Kaitlyn Willette has a work ethic that helped her overcome injuries during cross country and track and field seasons at Dublin Jerome High School.

Kaitlyn Willette has a work ethic that helped her overcome injuries during cross country and track and field seasons at Dublin Jerome High School.

That drive also enabled her to excel in the classroom, graduating magna cum laude this year with a 3.8 GPA. The effort in both areas helped her earn a $1,000 scholarship from the OHSAA, which she will use toward her studies at Ohio State.

The OHSAA awarded $66,000 in college scholarships to 54 recent graduates. Recipients were selected by special committees within each of the six OHSAA athletic districts based on a point system that rewarded students for their grade-point averages, ACT or SAT scores, varsity letters earned and individual and team athletic honors.

"I think that it can be difficult to juggle and balance everything (between athletics and academics)," said Willette, who plans to major in communication and political science at Ohio State and also run for the women's cross country and track programs. "I know that if I have a big test coming up and I have a game or practice, I still have to study. (The busy schedule) helps with the structure. I think that they complement each other really well."

Willette holds several records with the Celtics girls cross country and track programs, including 11 minutes, 30.69 seconds in the 3,200 meters. She set the record as a junior, as injuries prevented her from running the event as a senior.

Instead, Willette ran relays and the 800 this past spring and finished fourth in the 800 in the Division I state meet (personal-record 2:12.64).

She also was part of two record-setting relays: the 1,600 relay (3:56.22) in 2011 with Rebecca Rings, Kelsey Cautela and Amy Erdelsky and the 3,200 relay (9:18.67) in 2011 with Brooke Boyle, Erdelsky and Rings.

Willette also set the 800 record for the OCC-Cardinal Division during the league meet held May 16 and 18 at Hilliard Bradley, winning in 2:14.27. Rings holds Jerome's 800 record of 2:11.

"Kaitlyn is such a hard-worker and she has faced a lot of adversity with injuries," Jerome girls track coach Randi Beatty said. "She proved her strength and how tough that she is by coming back from tough injuries.

"She always had a tough attitude and was an outstanding role model. She is someone the program will miss."

In cross country, Willette set the program 5K record of 18:37.3 last fall in the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival. She finished 20th (18:44.1) in the Division I state meet at National Trail Raceway as a junior, but did not compete at state as a senior after battling the flu during the postseason.

"It was definitely rough getting sick last fall," Willette said. "I was coming off of a stress fracture from track and wanted to be injury-free to see how well I could do.

"But even though that was tough, I think it made me a stronger person. I know that even if I'm sick or battling injuries, I know that I can push myself to the next level. I know I can keep fighting because I've done it before. It comforts me to know that I can do that if I need to."

Jerome girls cross country coach Kenny Schuster said Willette's determination and work ethic should equate to continued improvement at the college level.

"Kaitlyn not only tries to be the best, but she also works to get better in terms of the team," he said.

"A lot of people are one-sided and only worry about themselves, but that's not Kaitlyn. She would finish a race a minute or two in front of her teammates and wait for them to finish to cheer them on and see how they did. She was a fantastic teammate.

"She has had some injuries and bad luck, but she spent a lot of time in the (swimming) pool trying to strengthen herself and get ready to compete. Over the past three years, she grew a lot and (getting stress fractures) happens all of the time with young athletes because of their growth plates. Had she not had those injuries, I think she would have been one of the best (3,200 runners) in the state. And I think she still can be a good distance runner in college."

Willette is excited to begin her next chapter of running in college.

"I anticipate college to be really, really hard, but I love the athletic side of it as well," she said. "Even if it's tough (balancing running and schoolwork), I've got to get this done. I want to be able to excel in both academics and athletics."