The signs of spring are unmistakable on St. John: The sun clears the horizon well before 7 a.m.; water trucks start lining up at the Cruz Bay standpipe; agave plants send up shoots like giant asparagus; and girls who play softball are on the field practicing for the Ruby Rutnik Memorial Softball Tournament.
This year’s tournament will be at the Winston Wells ball field in Cruz Bay on Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5. Teams of high school girls from St. Croix and St. Thomas will compete to win a $2,500 scholarship for a college-bound senior on the team.
Since the tournament began in 1997, $64,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to promising athletes and scholars.
Initially, one scholarship was offered — a two-year award to a girl from St. John who planned to attend a college in the states.
The tournament has been so successful that four scholarships of $2,500 are now awarded annually. One goes to a new winner, and last year’s winner is also funded if she is in good academic standing.
In 2003, a one-year award was added for the team that won the tournament. In 2004, a scholarship to attend the University of the Virgin Islands was offered.
And now, even males can get in on some of the action. As of 2006, young men from St. John are eligible to apply for a one-year award to attend UVI.
The scholarship winners from 2006 are Raquida Edwards, a graduate of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, who is now a business major enrolled in Monroe College in New York, and Dennis Powell, the first male to win the scholarship for UVI.
Valerie Trahan, the recipient of the 2005 scholarship, is now completing her second year at Florida Southern College, where she is majoring in athletic training and sports medicine.
Local sports fans know the girls’ team from Tortola won the Ruby Rutnik Tournament in 2006. This year’s competition should be fierce as the teams from the other islands try to bring the title back to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The community is asked to support the tournament by sponsoring an inning for $100, making a donation, or buying a t-shirt at Connections in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. Checks made out to the RRSF, Inc. can be sent to Rutnik, P.O. Box 348, St. John, VI 00831.
Of course, everyone is invited to come out to cheer for the teams on May 4 and May 5. Food purchased at the concession stand will help fund the Love City Pan Dragons, St. John’s student steel band.
Scholarship applications for St. John students will be available within the next two weeks at Connections and at all local high schools. The deadline for applications is May 15.
The tournament was established in 1997 to honor the memory of Ruby Rutnik, who died tragically in a car crash when she was a senior at American University. Because Ruby was a champion windmill pitcher while at Antilles School, a softball tournament seemed a perfect way to fund a scholarship for young women of promise.
The previous winners of the St. John Scholarship Award are Tessa Williams Telly (1997-98), Khania Dawson (1998-1999), Tiffany Rogers (1999-2000), Kristen Maize (2000-2001), Jessa Buchalter (2001-2002), Nyeisha Smalls (2002-2003), Brittany Fredericks (2003-2004), Marilyn Callwood (2004-2005), Valerie Trahan (2005-2006) and Raquida Edwards (2006-2007).
The winners of the UVI Scholarship Award are La Reesa Clendenin (2004), Abiola Hodge (2005) and Dennis Powell (2006).
Athletic Scholarship Award winners are Jenna Castro (2003), Sheena Williams (2004) and Micah McIntosh (2005).
For further information, please contact Amy Roberts at 776-6691 or Janet Cook-Rutnik at 693-8069.