Balancing multiple sports with the books was a challenge, but Fairview High’s Josh Walker and Katie Henning found a way to shine both in the classroom and on the field. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 5:44 PMBalancing multiple sports with the books was a challenge, but Fairview High’s Josh Walker and Barbe's Katie Henning found a way to shine both in the classroom and on the field.
Walker and Henning are the winners of the American Press Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.
Walker starred in basketball and baseball, leading the Panthers to semifinal appearances and earning all-state honors in both sports during his career. He maintained a 3.89 grade-point average, made a 27 on the ACT and will attend LSU-Shreveport on academic and athletic scholarships.
Henning was the leading scorer on Barbe’s soccer team, twice qualified for the state tournament in golf and cross country and reached the regionals in track. She led her class with a 4.28 GPA, scored a 34 on the ACT and will attend the University of North Carolina.
Good genes helped Walker stand out as an athlete.
“My dad (Alvin) played football in college (at Texas A&M) and professionally (in the CFL) and I was always around it,” Walker said. “I started playing baseball when I was five, and started playing organized basketball a few years later.”
Walker quickly worked his way into the baseball lineup, making the varsity as a seventh-grader, but had to wait to make his mark in basketball.
“My freshman year, I didn’t play at all,” he said. “We had a bunch of really good players like Cody Neal, one of the best players to come through Fairview. We played against him every day in practice and he killed us. That motivated me to get better. I stayed in the gym all the time. I had to. (Neal) was smart on the court, always hustled and was the best scorer I ever played with or against. I grew a little bit before my sophomore year.
“I always thought I could do it, I just had to wait on my chance. The quarterfinals of my sophomore year, I scored 36 points, so I was thinking I should be one of the better players the following year. That motivated me. It wasn’t any pressure the next two years. But there was that quarterfinal game. I had never scored more than 23 before that. The 23 came in my very first game of my sophomore year. I was not expecting to do that well because I had not played at all the year before. I really just wanted to not mess up too much.”
Walker never messed up in the classroom.
“Both of my parents are smart. I have been a pretty good student my whole life,” he said. “You always have to put education first. If I was not going to be playing basketball, I still needed to get scholarships to get to college and get a degree. Whatever math class I was taking was usually my favorite, and I enjoyed biology and world history.”
Walker will join a Pilots team that reached the NAIA Final Four last season.
“I am excited to see what it’s like playing against better people all the time,” he said. “My dad always talked to me about (playing in college), so I always thought it would be fun.”
He has not yet decided on a career path.
“I was thinking about being a coach because I always want to be around the game,” he said. “I was also thinking about majoring in psychology, because that is what my sister (Haley) majors in (at Louisiana College).”
Henning starred in soccer, track, cross country and golf for three years before concentrating on soccer her senior season. She scored 54 goals during her four seasons as a forward.
“I liked soccer because it was a team sport. It gave something different than the individual sports,” she said. “I had played since I was five and always loved it. I liked having the competition, seeing how well I played. I liked competing in everything, whether it was school or sports.”
Henning said her senior season was the best at Barbe, with a strong senior class leading the Bucs to the playoffs.
“McNeese player Megan Snelling came in and made a running program for us to help us be in shape for games and I think that really helped us,” Henning said.
“My freshman year we won four games. (Bucs head coach Todd Hoffpauir) gave us different drills to work on and learn the offense — he was more strategic. We had one of the biggest soccer classes the team has ever had this year; we were all close, too. Everyone was wanting to do their best and worked hard at practice, that made it more fun.”
Henning said a highlight came last year.
“We won a tournament at St. Louis and that was the best experience of my athletic career,” she said. “In the final game, we were in sudden death and I got fouled in the penalty box and I made the penalty kick for the win. It was awesome.”
Even though Barbe doesn’t have a valedictorian address at graduation, Henning made sure she finished with the top GPA.
“I always wanted to be first in my class, even though Barbe doesn’t really honor that,” she said. “Everyone asked why I wanted to go through all of that trouble when it didn’t really matter, but I wanted to feel like I accomplished something for myself.”
Henning said the sacrifices made to reach that goal were worthwhile.
“It was hard during the week because we had practice after school and I didn’t have much free time during the week. It all worked out eventually. I had always been a good student since I was little. I have always wanted to strive to do my best in everything.
“I loved math. I would always ask my calculus teacher to go in competition. I won first in state this year at the state rally. I went in geometry, algebra II and chemistry my first three years. I like math because there is always a right answer. If I am doing something and get stuck, I know there is a way around it. I can end up solving a problem a different way. In English, there isn’t always a right answer and that bothers me.”
At UNC, Henning is going to major in biochemestry and said she plans on attending medical school.
“(UNC) is one of the ‘public Ivys’ and I will have a good chance of getting into a better medical school from there,” she said. “They also have great sports. It’s the best of everything. I will tryout for club soccer there. I love it and it is a great way to meet more people.”
2012 — Christian McIver, Lacassine and Tori Knollmeyer, St. Louis
2011 — Cameron Meyer, Hamilton Christian and Ashley Pfantz, DeRidder.
2010 — Cody Neal, Fairview and Kathryn Leonards, Bell City.
2009 — Joseph Caraway, Lacassine and Lauren Pickle, Welsh.
2008 — Lee Jones, Sam Houston and Laura Carleton, St. Louis.
2007 — Brady Glaser, East Beauregard and Tiffany Gill, East Beauregard.
2006 — Andrew Moss, Sam Houston and Kate Yoder, St. Louis.
2005 — Jamie Sitz, DeRidder and Brittni Granger, Sam Houston.
2004 — Dane Clayton, Lacassine and Maegan Loupe, DeRidder.
2003 — Adam LaCock, St. Louis and Jennifer Kramer, Iowa.
2002 — Kenneth Habbitz, South Beauregard and Ashley Fontenot, Oberlin.
2001 — Brandon Thomas, Rosepine and Laura Rush, Oakdale.
2000 — Kaleb Marcantel, Kinder and Katie Depuy, Hamilton Christian.
1999 — Brent Newsom, DeRidder and Tiffany Brown, Sam Houston.
1998 — Phillip Watson, St. Louis and Lisa Guidry, South Beauregard.
1997 — Darwin Pinder, DeQuincy and Jessica Trahan, Lake Arthur.
1996 — Jeff Chaumont, Sam Houston and Kelly Walker, Barbe.
1995 — Scott Betz, St. Louis and Robin Rodrigue, Westlake.
Posted By: Skip Walker On: 6/20/2013
Title: Josh Walker
His dad is Alvin "Skip" Walker, played football with the Ottawa Rough Riders with McNeese basketball coach Joe Dumars. Great article, congratulation son.