HEISER: Little York Twp. girl up for big national honor

Steve Heiser
  • York Township's Kathryn Kotchish is up for the SI Kids Sports Kid of the Year Award.
  • Kathryn is a fourth grader at Dallastown Area Intermediate School.
  • Kathryn competes in the York Devils ice hockey program and volunteers with the York Polar Bears.

Most people don't fall in love until their teens.

Kathryn Kotchish, however, found her true love at the tender age of 3½.

Kathryn Kotchish is one of five finalists for the Sports Illustrated Kids Sports Kid of the Year Award.

That's when Kathryn's mother, Ashley Nicholson, took her little girl ice skating.

When they got to the rink, however, Kathryn had other ideas. She immediately decided that ice skating wasn't the sport for her.

“Momma, I want to play ice hockey,” she told her mother.

Like any good mother, Ashley quickly got her daughter some ice hockey lessons.

During her very first lesson, however, Kathryn suffered a concussion, with some bleeding on the brain. She was rushed to the hospital.

Undeterred, Kathryn's first question for the doctor the next morning was: “When can I play ice hockey again?”

“Ever since then, it's been hockey, hockey, hockey,” Ashley said about her daughter. “Her coach said the minute she got on the ice, she was done with everything else.”

That love of hockey has only grown in the years since. As a defender, Kathryn has become so adept on the ice that she's the only girl on the York Devils' under-10 boys' team and competes against much-older players on the Devils' under-14 girls' team.

“The first time I was on skates, it was like 'I have to play hockey,'” she said. “I like being a defender and being a part of a team.”

Kathryn said she hopes to one day play for the Penn State women's ice hockey team.

Her excellence on the ice has reached the point where it has drawn the attention of a national magazine.

This week, Kathryn was selected as one of five national finalists for the Sports Illustrated Kids Sports Kid of the Year Award. The York Township girl was nominated by her mother.

This is seriously significant accomplishment. Just two years ago, in 2014, the winner was none other than Mo'ne Davis, the Philadelphia girl who became internationally famous for her outstanding pitching performances against the boys in the Little League World Series.

Kathryn was selected as a finalist by the SI Kids editorial staff. It wasn't just her hockey skills, however, that earned her a berth in the finals. The honor was based one third on athletics, one third on academics and one third on community service.

Academically, Kathryn is a straight-A student who loves the Science Club as a fourth-grader at Dallastown Area Intermediate School.

In the community, Kathryn volunteers every Monday night with the York Polar Bears, a local organization that gives special-needs youngsters and adults a chance to play hockey.

“I think she's amazing,” Ashley proudly said of her daughter. “She's a very humble kid, very shy. I think it's great to bring recognition to her for her community service. She's a big fan (of the York Polar Bears) and a big fan of promoting that. She doesn't know what she's accomplished at 9.”

Her work with the special-needs children with the Polar Bears holds a special place in Kathryn's heart.

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“I love teaching them, because then I see a big smile on their faces,” she said.

Now that she's a finalist, it will be up to the public to determine her fate. The winner will be decided by an online vote at sikids.com. Voting will close at noon on Oct. 11.

If she wins, she'll be featured on the Sports Illustrated Kids cover and will receive a trip with her family to New York City for the 2016 SI Sportsman of the Year Award to be held in December.

Kathryn knows the competition is fierce.

“I'm nervous,” she admitted.

She should be. The nominees have compiled some amazing achievements. Just making the final five, out of hundreds, if not thousands, of nominees, is a major feat.

In a few weeks, we'll find out if she's the SI Kid of the Year.

No matter what the voting says, however, Kathryn is already a winner.

Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.