Roche wins ‘Spirit of Su’ award

Roche wins 'Spirit of Su' award
The past couple weeks have been pretty exhausting for Annie Roche.

Her Vermillion High School girls' basketball team made the grueling seven-hour trip to Spearfish, where the Tanagers won three nailbiters for the State A crown and the first girls' cage title in school history.

Then came the return trip on March 11 – again, seven hours – followed by a welcome-home celebration and a team banquet the next night.

"I can't think of a better way to spend our spring break," she said, flashing a grin at the thought of the tournament.

But she hasn't neglected the books, tackling a test upon her return from the state tournament. And if she hasn't had enough basketball, she hit the gym after school even though her VHS playing days have ended.

"I have to keep shooting," she said, as she continues her cage career across town with The University of South Dakota women's basketball team.

It's that sort of dedication and cheerfulness that clinched the "Spirit of Su" award for Roche during the State "A" tournament earlier this month. The South Dakota High School Activities Association presents the "Spirit Of Su" award annually to outstanding young athletes who exemplify the life and achievements of the late Pine Ridge basketball star SuAnne Big Crow.

These qualities are athletic accomplishment, academic excellence and community involvement. It is the most prestigious award a young athlete can win in the state of South Dakota.

Roche said she feels honored to receive the award along with Hanson's Megan Doyle in Class B and Sioux Falls Roosevelt's Jenny Miller in Class AA.

"Both are great basketball players and people. Megan Doyle is a great friend of mine," Roche said. "I would also really like to thank my teammates for everything. Without them, I would never have received the 'Spirit of Su' Award."

Roche said she's "surprised and honored" to win the award named for an athlete she admires.

Roche, a small point guard with a quiet voice, has amassed a long list of achievements. While she has become known for her athlete prowess, some of her greatest fetes have come off the court.

She belongs to the National Honor Society, won the "Hero of Character" award and was honored at the Governor's Leadership Luncheon. She has sung in the choir and served all four years as a student council member.

She has maintained near perfection in the classroom, holding a 3.9 grade-point average. �I got a 'B� in calculus,� she said, admitting the lone �failure� on her academic record.

Roche is quick to give credit elsewhere for her gifts, including her faith and family.

�My family is the most important thing to me. They are the anchor to my life and couldn�t love me any more or less. They are there for me and love me,� Annie said.

Vermillion girls� basketball coach Jamie Parish said he isn�t surprised to see Roche�s success. He has worked with her since the day he arrived at the school five years ago.

�She is an exceptional student putting the same dedication and hard work into the classroom as she does on the basketball court. Annie reaches out in the community and is a wonderful mentor to our younger players and students in the community.�

In a role reversal, Parish said he has been deeply impacted by Roche.

�I have been blessed to work with Annie Roche. As a young coach getting my first head coaching job, I cannot think of having a better person to work with,� Parish said.

And what does the future hold for Roche? She was named top defense lawyer at Girls State, but she has no aspirations for the courtroom.

Roche said she has enjoyed every minute and looks forward to the future. �I look back and I am so thankful for it all,� she said. �You got to enjoy life and have fun. Isn�t that what it�s all about? Life is not what you do, but who you are.�

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