Wednesday, May 14, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
As the judges sorted through three dozen applicants, they were drawn to Michelle Johnston and Sujay Patel. Each had a dedication and commitment to school and athletics that was exemplary.
As a result, Johnston, of Green Valley High School, and Patel, of Durango High School, were named the 1997 recipients of the Fiesta Casino/Hotel Scholarship Awards. They will each receive a $5,000 scholarship, which Johnston will put to use at Nevada-Reno and Patel will utilize at UNLV.
Both high-school seniors were feted at a luncheon Tuesday at the Fiesta.
Applicants for the scholarship were judged on several levels, including sports involvement, academics and charitable causes.
Johnston, who intends to become a veterinarian, showed her spunk by competing on the Green Valley cross country team despite having asthma. She won the Southern AAAA junior-varsity championship last fall.
"It hit me in the 10th grade," she said. "It's called exercise-induced asthma and it's from all the pollen in the air."
She said the ailment affected her "big time" in that stamina is significant for a long-distance runner.
"It was really hard to run the races," she added. "But I don't like to give up, so I kept pushing. I surprised myself when I won the JV championship meet. It was neat."
She started distance running in the eighth grade, in part because her father, Robert, is an avid runner who recently competed in the Boston Marathon.
"I went out and tried it," she said. "I liked it and I like running. I'll never stop running."
She plans to be active in the UNR intramural program while working toward her degree. She has been a volunteer for the Humane Society and carries a honors-weighted GPA of 4.5 at Green Valley.
Patel distinguished himself in the judges' eyes by putting in three seasons with the Durango tennis program, as well as participating in Neighborhood Watch and Republic Party activities.
He'll take biology at UNR and work toward a degree in internal medicine.
"I'm going to try out for the tennis team, too," Patel said. "I think I'll make it. If I don't, I'll focus that much more on biology."
The Fiesta scholarship program is in its second year and is modeled after a program started in 1979 by George Maloof Sr. in Albuquerque, N.M. Last year's Las Vegas winners, Becky Bedier and Brian Ching, are enrolled in UNLV and UNR, respectively.
Each Clark County high school submitted a male and female candidate for the scholarship awards.