By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — He was three-sport athlete at Charlotte High School, and a talented one at that.
But as an offensive lineman on the football team, a weightlifter and a member of the track & field team in the lesser-followed shot put event, recent graduate Jack Fining didn’t always receive recognition on the playing field.
That’s OK though, because he was recognized plenty in the classroom.
And recently by the rest of the state.
Fining was honored on Monday at the 23rd Annual Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Awards Banquet after being named to the Academic All-State Team in April due to his excellence in the classroom and on the playing field. He finished second in his graduating class of 414 students, compiling an unweighted GPA of 4.0 and a weighted GPA of 4.64.
Twelve male and female student-athletes each from across Florida were selected based on academic record, athletic participation, non-athletic activities, community service and an essay. To be eligible for selection, the student-athlete had to be a graduating senior whose cumulative unweighted GPA was at least a 3.5 while earning a varsity letter in at least two different sports during each of his or her junior and senior years.
“It feels good to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve put into my high school career on and off the field for the past four years,” Fining said. “Hopefully this recognition paves the way for future representatives from Charlotte County.”
According to Charlotte athletic director Brian Nolan, Fining is the first student-athlete in Charlotte County to receive the honor.
“Jack has continually demonstrated the spirit of Charlotte High School,” Nolan said. “He excels at any challenge he is faced with, both athletically and academically. He leaves a large footprint for future Tarpons to follow. We are all very proud of him.”
Fining, who also was the 2016 FACA 6A Academic Player of the Year, was given a $1,700 scholarship from the Florida High School Athletic Association for receiving the honor.
He was part of Charlotte’s football team that advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2002 and won back-to-back district titles. The student-athlete also qualified for the state meets in weightlifting and track & field as a senior.
Twice as busy as the average high schooler, Fining juggled being a member of Charlotte’s Math Club, National Honor Society, Tarpon Leadership Academy and student government, along with playing sports. He represented Charlotte at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Invitational Mathematics Competition for three years and also found time to give back to the community by helping out with Relay For Life and at the Boys and Girls Club.
Sleep wasn’t always an option for Fining, who said he sometimes had to settle for three or four hours due to the loads of home work he had to finish once he was home from practices. During football season, study time usually didn’t take place until at least 7:30 p.m.
“It was not easy, especially with the course load that I’ve been taking throughout high school,” said Fining, who started playing flag football as a 4-year-old before taking up Pop Warner when he was 12. “But in a way, it kind of balanced out because football is a fall sport and that takes the most time out of all the sports and once that is starting up, the course isn’t too heavy yet as far as homework goes.
“Then during spring, even though I had two sports, neither of them took up as much time as football did so that kind of balanced out. Schoolwork took up more time towards the end while sports took up more time in the beginning, but regardless, it still took up a lot of time. It was just tricky to get the time management down and I really had to stick with it.”
Next up for Fining isn’t more time on the gridiron. Instead, he’ll head north in August to major in computer science and engineering at the University of Florida.
Fining says his favorite subjects in school were math and science, prompting him to look toward an extended field in both once he was ready for college. Computers caught his eye during his junior year, especially the software side of it, and one class in particular drove his desire to pursue a career behind the screen.
“My junior year was the first year our school offered any kind of coding or programming class so I took it and I found that I really enjoyed it,” Fining said. “It also was a nice challenge because writing code is like learning a different language. In that class, the way we were presented stuff was like learning and the assignments, I guess you could say, were seen more like puzzles so you really had to challenge yourself every time and it was always rewarding to get that feedback when you’d push the buttons and see that your codes worked. The way that the class was run or the way that the programs worked really stuck with me and made me want to pursue it.”
There likely be any more sleep in Fining’s future and he’s fine with that. Though he’s stoked to head off to college, he says he’ll miss the memories he made at Charlotte.
“I’m really going to miss the teachers and coaches and I’m also going to miss the fact that college is so different than high school and all the schooling I had before it so the way my life kind of ran is going to change so I’m going to miss that because that’s what I’m used to,” Fining said. “But primarily, the coaches and teachers that have helped and the friends I’ve made.”