LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

As a fully-fledged, highly accomplished Eagle Scout, Homestead senior track and cross-country runner Evan Routhier has pledged never to tell a lie.

So, to be perfectly honest, when the track team, including Routhier, were called into a meeting in the auditorium on Monday, April 11, he may have had a tingling of what was going on.

And then it took only a moment for it to become crystal clear for Routhier, as Highlander cross-country coach Dan Claussen got up on stage grinning like a Cheshire Cat and said, 'Foot Locker was here today.'

'Then I knew what it was for,' said a laughing Routhier.

And it was something that every prospective college student in America would gladly surrender their cell phone and call lists for: A scholarship worth $20,000 that Routhier had won through Foot Locker Scholar Athletes program.

'I'm still not recovered,' said Routhier on the night of April 11. 'This is all very gratifying. It just feels very good. I just remember the guys congratulating me and then smiling for about an hour.'

Routhier has a 3.98 GPA and will attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall with the idea of majoring in either biology or biochemistry. He said the money will go a long ways toward alleviating a good chunk of potential college debt, a growing problem nationwide.

He, like many prospective college students, has worked long and hard trying to acquire scholarships like this in order to cut down on the cost. His mom, Pamela, a social studies teacher at Whitefish Bay, put him onto the Foot Locker program.

The program is relatively new, as it dates back to only 2011, but it awards 20 $20,000 grants nationwide each year to college-bound seniors who are in Foot Locker's words, 'Exemplary leaders on their sports teams, in their classrooms and in their communities.' Overall, the athletic wear company has distributed over $2 million in scholarships since the program's inception.

That Routhier earned this award is indeed impressive as Foot Locker reported there were over 37,000 applications this school year, but as it turned out, he more than fit the criteria.

The application process included strong letters of recommendation and a lengthy essay in which the applicant details his or her athletic achievements, their schoolwork and their community service.

Routhier wrote at length about his recent Eagle Scout project, which was a book drive for the Next Door Foundation, which secures books for underprivileged children. The project was a big success, Routhier said, gathering in over 3,000 books.

He also spoke of he and his troop's work with food drives, park clean-ups and trail restoration, as well as work volunteering at various school event concession stands.

Recently, Routhier received word that he had made the first cut as he took part in an interview process with Foot Locker via Skype. By that point, there were about 50 or so prospective applicants left to choose from.

He said he felt 'very confident' after he got done with the interview.

A big part of the Foot Locker program is that they want the winners surprised in a big way. Claussen received word of Routhier's award around April 4 and spent the intervening time setting up the meeting in the auditorium, which would include several Foot Locker officials and a big lottery-sized check worthy of photos.

'Claw (Claussen) said he wanted to tell me several times during the week, but he thought it would be better not to,' Routhier said.

Routhier has been a successful state-level distance runner for the Highlanders ever since his freshman year with Claussen as his coach most of that time. Claussen, who also coached Routhier's older brother Nate, took this process very personally.

And he couldn't be any happier.

'What a great day for Evan,' Claussen said. 'I have known Evan for over eight years. I consider Evan and his older brother (Nate) my adopted sons. Evan has worked very hard these last four years and deserves everything that comes his way. Evan is one of those guys that I will keep in touch with for a very long time.'

Routhier will remember this day and this school year for a very long time.

It began poorly but quickly got much better, as he battled a stress fracture in his leg; but late in last fall's cross-country season, he healed up and became a huge part of the Highlanders' North Shore Conference championship and WIAA state meet-bound squad.

And just a few days before the Foot Locker announcement, he won the 800-meter run at the North Shore Conference Indoor track meet, as he looks to close his athletic career on a high note.

But the scholarship is indeed the apex of his senior year so far.

'This is such a great feeling, just wonderful,' he said. 'There were just so many kids involved in the process. I'm still amazed.'

But just so things didn't go to his head on April 11, there was some routine that needed to be observed following the ceremony.

'As soon as we got done and took a few pictures,' he said, 'I went right back to (track) practice.'