Rees earns ‘Compete with Class’ scholarship

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By Phil Scherer

Sometimes, nice guys really do finish first.

Los Alamos High School senior Ben Rees is among the New Mexico student-athletes who will be honored with merit-based scholarships next week at the state basketball tournament.

Rees, who served as a captain on both the boys’ soccer team and the hockey team this year, has been selected to receive the “Compete with Class” scholarship, presented by the New Mexico National Guard.

According to the New Mexico Activities Association, this scholarship is awarded to student-athletes who exemplify the ideals of sportsmanship and the Compete with Class initiative, which is the official motto of the NMAA.

The scholarship is for $1,500, and was also awarded to Danika Nelson of Texico, Jordin Molina of Carlsbad and Mikayla Garnard of Santa Rosa.

Rees, along with the other “Compete with Class” scholarship winners will be honored at halftime of the Class 2A boys’ basketball championship game at The Pit in Albuquerque. The game will begin at 6 p.m. on March 10.

Ron Blue, who has known Rees since he was 4 years old and was his high school soccer coach the past three years, said he isn’t surprised to learn of the honor.

“He is a great teammate and leader,” Blue said.

He added that Rees has put a lot of work in throughout his high school career, both academically and athletically, and is well-respected by everyone.

During soccer season, Blue outlined what makes Rees such a great captain, and why he was proud to have him on his team.

“We talk all the time about captains being inclusive, as opposed to exclusive with the other players, and Ben is as inclusive as a person as there is,” Blue said. “I would venture to guess that he is friends with just about everyone on campus. He is just a super likable guy.”

On top of his accomplishments off the field, Rees also enjoyed great success in his sports this year.

He anchored a strong LAHS defense on the soccer team, leading the Hilltoppers all the way to the state semifinals. He played many different roles all over the field throughout his soccer career.

“He stepped in wherever we needed him,” Blue said.

In hockey, Rees played an important role in the offense, and led the team with 24 points this season. He scored 13 goals and added 11 assists, and was often the spark to get the team going offensively.

Rees filled out the application for the scholarship in late January, and said he didn’t know what his chances were.

“I figured I might as well try,” Rees said.

He had to write an essay about what sportsmanship meant to him, and how he believes it is helpful in athletics, and in life.

He also had to detail his experiences in high school athletics and how he had acted as a leader and a good sport.

Though he won the scholarship, Rees believes the honor has more to do with the way he was taught to act on the field by his role models than it does himself.

“It’s really a testament to my mentors and leaders,” Rees said. “It’s not like I came up with these values all by myself.”

Though Rees does not yet know where he will be heading next year to begin work on his undergraduate degree, his more distant future is clearer.

He was recently accepted into the early acceptance program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham medical school, meaning that a spot has been reserved for him following the completion of his undergraduate degree.

His decision on a university for his undergraduate studies will come later this month.

In total, the NMAA handed out $23,000 in scholarships to 17 students across eight different categories.

More than 300 students applied to receive scholarships this year. The NMAA Foundation, which awards the scholarships, was set up in 2007 to support the many students that participate in high school athletic and activity programs across New Mexico.  The funds raised by the Foundation are used for student scholarships and school grants/support.

Rees is the fourth LAHS student to receive a scholarship from the foundation.

Isabelle Kirk earned the Swimming and Diving Scholarship in 2016, Erin Kirk earned the Sportsmanship Scholarship in 2013 and Jinhyun Park earned the Extraordinary Scholarship in 2012.