, who will be a senior this fall, also suits up for McGill-Toolen. Last December, he qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials at the Speedo Junior National Championships in Austin, Texas, swimming with the CMSA team in the 100-meter butterfly event. That same month, with the McGill team, he logged an AHSAA record in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 49:61 at the AHSAA Boys Swimming and Diving State Championship – leading McGill to its first ever team state title.

Marlin, a UMS-Wright senior, swims for his school team in addition to CMSA. At December’s Speedo Junior Nationals, he clinched two Southeastern records in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events. Then, in March, he qualified for the Olympic trials at the National Club Swimming Association’s Junior Nationals in Orlando, with a time of 2:18.65 in the 200-meter breaststroke, a Southeastern record. He also shattered a record in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:00.07.

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Morgan McGehee, 11 • Artistic Philanthropist

Her cause

Last year, Morgan learned about the poor living conditions in Zambia. “I knew that in these African villages, women had to walk a long way to get water – and then it was infected with parasites. People were getting sick and dying.” Morgan wondered how she could help children there. She found the answer at church: The Grove United Methodist Church, where her father, Todd, is pastor. “I feel God called me to use my artistic ability to help kids in Africa.” She started a foundation, The Hope Project, to fund the digging of wells in Zambia through sales of her colorful paintings.

How she spent her summer vacation

In June, Morgan hopped on a plane for a mission trip to Costa Rica. Back at home, she produced more artwork for The Hope Project and set up shop at the Westside Tailgate Farmers’ Market held every Thursday on Snow Road. In July, she was a winner in the Kid’s Inc. Facebook contest, sponsored by Bel Air Mall, earning her the opportunity to open her own gallery / store there for a day.

Since she began selling her paintings in September 2011, Morgan has raised more than $2, 000 for her foundation. The money will be combined with funds raised by The Grove Well Project. Working with the nonprofit Water282, the church has already collected enough for two wells.

By the time Morgan starts sixth grade at Phillips Preparatory School this fall, the African rainy season will be over and work will begin on the wells. Meanwhile, she’s painting and peddling her works online (etsy.com/shop/HopeProjectArt) and keeping her fans up to date on The Hope Project’s Facebook page.

Caroline Scott, 15 • Multi-instrumentalist

How she spent her summer vacation

This tenth grader collects instruments like most kids collect phone apps. The talented musician plays piano, violin, electric and acoustic guitars, and “a little bit of cello and drums” so it’s safe to say that a significant portion of her spare time, summer or not, is spent practicing.

Gig schedule

After Christmas, Caroline plans to go on a 10-day performance tour around Europe with the St. Paul’s Chamber Strings program. The group will be giving concerts, participating in workshops and visiting historical sites in cities including Prague, Salzburg and Vienna. Until then, she and the other members will play weddings and local events to raise money for travel expenses.

In addition to her strings classes, under the direction of Holly Compton at St. Paul’s, Caroline studies piano with Dr. Robert Holm, an associate professor of music at the University of South Alabama. As for guitar, she hasn’t had a lesson. She just picked it up in fourth grade when her father showed her some chords; then she got on the Internet and “figured it out myself.” Now she can jam with the best of them on her electric blue Fender Squier Strat.

Granted, her classical roots still show. Since she began taking piano in first grade, Caroline has played in numerous competitions. This year, she was selected as a finalist in the Alabama Music Teachers’ Association District Auditions and went to Montevallo for the State Auditions where she won an honorable mention. In the past few years, she has also participated in the violin All-State Auditions and been selected to appear in the state competitions.

Ankit Shah, 16 • Scientist / Politician

How he spent his summer vacation

For two months, Ankit interned in a Notre Dame molecular biology lab. Under the direction of Dr. Stuart Jones, he studied toxicity of ionic compounds, which are liquid at room temperature. Sounds complicated. And it is, but “once I was trained, I was able to actually conduct experiments. I’m really young right now, so it’s all about experience.” He’s also getting leadership experience, as he preps for a term as UMS-Wright’s  Student Government Association president.

Campaign tactics

Ankit’s foray into politics included appearing in a campaign video on YouTube, which he says, “turned out better than I thought it would.”

For Ankit, who will be a senior this fall, his concentration in molecular biology is a natural outgrowth of an ongoing interest in science. Last summer, when he attended a research seminar at the University of Chicago, his curiosity intensified. “I like stem cell work. That’s the big field right now, ” says the teenager, with the confidence of a graduate assistant. It’s no wonder. As a high school junior, he was already taking courses at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Ankit, who commutes to the Mobile prep school from Biloxi, also stays busy tutoring other students and volunteers feeding the homeless through the nonprofit organization, Feed My Sheep.

ALEX KETCHUM, 17, Hollis DeLaney, 17 • Cancer Researchers

How they spent their summer vacations

Two Alabama School of Mathematics and Science seniors, Alex Ketchum and Hollis DeLaney, assisted Steve McClellan of the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Cancer Institute in identifying new drug compounds that kill resistant cancer cells. In the lab, the duo used a new robotic system to test concentrations of different drugs. Essentially, their findings could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

Alex, right, a Fairhope native, says his interest in science dates back to when he first received a microscope as a kid. He explains that the biggest challenge about this project is “when you expect one thing to happen and then something else happens, you’ve got to figure out what went wrong.” Hollis, who initially became interested in science at Spanish Fort Elementary School, says that the best thing about their endeavor is “working with top-notch people in the field and getting to experience high-tech science at its best.”

