Senior Mikayla Hardy has achieved both academic and athletic success at Francis Howell High School (FHHS), the true definition of a “scholar-athlete.” As confirmation, she was just named a First Team Academic All-American by PrepVolleyball.com, and Honorable Mention All-American by Under Armour.
Academically, Hardy has a 4.8 Grade Point Average and ranks second in her class. How does one even achieve a 4.8 GPA? “Pretty much by taking all AP and Honors classes,” she said. “This year I’m taking six AP classes, and I took six last year as well.” Hardy is also an AP Scholar, National Merit Commended Student, scored a 33 on the ACT, and won the American Association of University Women STEM Award for outstanding math achievement. She was also named the FHHS Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“Mikayla Hardy possesses an inspiring combination of hard work, confidence, and personal accountability that enable her to achieve academic, athletic, and artistic excellence,” said FHHS Principal Dr. Dave Wedlock. “She accomplishes her goals with a humility and poise that encourages others to join in with her and enjoy the time spent working to be their best.”
The First Team All-Metro and First Team All-State selection also excelled on the court, and averaged 5.31 kills per set while adding 334 digs. Head Coach Stacey Smith said, “Mikayla was our ‘go to’ hitter all season. Her consistent play in the front row, as well as the back row, was a key to our success this year. She set the Howell single-match kill record twice this season, and came up big for us when we needed it most, even while playing through a nagging injury. Mikayla was definitely a leader by example and came to practice every day ready to work to get better. I think her attention to detail and drive to succeed is what sets her apart from other players.”
Hardy’s play helped lead the Lady Vikings to a national ranking, and the state championship game. In an epic battle of hardwood heavyweights, they would eventually lose a heartbreaker to defending state champions Lafayette, but Hardy remains philosophical. “We weren’t sure how good we were going to be, but as the season went along we just kept getting better and better,” she said. “It was a letdown to lose the state championship, but we did so much more than anyone expected, and went so much further than any previous volleyball team (at FHHS), that I can’t complain about the way things turned out.”
Hardy started playing volleyball at an early age, and the challenge and effort on the court helped her in the classroom. “Volleyball taught me to persevere,” she said. “I had some tough times back in middle school when I wasn’t playing much, so I had to work that much harder during practice to earn playing time. That made it easier for me to take harder classes, because I was already used to pushing myself so much. Working hard, getting all those fine details really helped me with things like math, so you can concentrate on the bigger things.”
And moving on to bigger things is what Hardy will be doing this fall, when she takes her impressive skill set to the University of Chicago. Hardy made numerous college visits, but when she got to the Chicago campus, she knew it was the place for her. “They watched me play at Nationals over the summer, I got to meet some of the other girls on the team, and they offered me a spot and I committed. It was a school that I wanted, and a volleyball level that I wanted, so it was the perfect combination for me.”
Hardy comes from a long line of engineers that have both helped and inspired her. “My parents have been very supportive, they’ve always been there for me, and putting all of the time in to take me to practices and games. My siblings have always been very supportive as well. We’re a family of engineers, and I’m not sure yet about my major, but it will probably be a STEM-related field like physics or computer science.”
Her principal knows that her success is due to hard work, and a willingness to tackle tough tasks. “Makayla finds many activities come very easy to her,” Dr. Wedlock said, “but she is never one to shy away from difficult challenges or be afraid that she cannot accomplish her objective. She is not a person who worries about failing or chooses do to only things she has mastered, but is rather open to new activities with a focus on learning from the process.” Hardy is a great example for other students, and there is little doubt that she will continue to excel - as both a scholar and an athlete.