1 of 2
Photo by Katie Turpen.
Will Freeman Heisman
Spain Park High School senior Will Freeman is currently qualified for the fastest swim meet in the country. He is one of the top 12 national finalists for the 2013 Wendy’s High School Heisman.
2 of 2
Hoover Coach Bob Finley
An annual, district-wide award recognizes an employee and two graduating seniors from Hoover City Schools who exemplify good character in the spirit of former coach Bob Finley.
Spain Park High senior Will Freeman knew something was up when principal Dr. Ken Jarnagin came to escort him out of first period. They walked down the hall to the school’s elevator, presumably headed to a meeting downstairs.
“I was actually just impressed that I was in the elevator,” Freeman said. “I’ve never been in it before — kinda like V.I.P. treatment. I knew something big was going to happen.”
Freeman, a nationally-ranked swimmer, is no stranger to the spotlight. However, he was taken aback at the sight just outside the elevator doors. There stood his family, friends, coaches and the Superintendent of Hoover City Schools. That group, along with members of the Finley Committee for Character Education, were all there to announce Freeman as the 2014 Spain Park High School Finley Award winner.
“I honestly never thought I would be here — be the winner. I used to see other kids get this award and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is a bar I can never get to,’” Freeman said. “Now that I’m here, it’s like people are looking up to me. That’s interesting.”
The 18-year-old swimming standout has both academic and athletic scholarship offers to the University of Alabama. He's received numerous academic and athletic accolades over the course of his high school career, most recently being named a national finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman. As one of 12 in the U.S., Freeman was recognized at the Heisman ceremony in New York City this past December.
Freeman's athletic stats are impressive. He is a six-year Varsity Letter Winner; school, league and state record-holder and NISCA High School All-American in the 200-meter freestyle (1:37.31); school, league and state record-holder and NISCA High School All-American in the 500-meter freestyle (4:27.36); eight-time high school state champion — four each in 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle. Six-time NISCA High School All-American — three each in 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle; holds 28 individual team records for the Birmingham Swim League; and Southeastern Swimming 15-16 Boys Record in the 200-meter freestyle (1:38.22).
Beyond the national spotlight, perhaps he’s most proud of his accomplishments at his soon-to-be alma mater. During his junior year, he joined the Spain Park High School Honor Council — a group befitting a Finley Award winner.
“[Our council] actually drafted a code of academic integrity this past summer, and we have been trying to implement it throughout the school,” Freeman said.
Freeman, along with his counterpart Chandler Fullman at Hoover High School and Coach Michael Zelwak, the HCS Finley Award winner, will all be celebrated March 20 at the Finley Awards Banquet, held at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center on U.S. 280. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The annual celebration features the recognition of the three winners, in addition to grade-level character award winners from each Hoover school in grades kindergarten through 12th.
The Finley Committee for Character Education was created in 1996. Its current chairman is Jeff Dance. The committee hosts events throughout the year to recognize students who exhibit exceptional character, in the spirit of Coach Bob Finley — the committee’s/banquet’s namesake. Longtime coach/educator at W.A. Berry High School (the original Hoover High), Finley led by example and was known for his calm demeanor, integrity and strong faith.