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Top students from Largo will attend world games

There was no luck involved. No lottery drawing, no coincidence, no magic, no sudden twist of fate. It was very much deliberate that Largo High School students Brian Overcast and Aaron Calipari, best friends, classmates and teammates, were selected from more than 11,000 nominees and 3,500 applicants to attend the inaugural World Scholar-Athlete Games.

On Sunday, Overcast and Calipari will join 1,800 high school students representing 102 countries in Kingsport, R.I., for a cause that promotes and celebrates scholarship, athletics and cultural growth. Overcast and Calipari, who excel in soccer, will join others from countries such as Burundi, the Philippines and Egypt.

"I feel all the work I've done in school has finally paid off," said Overcast, who has a 3.7 grade point average and was an honorable mention on this year's Times all-county soccer team.

"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Calipari, who has a 3.0 grade point average. "A chance like this comes around once in a lifetime."

What sets the WSAG apart from other international sporting events is that individuals from various countries will play together instead of against one another. No medals will be awarded, and the talent showcased at the games exceeds athletics. Participants gifted in art, poetry, music and creative writing also will be on hand. There will be theme days organized in town meeting fashion, focused on topics such as world environment, world peace, international commerce, substance abuse and ethics and sportsmanship. Together, the high school students will listen and share ideas with speakers Joe Paterno, head football coach at Penn State, U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., and Jack Healey of Amnesty International, just to name a few.

"The object or the mission statement here is to foster communication among future world leaders," WSAG public relations director Chris Stiepock said. "We want them to leave the games with an international network of friends. The easiest way to do this is through sports. Vehicles like sports enable people to cross cultural boundaries and cut down communication barriers a little easier."

For Overcast and Calipari, who are co-captains of their high school soccer team, acceptance to the games means they are considered among the tops in the country, athletically and academically. Largo's soccer coach, Craig Fossett, didn't have to deliberate much when asked to submit names for advance screening to the games. Once the admissions committee sorted through the nominees, they sent out applications to those qualified.

"We had to get recommendations and write an essay on how we could contribute to the games," said Calipari, who hopes to major in science or engineering in college.

Daniel Doyle, the brainchild behind the games, envisions an alumni program, bringing back participants in 1997. The WSAG will send out an alumni publication and a book with a listing of everyone who attended and where to contact them.

"This just seems like so much fun," Overcast said. "It will be interesting _ the conditions will be a lot different here than they are in other places and it will be neat to compare the different countries."

"Even state-to-state, things are different," Calipari added.

Aside from soccer, Overcast and Calipari have definite beliefs on ethics and sportsmanship and the environment.

"Environment interests me because I believe in recycling," Overcast said. "I'm not hard core, but I encourage it and I would like to learn more on what we can do to help."

"I feel strongly on sportsmanship," Calipari said. "If you have a poor attitude on the field, then it's more than likely, you have a poor attitude off the field."