The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners honors MHS senior Rylan Chapa at its April 20 meeting. Pictured, from left: commissioner Michelle Coldiron, Chapa, Mayor David Rice, Mayor Pro Tem Craig Cates, commissioner Holly Raschein. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

As if a state championship in her weight class wasn’t enough to cap off her senior season for Marathon High School weightlifter Rylan Chapa, her most recent accomplishment will certainly put an exclamation point on it.

On April 6, Chapa was announced as one of the 24 members of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) 28th annual Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team. While Marathon High School has been well-represented on recent teams, with three athletes honored in the last two years, Chapa joins a group of only six MHS students ever to earn the lofty distinction.

The Academic All-State team is made up of 12 male and 12 female graduating seniors around the state and recognizes excellence in the classroom paired with elite athletic performance. Eligible students must carry a 3.5 GPA and must earn varsity letters in a minimum of two sports over the course of their junior and senior years. This year, the program considered 51 male nominees and 69 female nominees.

Recipients will be recognized with a $1,700 scholarship at a banquet on Monday, June 6, where one male and one female athlete will also be crowned the Ronald N. Davis Scholar-Athletes of the Year. As the most prestigious honor bestowed on a Florida high school student-athlete, the award carries an additional $4,600 in scholarship funds for each winner, for a total of $6,300.

Although Chapa was tipped off about her award a bit early through her involvement in the FHSAA Student Athletic Advisory Committee, she told Keys Weekly she was still surprised and thankful for the support of her coaches, family and community on her way to such a massive accomplishment.

“The coaches here are just awesome,” said Chapa. “They’re very flexible with you in knowing that you have priorities. The teachers, the coaches, my parents, they’re all always helpful. I always sit in my coach’s classroom during study hall, and he helps me with anything I have to do.

“The Kucks at Keys Strength have also done a lot for me, and my parents definitely help me as they let me wander around and do all the things I have to do,” she added. “And of course, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without God. I definitely lean on him for a lot of things.”

Though Chapa is modest about her achievements, her resume blows away the minimum requirements for the award. She sports a 4.0 GPA, and though she describes weightlifting and volleyball as her “main sports,” through the years she also competed on the school’s soccer, tennis, track and field and softball teams – and lettered in all of them. Outside of the weight room, she is involved in diverse clubs including the Interact Club, the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. 

“She won the award for the best athlete last year as a junior, and she lettered in five sports. That’s insane,” said Lance Martin, MHS athletic director. “She’s just well-rounded, and there’s nothing else you can say. She’s a great kid.”

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.