ST. ANTHONY — Blake Bartschi could pass for a wide receiver on any college football team.
As a high school sophomore, his 6-foot-5-inch frame and athleticism attracted the attention of recruiters from across the northwest. By the end of his junior year in 2016, Blake had been contacted by coaches from Brigham Young University and Ivy League schools, such as Harvard, Yale and Brown University.
Walking into the gym at South Fremont High School, the soon-to-be senior gazed up at the state championship banners lining the walls above the hoops.
“I helped the team win that one,” he said, pointing to a banner commemorating South Fremont’s 2014-15 state championship basketball team. (Blake started as a post for the team that year.)
But one of the six-foot banners high on the gym wall bares Blake’s name only. It’s not a championship banner, but one recognizing his achievements both on and off the field.
In May, Blake was honored as the Idaho High School Athletics Association’s 3A “Interscholastic Star” — an award presented every year to five participants in IHSAA-sponsored sports and activities.
In addition to the banner with his name on it, Blake received a $2,000 scholarship to the college of his choice. IHSAA and the United Dairymen of Idaho also contributed $1,000 to South Fremont High School.
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“It’s pretty cool that the award not only helps me – it helps my school,” Blake said.
Sports alone didn’t earn him the award. Interscholastic Stars excel in the classroom – something Blake’s mother has stressed since he was in grade school.
Jodi Bartschi, Blake’s mother, encourages her children to put sports at the bottom of a list of important things. Religion, family and academics all come first, she tells them.
“It’s just been a family rule for as long as I can remember,” Blake said.
Blake began to expand his academic endeavors at a young age, as a result of his mother’s rule. He took his first music class in junior high. He now plays in the pep and symphonic bands and sings in the choir at South Fremont.
Drama, too, captured his attention as a youngster: He’s now a part of the school’s drama club and has performed in numerous plays, including “Charlie Brown” and “White Christmas.”
Blake’s emphasis on academics also contributed to success in student council, where he served as South Fremont’s junior class president last year.
Administrators at the school say Blake’s academic pursuits have helped him transcend common “jock” stereotypes.
“Young students in our community love Blake,” said South Fremont principal Larry Bennett. “He has shown the students in our schools – and the young kids in our community – it is cool to play sports and be in the band and choir. You will hear these kids say they want to play football and be in the band, just like Blake.”
Teammate Alec Pope agrees that Blake doesn’t fit the mold of a typical student athlete.
Pope pointed to Blake’s 3.95 GPA – then shared the story of when the two first met.
“He hugged me the first time I met him,” Pope said. “I felt a little awkward, but I soon learned that that’s just the type of person Blake is.”
Blake plans to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints immediately after the 2016-17 school year – even if it jeopardizes the chance to play football at an Ivy League school.
“Decisions like that aren’t hard when you’ve had your mind made up since you were a child,” he said.
Though the IHSAA scholarship is the first one he’s ever won, he plans to apply for more.
“If you can get your schooling paid for, why wouldn’t you?” he said.