Leah Esposito, a two-sport All-American and the defending 1,000-meter Indoor Track and Field National Champion, can add one more honor to her already chock-full trophy case. On Tuesday, the NAIA announced Esposito as the 2015 winner of the prestigious A.O. Duer Scholarship Award.
Named in honor of the NAIA's former executive secretary for his 26 years of service, the award recognizes scholarship, character and citizenship by junior student-athletes. The A.O. Duer Scholarship Award has been presented since 1967 to one male and one female junior student-athlete.
It is the third Duer Award for Carroll and the second in as many years. Volleyball and track and field standout Kathleen Mulligan received the award in 2014, and former Carroll football quarterback Tyler Emmert was honored with the award in 2004.
As part of the application process, Esposito was required to submit letters of recommendation. One of those who submitted a letter was Carroll president Tom Evans. Evans' letter spoke to her all-around excellence.
"Leah is what I consider to be the 'full package' when it comes to student-athletes," Evans wrote. "Not only has she consistently exhibited outstanding academic excellence in the classroom, she has also demonstrated her athletic skill on every track she has competed on for the past two years. She had constantly exceeded everyone's expectations -- even her own."
Cross Country coach David Morris echoed the sentiments of President Evans.
"I am very proud of Leah; she is a tireless worker and she is a very deserving recipient of this award," he said. "She is a great person, great student and a great athlete. Leah is a joy to coach and a great representative of Carroll College."
"She has always led by example, but this year she has really stepped up. We have some talented underclassmen and Leah has become much more vocal to make sure the younger runners contribute to the overall team goals."
Along with Esposito's excellence in competition, the biology major has a 4.0 GPA. The Helena product attributes her success in both to her ability to focus on the task at hand.
"When I am running, I am 100 percent focused on getting better; when I am doing school work, I am 100 percent focused learning what I need to learn to succeed," she said. "I dedicate all my energy to what I am doing at the time and I think that really helps me manage a busy schedule.
"I grew up here and it is pretty exciting to bring recognition to this place. I love Carroll and I am excited to be a part of this great legacy."