Bearden High School soccer player Brinley Murphy received a prestigious honor this month when she was named one of two Heisman High School Scholarship winners for the state of Tennessee.
The $1,000 scholarship is sponsored by the Heisman Trophy, which also recognizes the most outstanding college football player in the country. The high school award is given to the most remarkable student-athletes in the country who make a difference on and off the field.
Murphy was nominated by Bearden college counselor Susan Bolinger, who said, “she’s got some really great accolades, but more importantly, she’s just a great young woman.”
The list of her accolades is extensive, as she has been named the 2021-22 Tennessee Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year. In addition, she is three times All-State, All-Region, and All-District, a two-time Region MVP, a State MVP, MVP All-American, and she has led her team to two state championship wins.
“She always goes above and beyond,” Bolinger said. “She makes Bearden a better place to be.”
When Bolinger told the star athlete she had been nominated, Murphy said, “it’s just a huge honor.”
Her family has been an integral part of her success. Both of her parents were also successful student athletes.
“They’ve always instilled in me to work hard no matter what,” Murphy said.
She also receives a phone call from her grandfather before every game to wish her luck. Once she committed to the University of South Carolina, she started receiving an additional call to make sure she was watching the match.
This constant encouragement and support from family, friends, and coaches is the reason she stays motivated in academics and athletics, she said.
This drive also led her to South Carolina.
“They just won an SEC championship for soccer, and they have the number one honors college in the country,” Murphy said. “I see myself succeeding the most there.”
In addition to joining the soccer team, Murphy plans to take pre-med courses.
“I’ve always wanted to be some kind of doctor,” she said. “I’ve always liked helping people.”
For many high school students, spring is the season to make memories at prom, in a school musical or on the graduation stage. But for a sophomore at Bearden High School, her most memorable achievement came in the air.
On April 16, Sarah Stanley logged her first solo flight, taking off from Island Home Airport in a Cessna 172 and flying for about 15 minutes before returning to the same airport.
The short journey marked the culmination of a long process. Stanley, 16, got her start in a mechanics program for teenagers that was offered by the Skyranch Youth Aviation Program, in Alcoa. She met a flight instructor through Skyranch, and began taking lessons at the age of 13.
For her first solo flight, Stanley received a scholarship from the F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, which helped cover the $1,600 cost by matching the funds that Stanely raised by washing planes and babysitting.
Stanley said the most challenging part of flying is the landing, but that her favorite part is the feeling of freedom that comes from being in the air, because “when you’re flying, all that matters is that you’re flying.”
“You don’t have to think about anything else that’s stressing you out or aggravating you … In my mind, it’s just like ‘That’s on the ground.’”
Stanley’s next goal is to earn her pilot’s license, and while she’s leaving her career options open, she hopes to continue flying: “I definitely want to keep doing that for as long as I can.”
After earning a perfect composite score on the ACT exam, a Bearden High School student had an impressive encore — a perfect score on the SAT!
Lydia Pulsinelli is a senior at Bearden, and stellar academic performance is only a part of her resume. She has also participated in theater, played on the Ultimate Frisbee team for four years, and serves as president of the Latin Club.
But her performance on the two college entrance exams puts her in rare company among high school students.
Pulsinelli said she took several practice tests to prepare, adding that when she takes a high-stakes test, “I just sort of go into a different mental zone, just really focused for those few hours. And then I come out of it and can barely remember what just happened.”
In her spare time, the senior enjoys hiking and gardening and said she is aiming for a career in agricultural science or a similar field. In the meantime, she is applying to colleges including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Vermont, Cornell University and the University of Washington.
Pulsinelli cited the influence of her teachers at Bearden, including Sandy Hughes, for Latin and Medieval Studies; Tonya Henke, for Environmental Science; Chris Taylor, for AP U.S. History; and Tim Vacek, for AP Seminar.
She said she particularly likes classes that combine learning and fun, adding that “In general, I enjoy school.”
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