As seniors rush to apply for scholarships, complete college applications, and take their final standardized tests, a few students add yet another element to their college search: athletics. Some seniors look to continue their sports in college, leading their teams in the pool, on the field, and around the track in high school.
The college recruitment process often begins long before senior year, though it varies between sports.
Student-athletes have to juggle NCAA recruiting rules, abiding by their requirements by respecting certain periods where contact with coaches is allowed. When such conversations are appropriate, they then have to stay in communication, proactively demonstrating their interest.
Senior Olivia Sergeant decided to look into collegiate water polo after a conversation with her coach last year towards the end of the high school season. She took the initiative to communicate with some of the universities she is interested in, including Brown and George Washington.
“Some of them reached out to me but a lot of the times I would have to reach out to them just because a lot of the schools I’m looking at are on the east coast,” said Sergeant. “They are pretty busy coaching both boys and girls programs.”
The commitment to a Division I school for athletics is intense, however Sergeant values the consistency her sports practices have given her and the discipline they have taught.
“I think it will be hard but whenever it’s the offseason I feel like I’m not as focused as I am when I’m in season,” said Sergeant. “I know how to manage my time [in season] and it’s easier for me to stay on track.”
She plans to let her pursuit of playing water polo drive her college decisions.
While Sergeant competes in varsity water polo and swim, staying in the water, Savion Ponce takes on three different sports: baseball, football, and track.
Ponce represents a well-rounded athlete, adapting to many positions in football, including slot receiver, and controlling centerfield in the spring for baseball. He is being recruited for both sports, a rare accomplishment.
“My work ethic is really good,” said Ponce. “I put a lot of time into it because I obviously enjoy doing it.”
Thanks to the help of football coach Sammie Stroughter and his trainer at GameFit Lem Adams, Ponce has been recognized by multiple schools for his skills.
Sacramento State, Idaho and UC Davis have reached out for football. Baseball also looks promising as Ponce has heard from recruiters at San Francisco State and even the professional franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I think what really put me on the map to get recruited was when I went to Nike Combine,” said Ponce.
After taking the Nike SPARQ Combine, Ponce attracted attention from his score of 106, a score similar to the average NFL player. In addition, he is third in the nation in kick return yards, averaging 43.5 yards per return.
With impressive statistics and the help of his mentors, Ponce hopes to continue playing the sports that he loves after high school.
Ponce’s teammate in the spring, Mateo Lake, also looks to continue baseball in college.
“A lot of it is just emailing all of the recruiting coordinators, talking to coaches and going to camps, expressing your interest in the schools,” said Lake.
Lake is currently talking to Sacramento State, Cal State East Bay, San Francisco State and hopefully Boise State soon.
“I want to continue to play because I love baseball,” said Lake. “That’s kind of a way I see myself getting into college.”
Some athletes depend on college showcases and camps, including baseball and soccer, but runners, who put forth straight forward times take a slightly different route.
Senior Sophia Karperos plans on running both cross country and track in college. Many universities post “walk-on standards,” which a certain marks they would like high school athletes to have to be considered for a spot on the team.
Karperos leads the cross country team, often training with the varsity boys, and her hard work has paid off in the form of official visits.
“So far, I’ve done officials at Northwestern, UC San Diego and Yale,” said Karperos. “I also have an official to UC Santa Barbara in January.”
Official visits are a way for prospective athletes to get to know the program and, likewise, for coaches to get to know the athlete over an extended period of time. Typically coaches check with the members of the team before making their offer, as they want the best fit for their program.
Karperos could not imagine a life without running, which she sees as a lifestyle.
“College running is an opportunity to move my running to the next level and to connect with other people who, like me, are dedicated and committed to the sport and to their education.”
Athletics offer many students of Rio unique paths to college, where they can be surrounded by individuals who work as hard and love athletics just as much as them.