The versatility that helped Molly Dengler and Eric Erb excel in high school athletics provided each with new adventures the last few years.

The versatility that helped Molly Dengler and Eric Erb excel in high school athletics provided each with new adventures the last few years.

Dengler, a 2009 New Albany graduate, might be best known as a 16-time all-state swimmer who earned two state titles as a senior. She went on to swim for Columbia University for two years but elected to finish her collegiate career competing for the Lions' track and field and cross country programs.

Erb, a 2009 Thomas Worthington graduate who played baseball and boys soccer at the prep level, competed in a national intramural flag football tournament from Jan. 1-4 in Florida as a postgraduate student at Wright State.

Dengler and Erb also are among those who previously were honored as the top female or male award winner by The Columbus Dispatch scholar-athlete program presented by The Motorists Insurance Group.

"One thing I enjoyed about college athletics is that there was a lot of networking that took place," Dengler said. "Another thing that was good was that I learned a lot about time management, and it's just a great talking point."

The scholar-athlete awards, introduced in 1982, are announced each May. Last year, nomination forms were sent to 117 area high schools, asking each school's administrators to select one boy and one girl to vie for $84,000 in college scholarships.

A total of 217 scholar-athletes representing 111 schools were selected by a panel of judges, with each honoree receiving a plaque. The judges considered academic and athletic performance, school leadership, community service and other criteria.

In 2015, Bexley's Adam Hirsch received the top male scholar-athlete award and Ready's Courtney Bair was the recipient of the top female award. Both received a $7,500 scholarship from Motorists Insurance.

Hirsch competed in soccer for four years, basketball for three years and both football and track for two years. Bair competed in both cross country and track for four years and also participated in cheerleading for four years.

The other top male award winners since Erb won in 2009 were Westerville North's Matthew Schaublin (2010), Watkins Memorial's Joseph Rich (2011), Dublin Scioto's Benjamin Albert (2012), Dublin Jerome's Tanner Barton (2013) and Westerville South's William Gannon (2014).

The other top female award winners since Dengler in 2009 were Logan Elm's Alyvia Clark (2010), Heath's Kelly Roberts (2011), Upper Arlington's Kate Eastwood (2012), Olentangy Orange's Katelyn Daniels (2013) and Bexley's Meghan Hayden (2014).

Erb was a first-team all-OCC-Central Division and all-district selection in Division I as a senior in boys soccer for Thomas when he finished with 15 goals and 13 assists. He helped the Cardinals win league titles in 2006 and 2007 and finish as a district runner-up in 2007.

Erb also was a three-year starter in baseball for the Cardinals, making first-team all-league as a junior. He then went on to play for four years at Case Western Reserve, earning Capital One Academic All-America honors as a senior.

A double major in nutritional biochemistry and chemistry, Erb is now in medical school at Wright State. He had a 3.965 GPA in college and earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

"I certainly thought (earning the Dispatch scholar-athlete award) was really cool, more for the fact that I got to see my name in the paper," Erb said. "I got to meet Archie Griffin and got to do a commercial through Motorists Insurance.

"It was a lot of fun being at Case Western. It's a Division III school but they play in the (University Athletic Association), which has a bunch of good schools."

In the 2009 state swimming meet, Dengler captured the title in the 200-yard individual medley, placed second in the 500 freestyle and was a member of the winning 200 free relay.

As a junior, she was the New Albany girls cross country team's No. 2 runner, helping the Eagles finish 15th in the Division II state meet. She competed in cross country in each of her first three prep seasons before electing to focus on club swimming during the fall of her senior year.

Dengler competed in track for the Eagles as a senior.

Then at Columbia, she was a regular contributor in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons in swimming, scoring points in three events during the 2011 Ivy League championships.

"Getting the (scholar-athlete money) was extremely helpful and I was extremely thankful for the opportunity," Dengler said. "I'm in my first year (of law school) at Ohio State and so far, so good. It's definitely a lot of work. It's extremely challenging, but the professors are great here."