Photo by GREG HARDWIG // Buy this photo
NAPLES — Brian Ullrich signed up to take a mission trip to St. Lucia looking to build up his faith.
It did that — and more.
“We went to orphanages and a different church to help set up a vacation Bible school,” the St. John Neumann senior said. “It was life-changing, significantly, to me. ... That was probably the biggest impact on my life.”
So much so that Ullrich plans to go back if his schedule allows it this summer. The Class 1A state champion in the pole vault will be going to Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., on a track scholarship. Ullrich has family in the area, so that and the chance to still compete in track made it an easy choice. He plans on studying business and theology.
Ullrich nearly didn’t get an opportunity to pole vault as a junior. He and his father were pruning a ficus tree. The chainsaw his dad was using jammed, so Ullrich was using a handsaw to cut some branches, when he got pinned against the trunk. He suffered two collapsed lungs and three broken ribs.
“I was trying all I could to let the doctors kind of let me jump,” he said.
Ullrich also played soccer, and it was a different type of season for the Celtics under a new coach. The soccer team finished behind First Baptist and Community School in the districts, but everything came together in the district tournament, and the team beat both of them to win the title.
“That was inspirational to me, shows how the hard work pays off,” said Ullrich, who also was a member of the golf team.
Ullrich has had a different kind of inspiration that “you can’t really put on your application,” as he put it. He was friends with Wilkins Vilcin, a St. John Neumann student who was injured when he landed on his head at a school dance in October 2010. Vilcin suffered serious brain damage.
“I went to the hospital almost every day,” Ullrich said of Vilcin, who is now at a rehabilitation facility in Wauchula. “... You can see how easily life can be impacted.”
As for the Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award, it didn’t take Ullrich long to notice who had won it from his school. Shannon McGregor is the only Celtic to win the overall award — back in 2001 — and a banner with her name on it hangs in the school gym.
“I thought that was the neatest thing I’d ever seen, to have your own banner up in our gym,” Ullrich said.
2012 WINGED FOOT ATHLETES
The winner will be revealed at the banquet Thursday, May 24 at Waldorf Astoria Naples.
- Photos: Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award finalists
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Revenel Metayer, Golden Gate
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Skyler Taylor, Palmetto Ridge
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Joseph Flores, Immokalee
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Alex Fogg, Community School
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Justine Giles, Lely
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Brian Ullrich, St. John Neumann
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Kendall Smallwood, Everglades City
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Adam Smith, First Baptist
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Brett Clark, Barron Collier
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Matt Colligan, Gulf Coast
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Dan DiGiorno, Naples
- 2012 Winged Foot profiles: Hana Sladick, Seacrest