Each sporting season, the NIAA names a State Academic Champion for each classification in each sport. The winner is decided based on the average of the previous semester’s GPAs of all the varsity student-athletes from a team. After all the grades were tallied, the Reed baseball team was named the State Academic Champion in the 4A.
NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson stressed the significance of the Raider nine’s achievement.
“Really athletics are an extension of the classroom, so these academic state championships are just as important, if not maybe even more so than the athletic championships,” Nelson said. “Everybody involved in high school athletics always stresses to our student-athletes that they are just that. They are students first and then athletes, so to be named a State Academic Champion is quite an honor and accomplishment.”
The feat resonated with the educators at RHS.
“I think it speaks to the commitment of the student-athletes,” Reed Principal Mary Vesco said. “There is no question of that. These are dedicated young men not only to the sport of baseball but to their academics. They have learned over the years to prioritize. They know that they have a busy practice schedule and game schedule and sometimes they don’t get home until 9 or 10 at night, but they’re using their time wisely so they can get the academic credit that they need. They work very hard at what they are doing in school and on the field.”
Raiders’ Athletic Director Ron Coombs echoed the sentiments of Vesco.
“This group of kids, particularly our senior class that includes 14 seniors, and even the younger kids on the team, it kind of blows you away when you look at their GPA,” Coombs said. “It’s not that these kids are taking regular classes. Most of our kids are taking AP courses across the board. So they’re not only excelling, but they are excelling in the most difficult courses we offer at the school. To achieve that is phenomenal.
“I think it’s one of the most difficult things to do as an athletic program, is to win an academic state championship. You can have a couple of kids with 4.0s on your team that build it up, but we have a collection of kids that all work as hard in the classroom as they do on the field. That’s something that makes you feel proud. It’s a huge accomplishment. It really is. It’s a great group of kids. We really feel like our baseball program is back on the right track and this group deserves a lot of that credit and a lot of that praise. We couldn’t be prouder.”
While both Coombs and Vesco were delighted with the team award, the academic championship left Reed baseball coach Ray Charles searching for words.
“I can’t explain how proud I am,” Charles said. “This group and these seniors have been through a lot with the hazing situation a couple years ago and then to end with my situation. For them to just strive through and work hard on the field and off in the classroom, taking care of what they need to do, I can’t explain how proud I am. It is totally their effort. I can’t tell you how excited I am for them and the program.
“For them to receive that award is outstanding. Their desire to compete on the field as well as compete in the classroom was just tremendous. I’m very pleased with their effort. I’m kind of shell shocked with the amount of kids we keep on our team compared to everybody else. I think there’s probably over 40 4A baseball teams in the three leagues, so it’s quite an achievement. I’m pretty proud of them. It just goes to show that they’re going to achieve when they get to college. They are the epitome of true student-athletes. Reed High School should be very proud. I know all the coaches are very happy and I personally am super pleased with that honor for them.”