HIGH SCHOOL HEISMAN

Bennion relishes Heisman adventure

It included whirlwind tour of attractions in New York City


Mail Tribune
December 11, 2011

The disappointment of not winning the Wendy's High School Heisman Award barely lingered with Sarah Bennion on Saturday.

That she was still in the midst of an action-packed, three-plus days in New York City — her first visit to the Big Apple — no doubt assuaged her feelings from the presentation ceremony the night before.

Bennion, a St. Mary's High senior, was one of six national finalists for the 18th annual girls award. However, it went to Selena Pasadyn of Brunswick, Ohio. The boy winner was Garrett Gosse of Las Vegas.

"After the ceremony, it was disappointing, but a lot of former Heisman winners were coming up to me and said it was a really hard choice," said Bennion, only the second Oregonian to become a finalist. "Some of them even said, 'I voted for you.' It was so cool to have their support. There were a lot of great candidates, and I felt really blessed to be here."

She spoke by phone early Saturday afternoon, taking break from lunch in Little Italy following a harbor boat tour around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

After lunch, they were off to Chinatown, then would make their way to Times Square again for the Heisman Trophy ceremony celebrating college football's best player.

Hours before the football award was announced, Bennion said her choice was Robert Griffin III of Baylor. He indeed took home the prize.

Both the prep and college shows were in the Best Buy Theatre.

Bennion and the other 11 prep finalists hobnobbed with four of the five college finalists at the high school celebration Friday. Stanford's Andrew Luck wasn't there as he was still traveling to New York, but Griffin, Alabama's Trent Richardson, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu were.

They had a private reception, at which the kids enjoyed photo opportunities with past Heisman winners and current candidates, got autographs and reveled in the atmosphere.

Bennion's parents, Ted and Kristi, were there as well.

"My dad was so excited," she said. "He was like a little boy at Christmas."

It was a big deal to pose with former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman winner, she said.

There was a dress rehearsal beforehand — "I practiced going up the stairs with my heels," she said. "They're pretty tall."

And during the ceremony, the finalists were shown on a giant screen.

A five-minute video of each was played, and it was touching to see the heartfelt testimonials of parents, family and friends, said Bennion.

The prep ceremony will be televised on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. on Dec. 18.

"It was so nice to meet such amazing people who have the same goals as I do," said Bennion, a soccer, cross country and track standout who will attend Brigham Young University. "There are not a lot of people who are so dedicated. When you're around them, you feel you can become better. They are such great examples to me."

After the Heisman extravaganza, they all went out for pizza.

"One of the girls said we're all the same people, just with different stories and we live in different towns," said Bennion.

She and Pasadyn formed a strong bond, she said. The national winner is only 16. A runner and swimmer, she skipped two grades, said Bennion, but got perfect math scores on her ACT and SAT tests and is headed to Yale.

Bennion joked that her chance of winning might have improved if Pasadyn had only skipped one grade.

"She worked so hard," said Bennion. "I can accept that she got the award because she's an amazing individual."

The Bennions arrived in New York Wednesday night.

On Thursday, they toured Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. That evening, they took in a Broadway musical, Mary Poppins.

"We've had Mary Poppins songs stuck in our head since," laughed Bennion.

"I didn't realize how many things there are to do in New York and how little time you have to do it," she said. "I wish we had a whole day for each one of these things. It was definitely fun."

The most meaningful tour was of the World Trade Center Memorial.

"You get so emotional seeing the names of all those people who died," she said.

The spirit of rebirth and revitalization was palpable, she said, and made her "proud to be an American."

The group also went to the observation deck atop the Rockefeller Center and took in the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

She discovered the subway system was the best way to travel. At one point, they were on a bus for what seemed like an hour to go two blocks, she said.

Bennion was to catch an early flight home today.

Ever cognizant of her studies — and perhaps influenced by Pasadyn — she said she has math homework to get to.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com