Hollis and Alex have big plans for their project, which they will enter in the nationally renowned Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology this fall. They will first submit a scientific paper in hopes of being one of the 30 teams selected to enter the regional finals at Georgia Tech. Success there will lead to the national finals at George Washington University, and a shot at a $100, 000 scholarship. When they aren’t working in the lab, Hollis and Alex can be found pursuing another mutual interest – they’re both soccer players.

Steve Chen, 13 • Chess Phenom

How he spent his summer vacation

This month, Steve will represent Alabama in the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, the individual national chess competition in Vancouver, Wash. He will also be vying for the chance to qualify for the World Youth Championship in Maribor, Slovenia.

Practice regimen

The young player flexes his mental muscles online every day, playing through the Internet Chess Club, a commercial Web chess server. To prep for the Vancouver tournament, he has also been reading chess books, gleaning advice from Bayside Academy’s Coach Eric Nager and taking private lessons.

Mobile Bay boasts its own Bobby Fischer of sorts. Last spring, the rising eighth grader helped the Bayside team win the State Chess Championship, High School Section, in Bessemer – its fourth cup in 10 years. Steve also won first place in the middle school section of the Individual State Chess Championship, making him the first outright individual champion in Bayside’s history. Closer to home, he won the Murphy Top Player Award in the Mobile / Baldwin County Scholastic Chess League this spring.

Steve started playing in third grade after his parents found a Lego Chess computer simulation game at a garage sale. Soon after, he taught his father to play. Steve says, “He’s not too bad.” In his spare time he also enjoys tennis, basketball and playing piano.

Savannah Morgan, 10• Model Gymnast

How she spent her summer vacation

Savannah devoted most of her days to working out at Planet Gymnastics, where she practices 31 hours per week.

Her idol

Beijing Olympic all-around gold medalist, Nastia Liukin, who has also flip-flopped between the sport and modeling gigs for fashion designers like Max Azria.

Her favorite thing about gymnastics

“It’s competitive. You have to work really hard. And it’s fun to travel to meets.”

Savannah, who will be a sixth grader this fall at Spanish Fort Middle School, has been competing in gymnastics competitions since she was 6 years old. A member of the United States Gymnastics Association, she topped the podium in the balance beam competition at the Level 7 State Meet in Tuscaloosa this past March. In addition to the balance beam, she hones her technique on the uneven bars, vault and floor exercises in hopes of eventually making it to the elite level.

Savannah also travels for her other passion: modeling. Her career began at the age of 4 when her mother, Debbie, who had modeled, recognized her daughter’s potential. Savannah is represented by Barefoot Models and Talent and has booked regional jobs, as well as a national appearance in a Lands’ End summer catalog. She says that one of the best parts of that photo shoot, which was held in Panama City and Alys Beach, Fla., was getting to work with professional models from New York. Despite the hard work and busy schedule, she says, “I plan to keep doing them both.”

Carmen Carlos, 17 • National Titleholder Runner

How she spent her summer vacation

In May, Carmen ran a new season best time of 4:59.55 in the mile, finishing second at the Golden South Classic. In June, she vied in the national outdoor competition in Greensboro, N.C.

Practice regimen

An hour or 90 minutes of running nearly every day, up to 50 miles per week.

Favorite event

“I like the mile – it’s not too short, not too long.” In February, at Brooks Invitational in Seattle, Carmen ran it in her best time: 4:48.28.

In March, Carmen, who is coached by her mother, Cecilia,   was considered an underdog at the New Balance Indoor Championships in New York City. The then junior at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School won the national title in the 2-mile, clocking a personal best time of 10:25.30 and beating out an elite group of the country’s best high school runners. In February, she also ran the fastest indoor 3200-meter time in the nation at the 6A Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Indoor Track State Championship Meet. As a junior, she broke the existing record with a blazing 10:34.02.

These are just her latest accolades. Even as an eighth grader competing against seniors, she’d finished eighth at the 2008 state girls’ 6A cross-country competition. She won three state titles as a freshman. Over the last three years, she has won three individual state cross country titles, 10 individual state track titles and two more on track relays. In 2010 and 2011, she was named the Mobile Press-Register Girls Track Athlete of the Year. This year, she won the award for all sports.

Lacey DenT, 17 • State Champion Long Jumper/ Hurdler/ Heptathlete

How she spent her summer vacation

In June, Dent moved to Tuscaloosa to begin her collegiate athletic career at the University of Alabama. The scholar athlete is pursuing a career as a pediatrician. She boasts a 4.2 high school GPA.

Practice regimen

Up until she left for Tuscaloosa, Lacey trained at St. Paul’s Monday through Friday, but after practice she always found herself putting in extra time. “All my events are technical, and I still have to practice running.”

Worst experience at a meet

“Gail Devers was giving autographs at a meet, but I was competing so I didn’t even get one!”

A recent St. Paul’s Episcopal School grad, Lacey was named the Mobile Press-Register Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year for 2012. This spring, at the Class 5A State Track and Field Championships, she set a meet record in the triple jump with 39 feet, 11 3/4 inches and won state titles in the long jump, 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles, leading her team to its seventh straight 5A Girls Track and Field title. One week later, she won her third AHSAA heptathlon title. An all-round athlete, she says it’s hard for her to pick a favorite event. “I love my jumps and my hurdles.”

Lacey started running at age 7 for the Mobile Parks and Recreation Summer Track Team and began competing for St Paul’s in seventh grade. Her favorite thing about participating in athletics is “going to the bigger meets and getting exposure to different runners.” She credits her stepfather, Aaron Moore, and Jim Tate, head coach at St. Paul’s, for helping her achieve her success.

Text by Kathie Farnell, photos by Matthew Wood

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