Things like varsity letters, scholarships and grades are the usual method for getting a read on a high school student.
And, make no mistake about it, Kenai Central High School senior Heather McIntyre stacks up in all those areas. McIntyre is a captain of both the volleyball and soccer teams this year and carries a 4.0 grade-point average at Kenai.
But to say those things define her as a person would be selling her short.
"It's just as important to understand her as someone with an empathetic, understanding and generous heart," said McIntyre's father, Dr. Tim McIntyre.
Is a captain for the Kenai Central volleyball team.
Will be a captain for the Kenai Central soccer team this spring.
Carries a 4.0 grade point average.
Is president of the National Honors Society.
Is the student body treasurer at Kenai Central.
Has been active with Kenais choir in her four years at the school.
When Heather was a child, Dr. Tim and Sandy McIntyre had a bunch of livestock and Heather, the "duck daughter and chicken child," received the task of taking care of the ducks and chickens.
"She became attached to them," Dr. Tim said. "When it came time to rotate the chores, she didn't want to give those up.
"One day we found out that she had every one of the 40 chickens named and could tell me something about each and every one of them. She's a real special kid."
And that caring attribute doesn't stop with animals.
"We've had parents of other kids at high school who don't know us, come up to us and ask if we were Heather or (Heather's sister) Rachelle's parents," Dr. Tim said. "They'll say their kids told them that our daughters are the nicest kids they've ever met.
"That makes you feel like, 'Gee, we did our job.'"
It's not only high school friends on which McIntyre makes an impression. This summer, she worked as a waitress at Wings Cafe in the Kenai Municipal Airport.
One day McIntyre waited on a patron who was serving time in a juvenile correction center.
"I treated him just like I would anybody else," McIntyre said. "He ended up giving me a $30 tip.
"That made me cry."
McIntyre has always been one to follow that caring heart her father referred to, and that's actually what brought her to Kenai Central as a freshman. Before McIntyre's freshman year, her family relocated to the central Kenai Peninsula from Buffalo, Wyo.
"When we moved here we were choosing between schools," McIntyre said. "Red is my favorite color, and the cardinal is my favorite bird. It was a sign that I had to go to Kenai."
The decision turned out to be a good one because McIntyre has excelled at academics and athletics at Kenai.
In academics, she has joined her two sisters, Rachelle McIntyre and Rebecca Bleeker, in posting 4.0s in high school. Rachelle graduated from Kenai in 2002, while Bleeker graduated in Wyoming in 1999.
"Education is extra important in our family," Dr. Tim said. "We've always told the girls we expect them to do their best.
"By the same token, we've believed they are capable of 4.0s. So far, that's proven true."
At KCHS, McIntyre has been involved in the choir all four years, is the president of the National Honors Society and is the student body treasurer.
McIntyre's skill in math and science won her a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but she will pass up on that opportunity and attend the University of Alaska Anchorage on scholarship instead. She said she would like to study to be a gym teacher.
"I just hear so many people saying, 'I don't want to go to work today,'" McIntyre said. "I don't want to be one of those people who has a job they don't like."
McIntyre has enjoyed her time in athletics at KCHS.
Kenai volleyball coach Jason Diorec helped coach McIntyre when she was a freshman and sophomore, and said her passion for the game was evident.
"She was just a typical, enthusiastic 14-year-old," Diorec said. "She was like a sponge soaking up everything she could about volleyball."
This season is Diorec's first as varsity volleyball coach. He has instituted an endurance and plyometric conditioning program. McIntyre, whose parents have had her doing physical conditioning since the fifth grade, likes the program so much she will stay with it after the season to get ready for soccer.
"I've always been strong at passing and serving, but hitting had been my weakest point," McIntyre said. "I'm hitting a lot better this year because I've increased my vertical leap by 2 inches."
Kenai soccer coach Dan Verkuilen has been equally impressed with McIntyre.
"She's a superambitious kid who wanted to learn everything kind of fast," Verkuilen said. "This year, she's one of the team captains because she just has that attitude where she's optimistic about everything.
"She's one of those kids that lifts you up."
So what's McIntyre's secret? She might argue for superstition. She wears a black armband on her left arm during soccer and volleyball for luck. On the night before games, McIntyre also will sleep with the type of ball that is to be put in play the next day.
"I'm just really superstitious," McIntyre said. "I try not to get carried away with it, but sometimes I do."
Verkuilen just sees those superstitions as a symptom of the enthusiasm that has made McIntyre so successful.
"That's part of the fun of high school sports," Verkuilen said. "The kids do get excited, and the excitement doesn't become routine.
"Her heart, her energy and her ability to learn are definitely her strong points."
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