Meet Riverhead’s High School Heisman Award finalist

12/16/2013 7:00 AM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead senior Carolyn Carrera inside the school's gymnasium.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead senior Carolyn Carrera inside the school’s gymnasium.

Riverhead High School athlete Carolyn Carrera understands her success on the field and in the classroom are the result of hard work and dedication. But the 17-year-old from Jamesport said there’s a force greater than herself that guides her to victory.

You won’t see her Tebowing after scoring a goal, but you might catch a glimpse of Carolyn saying a prayer before a game or an exam.

“I feel like it has been brushed under the rug, but I truly give the glory to God,” Carolyn said about talking to reporters about her Christian faith. “I’m so grateful and I feel so blessed to be who I am, to have the family I have and to be in this Riverhead community.”

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  Riverhead senior Carolyn Carrera was a goalkeeper on the soccer team this fall.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Carolyn Carrera was a goalkeeper on the soccer team this fall.

Carolyn is a three-sport athlete who plans to play lacrosse and soccer at Hofstra University. She was recently honored as the winner of New York’s female Wendy’s High School Heisman Award from a pool of 48,000 applicants.

She didn’t win the national competition last Friday, but described the experience of becoming her high school’s lone athlete to earn such a ranking as “a blessing.”

“For being national finalist, I got a gold medal,” Carolyn said shortly after the event. “It’s very exciting and I’m so happy to be here.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Carrera was a co-winner of the News-Review's Athlete of the Year Award last June.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Carrera was a co-winner of the News-Review’s Athlete of the Year Award last June.

Carrera, a News-Review Athlete of the Year last school year, plays goalkeeper on the Riverhead soccer team in the fall. She’s also the basketball team captain and is a midfielder on the lacrosse team. She has won several top awards and was an All-American in lacrosse last year. She is the class president, an honor roll student, member of the National Honor Society, the Latin Honor Society, and the Math Club, just to name a few.

Carolyn also volunteers for several charitable causes, including raising funds for Brendan House, a home for the disabled where her former classmate Michael Hubbard plans to move in.

Although she’s already accomplished a lot so far during the first four months of her senior year, Carolyn said she’s focused on getting her grades up. A lofty goal for a student with a weighted average of 105.507, who’s ranked third in her class.

She has signed a letter of intent to play lacrosse at Hofstra University next school year.

We sat down with Carolyn last Wednesday to discuss her recent achievements. The following was excerpted from our conversation:

Q: Why do you think you’re a high achiever?

A: The reason why I’m so motivated and driven to achieve more and go after everything possible that I can is truly to bring glory to God. Everything I do, I’m striving to do it in a way that shines brightly and really touches the lives of others, shows love and a great example.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Carolyn Carrera received a medal for being a High School Heisman finalist.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Carolyn Carrera received a medal for being a High School Heisman finalist.

Q: Who are your role models?

A: My number one role model is definitely Jesus. He set the ultimate example of love for the world. Next is my dad. He’s very brave and he’s always sharing his faith with others and I truly look up to him for that. Coach Jim Janecek, too. He was my coach when I played JV basketball and now he’s the assistant basketball coach. He’s also my boss at the Riverhead Rec Department. I think the connection we have is we’re always sharing our faith. He’s always pushing and helping me to see the positive side of things and how to look at them in a different light.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO  |  Carrera scored four goals with two assists in the Blue Waves lacrosse season-opener in March.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Carrera scored four goals with two assists in the Blue Waves lacrosse season-opener in March.

Q: Is it hard to talk about your faith?

A: I think it’s hard because there’s always opposing viewpoints or they don’t want to hear what you have to say about your faith. I feel like life is such an opportunity and it’s such a gift. If someone doesn’t like me because of my faith, it is what it is. I’m going to keep living life the way I am and I’m going to do it all for God.

Q: What is your advice for younger students who want to become high achievers?

A: One thing I’m always remembering is a very simple quote from my lacrosse coach Shannon Smith: “It’s OK to be different.” I feel like so many times I can just say that to myself when I can’t hangout with friends because I’m practicing or doing homework. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to want more than what other kids are wanting. It’s OK to follow your faith and proclaim it. It’s OK to want different things and not be like everyone else.

jennifer@timesreview.com