Scholar Athlete Feature Hits 200

By John Lynch

ben-solleeThe first of 200 times that the parents of a Scholar Athlete opened their doors and welcomed me into their home to meet and interview their impressive child was 17 years ago – August 1997 – and the Scholar Athlete was worth remembering.

At the time, Ben Sollee was a 14-year-old baseball player who happened to play the cello. Look at him now. Ben is a singer-songwriter and composer known for his innovative playing style, memorable performances and political activism.

Ben often rides his bicycle to shows. In the summer of 2009, he traveled 330 miles to the Bonnaroo festival with his supplies and cello strapped to his bicycle.

Ben has been profiled on NPR, PBS, the Wall Street Journal and countless music magazines. He has recorded four albums, including his latest “Half-Made Man.”

Ben has little time for baseball now but like the dozens and dozens of other Scholar Athletes who followed him has made unique contributions in the world of athletics and scholarship.

With this issue of Lexington Family Magazine, we celebrate the 200th installment of the Scholar Athlete feature – which has been sponsored by Kentucky Utilities from the beginning.

“We came on board in the beginning not knowing how the partnership would go and it’s been an amazing journey for us to be associated with such a wonderful list of accomplished student athletes,” said Cliff Feltham, Statewide Media Relation manager for Kentucky Utilities.

“It’s encouraging to know we have such young people who are being and will be the leaders of the 21st century in their chosen fields.”

We sent out a call for updates. The results have taken us to two Olympic Games – Beijing  and London – to Harvard Law School, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Notre Dame, the fashion world of London, England and the financial industry in Chicago, and to the NFL and Paddle Boarding in Mexico and California.

Below is a sampling of those updates with the month and year they were Scholar Athletes, their school and grade, sport and parents.


Lee-KieferLee Kiefer (June 2009, Dunbar High, 9th, fencing, Teresa & Steven) is a sophomore at Notre Dame and fenced in the Summer Games in London in 2012 when she finished fifth in Women’s Foil.

In 2011 Lee won the bronze medal in the Senior World Championships, and in 2013 she was the NCAA champion in her weapon.

In March, she and sister Alex competed in the NCAA Fencing Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

(Note – Our other Olympian was Elaine Breeden –June 2004, Trinity Christina Academy, 9th, swimming, Lenore & Dan – who is a Stanford graduate and swam breaststroke for the U.S. team in 2008 in Beijing).


Jessie Birdwhistell (October 2000, Henry Clay, 9th, soccer, Janice & Terry).

Jessie is working on her doctorate in school psychology at UK and works for Fayette County Public Schools as a school psychologist.

She played soccer at Denison University and is the director LYSA’s TOPSoccer program, a six-year group that serves players with disabilities.


Corey Smith (July 1999, Dunbar High, 9th, soccer, Di & Greg) graduated from the University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar. This May, she will graduate from Harvard Law School, where she has served as Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Corey, 29, will then take a position as a clerk for a Federal Appeals Court Judge (This court is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.)


 Layla Marefat (October 2004, Lafayete, 12th, volleyball, Lavin & Kourosh) played four years at Centre College where she graduated summa cum laude in Spanish with a minor in chemistry. She earned her doctorate in pharmacy at UK and now is completing her pharmacy residency at Baptist Health Lexington.


shelby-taylorShelby Taylor (August 2007, Bryan Station High, 10th, soccer, Sarah & Mitch) attended Vermont on a full-academic scholarship, majoring in biology. Two years later, she spent a year in Mexico where she fell in love with paddle board racing. She finished 10th in the world in 2013 at the Battle of the Paddle in Dana Point, California (the world’s largest paddle board event). She is a professional paddle board racer, spends her spring and summer competing and training in Mexico and the off-season at UK working toward her degree.


Kristen Cattoi (March 2008, Sayre School, 12th, soccer, Robbie & Bob) was valedictorian at Sayre and graduated with a degree in cellular and molecular biology from Vanderbilt with minors in Medicine Health and Society, and Spanish. At Vanderbilt, she started a program for all staff and students to learn CPR and received the school’s Ripple in the Pond Award for her service.

Because her own life was saved as a 5-year-old by CPR, she is deeply committed to increasing the number of CPR-trained individuals. Currently, she is in her second year of dental school at the UK College of Dentistry.


