Students shine at Les Miller event

Impressive. Incredible. Amazing.

These are words to describe the scholars and student-athletes honored at the 33rd annual Les Miller Outstanding Student Awards presented by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning at the Costa Mesa Hilton.

The words certainly fit Matthew Morgan. Those and one more: genius.

Matthew, 15, is set to graduate from Costa Mesa High two years early with a weighted 4.68 grade-point average. In the fall, he'll attend California Institute of Technology to major in mathematics.

He said he was encouraged to move to higher grades when he was in the fourth grade at Killybrooke Elementary School. Three years later, he was tackling ninth-grade classes and those were too easy.

When reading off Matthew's accomplishments, Principal Phil D'Agostino said Matthew missed three questions on his SAT practice test.

"He can levitate objects," D'Agostino joked.

And then he gave a bit of a take-that to the Dos Equis pitchman, saying Matthew is the most interesting man in the world.

"It's flattering," said Matthew, whose aspirations can be put simply.

"I just want to do math. I enjoy it, and that's all I really want to do."

Matthew, who competed in cross-country and track and field, also enjoys video games and movies.

On Facebook, he lists his favorite quote as "I don't believe in no-win situations," from "Star Trek's" Capt. James T. Kirk.

Among the students honored from Mesa, Estancia, Back Bay and Monte Vista high schools, Orange Coast College and Vanguard University, four received the inaugural Distinguished Athlete Award from Costa Mesa United, the group that has helped fund several local athletic facility projects. Each of the four was given a $500 scholarship.

The quartet — Costa Mesa's Brooke Wanbaugh and Trace Curet; Estancia's Christina Brown and Jake Knapp — typified the students at the breakfast.

Wanbaugh, a cheerleader with a 4.02 GPA, is headed to UC Santa Barbara to major in political science and environmental law. She is Costa Mesa's yearbook editor, pep rally coordinator and was involved a freshman mentor.

She's also not one to steal the spotlight. When the Costa Mesa cheerleaders form a pyramid, she's the one in the back, spotting the girl who goes to the top.

But that doesn't mean she is shy or timid.

"I've always been the kind of person who strives to achieve higher," she said. "I like to challenge myself."

Brown, who also goes by Christy, was also honored as one of four from Estancia who won a Les Miller Outstanding Student Award (another four from Costa Mesa earned the award). Brown, who has a 4.34 GPA, excelled in tennis and soccer. She announced she'll attend UCLA. She'll stay in the same dorm area as Knapp, the standout golfer who has pro aspirations.

Curet, who competed in football, basketball and baseball at Costa Mesa, is headed to Chapman University to play football and study business and entrepreneurship.

"I think it's important for the community," Brown said of the CMU award. "Obviously, there is a huge rivalry between Costa Mesa and Estancia. It's a blast to have that rivalry, but it's also good in the end to have a united front."

All four said they were honored to be the first to win.

"I feel really privileged," Curet said. "I feel I have the great opportunity to give Costa Mesa a good reputation for winning the award for the first time. It's really exciting."

The award was also special for Knapp, who has enjoyed a tremendous week. His grandfather, Gordon Bowley, a CMU board member, presented him with the award.

On Monday, Knapp won the CIF Southern Section Southern Individual Regional title. He was presented with the Mayor's Award at the City Council meeting Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he shot a 10-under-par 61, one shot off the course record at Newport Beach Country Club, to win the U.S. Open local qualifier. It is the lowest score in the nation at any U.S. Open qualifier.

He said he'll skip prom to prepare for the U.S. Open sectional qualifier June 4, to try to land a spot in the major event June 14 to 17 at Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco.

"You have to chase what you want to do," he said. "These are the sacrifices you make."

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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