POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Poplar Bluff High School freshman Savannah Hicks was Missouri's nomination for the National High School Spirit of Sport Award.
She incredibly returned to the basketball court just six short weeks after open-heart surgery.
Dr. Kerwin Urhahn, the executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association, nominated 15-year-old Hicks for the award because she exceeded expectations, overcame challenging circumstances, and displayed exemplary sportsmanship.
"I visited with Dr. Kerwin Urhahn, executive director of MSHSAA, about Savannah Hicks and the obstacles she has overcome to return to the court/field," R-I Athletic Director Kent Keith announced. "I then forwarded [reporter] Ben Striker's DAR article about Savannah for him to read. Dr. Urhahn was touched by what he heard and read."
During her sports physical over the summer, medics noticed an irregular heartbeat, or heart murmur. After further testing, Hicks was diagnosed with atrial septal defect, which means there was a hole between the two upper chambers of her heart. She postponed treatment until the varsity softball season was completed.
Hicks received successful open-heart surgery on Nov. 22, 2016 at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. Unable to stay away from her teammates, she attended a home basketball game just one week later.
She proceeded to keep stats for the team until she got the all-clear from doctors to return to the court at the end of the year. Hicks started practicing again on Jan. 2, and four days later, played in her first game of the season.
In addition to softball and basketball, Hicks also made the girls soccer team. She is a member of the Mule Barn, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, active in her church youth group and in the top 10 percent of her class, according to her nomination form.
The national recipient of the award was a student athlete in Minnesota who, despite being born a paraplegic, plays football, sled hockey, wheelchair softball and track, according to a press release issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
All 50 state associations, plus Washington, D.C., have the ability to submit a nominee to the selection committee each year, according to MSHSAA Communications Director Jason West.