Maggie and Caiden

Marlena "Maggie" Sheridan and Caiden Moody both earned semifinalist slots in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

RICHLAND COUNTY -- Two Richland County high school students have been selected as semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

Seniors Marlena “Maggie” Sheridan of Lexington and Caiden Moody of Bellville were among the top candidates in the competition -- just 695 Ohio students qualified.

Semifinalists are selected from the top scorers on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) test. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

Semifinalists have the opportunity to compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million.

“I was very excited. This was something I was hoping to achieve,” Sheridan said. “Just the recognition that I was in the top one percent of test takers -- it shows that I have a very high academic aptitude, I’m very college ready. And the second part is I can now earn a scholarship through this competition.”

Sheridan also received a perfect score on her ACT.

“The test was pretty difficult. The math was especially difficult. I didn’t really have time to answer anything. I had to guess on a few,” she said. “It was very unexpected but I’m happy about it.”

Sheridan plays violin in the Lexington High School Orchestra, Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra and Ohio Music Education Association Regional Youth Orchestra. Her other extracurricular activities include academic challenge, National Honor Society and Leo Club.

Sheridan also volunteers at the Mid Ohio Educational Service Center and as an online tutor, helping upper level students with math.

Her plans for the future aren’t set in stone, but she’s considering a career in either medicine or pharmacy.

Lexington High School Principal Jamie Masi said he’s confident she’ll do well.

“One thing I love about Maggie is her desire to help others,” said Lexington High School Principal Jamie Masi. “She truly understands the meaning of service and is committed to helping others.”

Masi said that over the past 32 years, there has been about 32 national merit semifinalists at Lexington High School.

“Some years we've had multiple students while others we've had none. We are proud of each student that has achieved this level of academic excellence,” he said. “It's pretty awesome when you think about the caliber of academic talent roaming the halls at Lexington.”

Moody is a senior at Clear Fork High School. As soon as he received his PSAT score, Moody began researching scoring percentages. He felt confident that his score would qualify him as a semifinalist, but he was still relieved when he got the official notification.

Moody took the PSAT in part because his father had earned the semifinalist designation in high school.

“I figured I’d try it out,” he said. “I know that’s something that can look good to colleges and there’s even a scholarship opportunity for some semifinalists.”

Moody plays saxophone in the high school marching band. He’s also on the cross country team. In his free time, he enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy. He also participates in Clear Fork High School’s annual spring musicals and volunteers on the tech team at Crossroads Church.

After graduating high school, he plans to attend college and major in neuroscience.

“After that I don’t know exactly what I want to do,” he said. “I’m thinking I’d go to a medical school or graduate school.”

The graduate school path could open up opportunities as a university professor or private industry researcher.

If he chooses medical school, Moody could pursue a job in psychiatry, radiology or neurology. But he’s not interested in brain surgery.

“I don’t think I’m coordinated enough for that,” he said.

Assistant Principal Shawn Ramion said academics are just one reason the school is proud of Moody.

“Obviously he’s a bright kid, but he’s fun to talk with,” Ramion said. “He’s a well-rounded individual, not just with his academics. We’re very proud of him all-around with the type of person he is.”

To become a finalist, Moody and Sheridan must submit a detailed scholarship application that includes their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, honors and awards received. The application also includes an essay and recommendation from the students’ respective schools.

Finalists will be notified in February. Scholarship recipients will be announced in four separate releases from the NMSC beginning in April and concluding in July.

Both Sheridan and Moody are high achieving academics, but it's not the only thing they have in common. 

Both are "multiples" -- Sheridan is a triplet and Moody is a quadruplet. 

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com