The State Farm Holiday Classic has selected four winners as recipients of the 2023 Holiday Classic Scholarship award. The Classic Tournament, Inc., which organizes one of the largest, coed high school holiday basketball tournaments in the nation, will award each winner a $1,500 scholarship to go directly to their college of choice for tuition costs.
Established to recognize and award scholarships to eligible high school seniors who participated in the previous year’s (2022) tournament, a selection committee of current and former educators chose the winners based on leadership skills and academic performance. Applicants were also asked to demonstrate their experiences in student activities and community service, and required to submit an essay titled “How my high school sports experience helped prepare me for success in higher education.”
The 2023 Holiday Classic Scholarship awards go to (in alphabetical order by last name):
- Sophia Feeney, Normal Community High School – Sophia has been a two-sport varsity standout for the Iron all-four years, playing both basketball and volleyball and named MVP three different times. She is on the National Honor Society and was a member of the I-Club leadership group at NCHS. Sophia has volunteered at a local nursing home and Alzheimer’s Walk, at the Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament, and has babysat for three different families. Ranked in the top 25 at Normal Community with a 4.021 GPA, she plans to play both sports at Illinois Wesleyan University.
- Chase Fisher, Bloomington Central Catholic High School – Chase was a three-sport student athlete for the Saints, playing baseball, basketball and golf. He was named the basketball team’s Most Improved Player his junior year, and then team captain his senior season. Chase has been on the high honor roll all four years, on the National Honor Society his junior and senior years, and selected Homecoming King. Chase volunteers for several local initiatives, currently carries a 4.042 GPA, and plans to major in Business at an undecided four-year university.
- Brooke Howard, Rock Falls High School – Brooke was a four-sport student-athlete for the Rockets, competing in basketball, cross-country, softball and volleyball. She was named both team captain and all-conference in three of those four sports. Brooke has been a member of the Junior Optimist Club, Spanish Club and Student Council for fours, and works for Sauk Valley Detasseling during the summer. Brooke finished first in her graduating class with a 4.0 GPA and plans to major in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
- Max Niesman, Oswego High School – Max played basketball all four years for the Panthers, being named first team all-conference for three of those seasons. He has volunteered with a variety of organizations around the Oswego area, including a youth basketball camp, the Fraidy Cat 5K and other runs, as well as being a teacher aide for one year. Since the 7th grade, Max has been self-employed during the summer months, currently mowing and doing landscaping for over 30 clients. The Summa Cum Laude achiever currently carries a 4.2 GPA and plans to major in Architectural Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
“For nearly twenty years we have looked for ways to go beyond just hosting a basketball tournament and recognize those who participate in our event,” said Holiday Classic Scholarship committee coordinator Mike Sondgeroth. “And we very pleased to honor these four student-athletes who stood above a group of 40 applicants based on their involvement in academics, athletics and their communities.”
The Holiday Classic Scholarship fund is administered through the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation in Bloomington, and scholarship payments are made directly to the attending college/university of the winning student-athletes.
This is the 18th consecutive year the tournament has offered this scholarship program, which has now awarded a grand total of $85,000 in scholarships.
The 2023 State Farm Holiday Classic is scheduled for Dec. 27, 28, 29 and 30. This year the committee will organize their 44th boys tournament (started in 1975) and their 26th girls’ tournament (started in 1997).