What’s Right with Schools: ‘Spirit of Sport’ recognizes student athletes who overcome hardship

Whats Right With Schools

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Every year, Connecticut selects a ‘Spirit of Sport’ student athlete. The award recognizes someone who has overcome a hardship in life and is successful in the classroom and on their athletic teams. 

This year’s winner is a junior from Maloney High School in Meriden, Haley Lespier, 16.

Lespier is a three-season athlete; she plays soccer, basketball, and tennis. She was nominated by her tennis coach, Tim Sweigard, who told News 8 he first learned about Lespier’s hardship when he was reading through her freshman medical form.

“As I was going through the forms, normally you see this kid has asthma, this kid wears glasses, whatever. And I saw she had a history of brain cancer.”

– Maloney High School tennis coach, Tim Sweigard

Lespier was diagnosed with stage one brain cancer when she was seven-years-old. Her tumor was removed, she completed treatments, and was officially cleared at the age of 14.

Sweigard says he nominated Lespier because of her continued perseverance

Nearly ten years after the procedure, Lespier is a successful three-season athlete. The surgery was in an area of her brain that controls motor function coordination and balance, most the things an athlete relies on.  

“If you saw her play you would never know she had this kind of procedure done on an area that controls all the things you need as an athlete.” 

– Maloney High School tennis coach, Tim Sweigard

The 16-year-old continues to overcome the odds against her.

“It blows my mind when I watch her play,” Sweigard says. 

From here, Lespier will compete against other winners of the ‘Spirit of Sport’ award around the region. After that, she will compete against student athletes around the country.

Sweigard is hopeful she makes it to the National round.

“She’s exactly what the award is all about its some kid has overcome some sort of a hardship hers is obviously significant because she’s an athlete.” 

– Maloney High School tennis coach, Tim Sweigard

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