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MOUNT VERNON — It’s that time of year again.

For high school athletes, August means it’s time to get back to work. Officially, practices for all fall sports began Monday. 

The golf season already has teed off and other fall sports seasons will soon follow suit.

As the 2023-24 school year dawns, Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages are excited to announce a new partnership with Park National Bank.

The Park National Bank Athlete of the Month series begins in August and runs throughout the upcoming school year. Each month, one high school athlete from Richland, Ashland and Knox Counties will be recognized as the Park National Bank Athlete of the Month. Those athletes will be profiled and will be awarded a commemorative Athlete of the Month certificate. 

Additionally, the athletic departments of the monthly honorees will receive $1,000 from Park National Bank. The funds are to go to the athletic department’s general operating budget.

While outstanding athletic performance is a key component, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. We are looking for athletes who excel on and off the field. Academic achievement and community involvement will also be factored into the equation.

“I want to recognize outstanding kids who do really good things in school, the community and athletically,” Park National Bank regional president Bob Boss said. 

Athletes will be nominated by their school’s athletic department. Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages reporters and editors, along with Boss and his team at Park National, will determine the monthly winners from the pool of nominees.

“We are thrilled to partner with Park National Bank to deliver the Athlete of the Month series on our platforms,” Source Brand Solutions director of client coaching and strategy Audrey Longstreth said. “We are always excited when local organizations reach out to us for out-of-the-box collaborations like this.”

Athletic directors and coaches have until the 25th of each month to nominate an athlete. Stories profiling the winners will be published on Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox pages during the first week of the following month. 

Nothing brings communities together like high school sports. The memorable 2019 football season that saw Mansfield Senior and Lucas reach state championship games and East Knox advance to the state semifinals galvanized those communities. The following fall, the Madison girls soccer team captivated the area with its run to the state title. Most recently, the Ontario baseball team took its fans on a wild ride that culminated with an appearance in the state championship game last spring.

“(High school sports) bring communities together,” Boss said. “Sports give the basics for life after school. You have to organize your time, work hard in the classroom, and train to be good in a sport.

“I hope some recognition will make kids work even harder.”