Lauren Davis (December 2006, Dunbar High, 10th, equestrian, Patti & Chris) graduated near the top of her class in 2009 and then rode on the equestrian team at Boston University where she graduated in 2013. At BU, Lauren received the President’s scholarship and the Toyota Associate scholarship. Lauren is working in social media and marketing for an online fashion company in London, England.


chris-minnifieldChase Minnifield (June 2003, The Lexington School, 8th, football, Diane &Frank) is the son of All-Pro NFL cornerback Frank Minnifield, Chase starred at Henry Clay High and Virginia where he earned his sociology degree. He now is in his third year with the Washington Redskins. In the off-season he is working on his master’s degree at Louisville and is hosting a youth football camp this summer at Henry Clay.


Other Scholar Athletes include: Rob Wahl (Dec. 2009, Dunbar, 12th, cross-country, track, Marylee & Dave) will graduate in May from Notre Dame and will work as an investment banking analyst in Chicago…  Kate Stromberg (Aug. 2011, Henry Clay, 12th, volleyball, Gretchen & Arny) is finishing her junior year at Florida Southern College where she is math major and starter on the volleyball team… Andrew Herring (June 2011, Henry Clay, 12th, tennis, Christy & John) is a junior at Kenyon College where he plays tennis and is majoring in Russian and American studies. He spent last semester in St. Petersburg, Russia…


Rebecca Hamperian (Aug. 2010, Lafayette, 11th, diving, Kathy & Roger) is a redshirt sophomore diver at UK where she made the All-SEC Freshman team and All-SEC Academic teams last year… Ebony Rowe (January 2003, Rosa Parks Elementary, 5th, basketball, Tyra & Nick) is the star of the Middle Tennessee basketball team and the Sun Belt Conference MVP…Ryan Fucci (Feb. 2010, Tates Creek, 11th, baseball, basketball, Kim & Dom) plays baseball at Northwest Florida State JC after he transferred from Western Kentucky following shoulder surgery… Samantha Maddox (June 2008, Lexington Catholic, 10th, Lynn & John) completed her high school career as the two-time state champion. She is a junior at College of Charleston on full scholarship with a 3.5 GPA as an accounting major with a minor in Spanish (She is bilingual). Samantha was an all-conference tennis player as a freshman and has helped the team to two NCAA tournament appearances.

Catherine Roach (March 2012, Lex. Christian Academy, 12th, cheerleading, Maria & John) graduated from LCA second in her class and is a sophomore at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She has a 3.95 GPA and is founder and publisher of the Spectator Magazine… Shelby Anderson (Feb. 2013, Trinity, 12th, volleyball, Sandy & Ron) is a freshman volleyball player at Asbury University. She has taken mission trips to Puerto Rico and plans to go Mexico this summer… Kaitlind Hydorn (May 2013, Henry Clay, 12th, archery, Kathy & Dennis) is a freshman at EKU majoring in chemistry and competing on the track team…

Jamie Smith (Aug. 2011, Henry Clay High, 9th, swimming, Di & Greg) is a sophomore at Henry Clay qualified who qualified for the State swim meet third consecutive years. She is a founding member of Student Voices, an organization devoted to involving students in the academic decision-making process that works with the Pritchard Committee… Patrick Keller (June 2012, Lexington Catholic, 12th, baseball, basketball, Lissa & Clarke) is majoring in biochemistry and will be honored at the Top 50 Scholar-Athlete Banquet at Denison University. He also led the basketball team in blocks this season…. Katie Workman (Feb. 2012, Tates Creek, 10th, soccer, Margaret & Scott) will graduate ranked fifth in her class and has earned a full scholarship to play soccer at Western Kentucky. She also was named a Governors Scholar, which includes a full scholarship to a Kentucky public university. Because she already had a scholarship, she allowed another student to receive the Governors Scholar award. Katie has applied to honors program at WKU… Maddox Patterson (Oct. 2011, Sayre, 9th, cross-country & track, Jane & “B) has battled injury and illness during her high school career but is preparing for her senior year as a runner. She hopes to run in college, where she plans to major in health science or media arts.


Lexington Family Magazine will continue to post Scholar Athlete updates online ( as they are received. To submit updated information, contact John Lynch at