Aiken High’s Frelicia Tucker selected as Wendy’s High School Heisman national finalist
Frelicia Tucker’s high school years have been filled with accolades both in the classroom and on both the tennis court and track. One of her most recent, and perhaps biggest, accolades combines success from both and adds up to a historic feat for the Aiken High School senior.
Tucker was selected as one of 10 national finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman award. She was surprised with the news at a special assembly for the senior class Monday morning at Aiken High.
Tucker, who was recently named the state winner for South Carolina, knew she had a strong resume, but was still shocked and overwhelmed to learn she will be making the trip to New York City in early December to take part in Heisman weekend festivities.
“I really thought I had a good chance to get to this point because of comparing with other finalist from previous years,” Tucker said. “I knew it was good chance, but I mean, there’s so many amazing scholar athletes around the world.”
The High School Heisman was created by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas in 1994 in partnership with the Heisman Trophy Trust, which awards the Heisman Memorial Trophy every year to college football’s top player.
Tucker is one of 10 student athletes – two from each of the five geographic Heisman regions – who will now be in the running to win the High School Heisman Trophy, a $10,000 scholarship and a $500 Wendy’s gift card. She has already earned at least a $5,000 scholarship by being named a national finalist.
It’s a historic accomplishment for Tucker and the state, but it comes as no surprise to the people closest to the energetic, intelligent standout athlete.
“She gives everything 150 percent,” Tucker’s mother Alisha Johnson said. “If she has a talent, she’s going to work on that talent until she has that perfected. That’s how she’s always been.”
Tucker’s twin sister, Fredericka, said it’s her mother that she feels Frelicia gets her drive from. Fredericka also added that her sister has made her better athletically and as a person.
“It’s just been amazing. I know she deserves this,” Fredericka said. “I am her biggest supporter along with my other family members.”
Tucker has been competing athletically for several years. She’s been a member of the tennis and track teams at Aiken High School since seventh grade. She has helped lead the tennis team to several region championships and deep playoff runs.
Her success on the track started early as well. She won the Class AAA state championship in the 400 meter hurdles race as a sophomore in 2015. Track is the sport she wants to pursue in college. She hasn’t decided where she wants to attend, but she is certain to have a wealth of options to choose from. She recently had an interview with Yale University.
“She’s very grounded for her age – very humble spirit. None of this will go to her head. You’ll see her tomorrow, and she’ll be the same meek, mild-mannered young lady,” Aiken High principal Garen Cofer said. “That’s what I admire about her the most. She works so hard, but she stays humble and stays grounded.”
That humble, mild-mannered attitude gives a glimpse into the other part of what makes Tucker a fit as a High School Heisman national finalist. The panel of judges doesn’t only take into account athletic exploits. It looks at the impact outside of sports. That’s where many would argue Tucker shines the most.
“I think her compassion for others, her leadership ability (helped her). I realized when she was a seventh grader that she could definitely be a leader and tried to tie in to that and use that with the tennis team, and you see what the fruits of that were,” Aiken High boys’ and girls’ tennis coach Steve Smith said.
Tucker’s time with the tennis team is what best highlights the compassion Smith talked about. Teammate Carolyn Marvin attests to that. Marvin, another talented tennis player on the team, joined the Aiken High squad last season as a seventh grader. Knowing what it was like to be that young on the team, the Tucker twins became a guiding force for Marvin. Their parents joke that Marvin is the Tucker’s other sister.
“Coming into the team as a seventh grader last year, they were really supportive of me, and they just kind of took me under their wing,” Marvin said. “Coming in young and being just younger in generally, you don’t have people to guide you through, but they’ve been really good in guiding me through.”
Marvin summed up Tucker’s lasting impact by revisiting last week’s playoff tennis match. Marvin broke down in tears after her match, but Tucker was the first one there to wrap her arms around her.
“We weren’t sad because we lost,” Marvin said Monday, again fighting back tears. “We were sad because we were going to leave each other”
When Tucker does leave, Cofer and others added that there will be a lot to miss about Tucker, who the principal said could make anyone feel better about their day with her smile. However, there will still be a lasting impact felt on Aiken High.
“I’ll miss that from her. She lights up the room when she walks in – that type of character.”
The National winners of the High School Heisman award will be announced Dec. 9. The award ceremony will air at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 on ESPN2.