It had only happened one other time in Indian River High School sports history.
And while the Indians have seen their fair share of finalists for the Brian Piccolo Award through the years, it had never been awarded to a female athlete.
Until Madi McGee.
The senior standout for the Indians in field hockey, basketball and softball made her way into the school history books recently, officially becoming the first female athlete at Indian River to receive the award honoring former Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo.
“I was so excited when I found out I won,” said McGee, who received the UNICO National Delaware District 1 award at a ceremony last month. “This recognition is great because of the meaning behind the award. And being the first female at IR to win this award is just awesome.”
The national award has been designed to recognize high school athletes of Italian heritage exemplifying “courage, friendship, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, anti-bias and a sense of humor,” since 1977.
As a three-sport athlete throughout her career, those are all attributes that McGee’s coaches say that she consistently showcases in spades.
“Her work ethic is incredible. She’s definitely a leader by example,” said Jodi Stone, who has coached McGee in field hockey for the past four years. “She’s just a great person. She knows how to take certain situations and make them light-hearted. She’s got a great sense of humor, and she just makes it very enjoyable to coach.”
“She’s always working hard, and she really cares about her teammates,” added IR Athletic Director Todd Fuhrmann. “This is huge for us as a small school, but it’s especially a great thing considering who it is — the background that Madi has had, playing three sports here for four years, it just goes a long way for our female athletics, which are really moving forward.”
Coming up through Selbyville Middle School and entering IR as freshman in 2013, McGee has earned 11 varsity letters so far, also earning starting roles all the way and set to return for her 12th letter, playing shortstop for the Indians this spring.
This fall, as a captain on the field hockey team, McGee helped lead the Indians to their first playoff appearance since 2006, racking up 12 goals and seven assists and earning Second Team All-Conference honors in the process, while infamously scoring the tying goal against Cape Henlopen in the first round of the DIAA playoffs before a controversial call took it off the board.
After eventually earning a starting role on a 1-14 team as a freshman, in what was also Stone’s first year at the helm, McGee has been instrumental in turning around the field hockey program, along with seniors Maggie Ford, Lexi Haden and Erin Haden.
“She stuck through for four years and believed in her coaching staff and her teammates. That definitely takes a sense of courage,” said Stone. “For her to win this award after the type of season that we had and just watching her be a part of the progress that this program has had over the course of the last four years — it’s pretty special.”
The award was made even more special for McGee when, at the ceremony this November, the Brian Piccolo Committee also awarded the honor to Cape Henlopen senior Jessica Evans — one of McGee’s long-time friends and a softball standout for the Vikings.
“My best friend was there from another school so that was pretty awesome,” McGee said. “It was just the two of us there, so we didn’t know what was going to happen. We didn’t know until the very end.”
Unable to choose between two deserving student-athletes, the committee opted to not only give out two District 1 awards this year, but two $1,000 donations in the full amount as well.
The money will be allocated to the Indian River High School athletic program of McGee’s choosing and will likely go toward purchasing some much-needed new goals for the field hockey team.
As for the future, McGee is currently leading the Indians as a captain on the basketball team while gearing up for her senior campaign on the softball field. Right now, she’s weighing her college options between playing softball at Del Tech or entering the School of Nursing at the University of Delaware.
No matter what that future holds, however, and whether it be in the classroom or on the athletic fields, there’s no question that McGee has left a legacy at Indian River High School.
“Madi and this senior class — they’re irreplaceable,” said Stone. “They had a vision, and they were just very intent that they were going to take the program further than it had ever been before. The juniors coming up are going to have some very big shoes to fill.”