Student's track record takes him to National Merit Finalist status

Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
Christian Cimaglia is presented a Certificate of Merit from Frankfort principal Orie Pancione in recognition of being named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

SHORT GAP - Frankfort senior Christian Cimaglia is an incredibly accomplished young man. In addition to having impeccable grades that will place him at the top of his graduating class, Cimaglia is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and an accomplished student-athlete who played a major role on Frankfort’s state championship-winning cross country team.  

As Billy Mays would say, “But wait, there’s more.” It turns out that in Christian Cimaglia’s case, it’s a very, very big “more.” Last month, Frankfort principal Orie Pancione was notified that Cimaglia has been named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

To understand how impressive this is, you must first understand the process. In brief, this is how it works. Each year, 1.5 million students who meet published program entry and participation requirements enter the program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

From the original 1.5 million applicants, the pool is whittled down to the top 50,000 scoring students who are recognized as Commended Students or Semifinalists. Of that 50,000 students, 34,000 receive Letters of Commendation in recognition of their outstanding academic promise. The top 16,000 are named as Semifinalists.

The final step is to designate the top 15,000 as finalists.  High school principals are notified and given a Certificate of Merit to present to their finalists. This is where Christian Cimaglia currently finds himself.

Based on the fact that he had done so well on previously administered standardized tests, Cimaglia was confident that he could do well in the National Merit Scholarship Program. So well, in fact, that advancing as far as possible was a specific goal of his.

“Going in, I definitely knew that I had a shot at doing pretty well. During the test, especially in the math section, I knew I was doing very well there. English has always been a toss-up, that’s always been my least consistent area in standardized tests. But, I knew I had a pretty good chance at scoring high, although I didn’t think I would get quite as high as I got,” Cimaglia explained.

According to Cimaglia, “The PSAT score is what gets you into the initial pool. I knew as early as the spring of 2019 that I would be in the running for it. It was a goal. I knew that I had a really good chance at it and I am very grateful that I got a chance to take the SAT this year.”

So just how well did Cimaglia perform on the test? Well, for starters, he had a PERFECT SCORE in the math section. His English score was high enough also that the combined total  was enough to earn his standing as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

Cimaglia attended Calvary Christian Academy from the first through seventh grades. In the eighth grade, he transitioned to Frankfort Middle School and has spent the last four years as a student at Frankfort High School.

Cimaglia is quick to credit Frankfort High School for offering him a quality education.

“Well, I’ve had a myriad of great teachers over the last four years. Some that come to mind, Mr. (Juan) Phillips, Mr. (Kenn) Cowgill and Mrs. (Amy) Cowgill. Especially throughout the pandemic they’ve really helped me out, keeping me on task and giving me a great education,” Cimaglia stated.

According to Christian, “In general, the school is one of the best in West Virginia, academically, so I feel like I’ve had a lot of great opportunities at Frankfort, good teachers and hard AP classes that have helped me.”

Christian Cimaglia is not just a one-trick pony. While his grades and his test scores are certainly very, very impressive, through his successful participation in a wide array of extracurricular activities, Cimaglia is a well-rounded, accomplished individual.  

“My biggest hobby/extra-curricular activity is definitely cross country and track. We train year-round for it, every day, well, six days a week. I’ve done three years of cross country and this will be my second year of track since last year was cancelled. I also take Tae Kwon Do at KickMasters; I’ve been doing that for a decade now and I am a black belt,” Christian detailed.

According to Cimaglia, “I’ve also been doing robotics for a very long time. It’s something I’ve been heavily invested in all through high school.”

With respect to cross country, Cimaglia counts his senior season, capped off by his team winning the class AA state championship, as a favorite high school memory.

“The season, as a whole, was very stressful obviously. With the pandemic, we had no clue whether we would have a season, and once it started, whether we would be able to finish. So even just getting to the state championship was a relief, even though we would shortly find out that Garrett (Ferguson) couldn’t run,” Cimaglia detailed.

According to Cimaglia, “It was a big roller coaster the whole way out, so whenever we finally did win it, it was not only a huge relief, but a big accomplishment, getting something we worked so hard for, some of us for three-plus years.”

To claim the victory, especially without their No. 1 runner, the Frankfort team had to run the race of their lives. Collectively, they did. Individually, Cimaglia did as well. “I was predicted to finish in 33rd place and ended up finishing in 18th,” he said.

At the moment, Cimaglia is strongly leaning toward West Virginia Wesleyan College as his college of choice, and will likely make that official in the coming weeks. There, he will most likely major in computer science, a major in which math is a huge component. Cimaglia also plans to run for the West Virginia Wesleyan cross country team.

“I am super excited about it. Running in high school has been a lot of fun, especially this past year winning a state championship. It will be interesting to see what I can do at the college level, I’ll be running with some of my friends, Anthony Sanders and Evan Pyles, both from Frankfort,” Christian explained.

Whatever he does, wherever he goes, Christian Cimaglia’s track record of accomplishments is a major predictor of him continuing his winning ways. He has proven himself as a successful student athlete. He has also proven himself as an elite academic mind.