DUBLIN — Lucas McNeill has been faced with numerous challenges during his high-school career, primarily dealing with the usual academic obstacles but also an athletic career filled with injuries.
But the West Bladen High senior has met every one of those challenges the same way — with hard work and persistence.
That has garnered the attention of the Mountaire Farms Scholar-Athlete Award committee, which chose McNeill as the January winner from among student-athletes in Bladen, Robeson and Scotland counties. The award comes with a $1,000 scholarship and puts McNeill in the running for the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, which comes with an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
“Lucas is a really good kid, very light-hearted and good to be around,” said head basketball coach Travis Pait. “He has a real understanding that sports is a place to learn lessons. He wants to wins, don’t get me wrong, but he keeps it all in perspective.”
McNeill is currently carrying a 3.7865 weighted GPA and is ranked 37th among the 167 seniors in the Class of 2013.
His class schedule is filled with AP and honors classes, and he is now enrolled at Bladen Community College taking biology and psychology classes. He is planning to major in criminal justice when he attends college in the fall, and has his sights set on East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
He is a member of the schools BETA Club, Spanish Club, Varsity Club, FCA and Dream Team.
“High school has allowed me to grow up a lot,” McNeill said. “And I think it’s helped prepare me for what I want to do in life.”
McNeill, who was the 2012 West Bladen Homecoming King, was recently named a Wendy’s Heisman Scholar-Athlete winner.
This past summer, McNeill was able to be involved with an air emissions research study through N.C. State University at his family’s farm, then traveled to the University of Delaware to gather information for a study on solar panels in poultry houses. In addition, McNeill worked as a lifeguard at the Woodman of the World pool in Robeson County.
McNeill’s athletic career for the Knights has been filled with football, basketball, soccer and baseball — but he’s been faced with injuries at nearly every turn.
He was an MVP safety and wide receiver on the football team as a sophomore, but sustained a broken wrist that could have sidelined him for six weeks. Instead, he was fitted with a cast and continued to play.
He has played baseball for the Knights since starting high school and was voted Most Improved as a sophomore. He also attended baseball camps at ECU and a summer showcase in Florida.
McNeill has also played basketball all four years at West Bladen, and is used primarily as the Knights’ sixth man this season. But he’s also had two injuries — a broken toe and a sprained ankle — that have limited his time on the floor. He has also attended two basketball camps at Campbell University.
On the soccer pitch, McNeill played his first-ever season as a senior and was voted co-captain for the Knights. He was a striker and goalie, and scored three goals.
“Lucas is a real hard worker,” Pait said. “Really the kind of kid you’d like to have a team full of. He’s very involved with his church and school community.”
According to Pait, while playing soccer McNeill was also in a Bladen County fall baseball league that played in Pembroke.
“He would practice with the soccer team, leave this practice to do conditioning for basketball, leave this practice and go to fall baseball practice,” Pait said. “And when he had out of town games for soccer, he would go into school at 6:45 to practice his basketball shots.”
McNeill is a member of New Marsh Baptist Church, where is a member of the choir. He spent his 16th birthday in El Salvadore helping to build a new church. Prior to that, he helped with a youth sports camp in Canada and, last summer, he went to Fort Caswell to help pack food to send to Haiti.