They’ve got skills on the court and classrooms

NORTH END — Throughout the year his grades often dip into the not-passing status.

But when wintertime arrives his performance in the classroom, and therefore the grade book, dramatically spikes.

Quanah Turrieta, a 16-year-old sophomore at Kingston High, loves to wrestle. An F in the books means he can’t wrestle or compete.

“All through school I usually have bad grades, but when wrestling comes around I pick them up because it’s what I love to do,” Turrieta said. “I start off with all F’s and a very low passing percentage and I bring them up to almost B’s and C’s. I need a 3.2 GPA (to be eligible.)”

Turrieta is currently taking American history, social studies, algebra, biology and English 10.

Hunter Jones, a 14-year-old freshman basketball player at KHS, experiences a similar improvement in the books so he can keep doing what he loves on the courts.

Jones said he had about a 4 percent completion rate in his classes last year, but this year to be eligible for basketball he’s pulled his academic performance up to B’s, “instead of F’s.”

“I do good in the classroom so I can play sports,” Jones said. “It’s motivation. I stay busy and out of trouble and direct my time toward more positive things.”

Jones is currently taking physical education, Spanish, algebra, world history, English and physical science.

When asked how their lives might change if sports weren’t an option at high school both Turrieta and Jones said their grades would be horrible.

Turrieta and Jones are just two of several North Kitsap School District students who reap the benefit of athletics heeding academic success.

Of KHS’ 200 fall athletes 80 were honored as Olympic League Scholar Athletes. Athletic Director Dan Novick said the average GPA for fall athletes was 3.156 compared with the entire student body’s average of 2.744.

“We also know that our athletes have better attendance records than their peers,” Novick said.

At North Kitsap High the numbers are similar. According to information provided by Viking Athletic Director John Waller, 29 percent of the 291 fall sport athletes have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Athletics and academic success aside, NKSD’s student athletes are off-the-hook impressive.

These hardcore organizers have learned and nailed the concepts of discipline, time management, sacrifice, health and the awesomeness of setting a goal and rocking it to realize that ambition.

Several of the players have dabbled in sports since they learned to walk. It’s shaped their lifestyles and attitudes.

These athletes deserve more than their 15-minutes of fame gained during an athletic season.

Nikki Taplin, a 16-year-old junior Viking basketball star, Associated Student Body treasurer, Interact member, athletic medicine program trainer, rocks a GPA of 3.9.

Her class list: advanced placement biology, math analysis (pre calculus), American sing language II, English 11, U.S history and athletic training medicine III.

Her schedule: Monday and Friday she’s up at 6 a.m. and out the door to attend a 7:15 a.m. ASB meeting. Tuesdays see an Interact meeting at 7:15 a.m. and Wednesdays and Thursdays she sleeps in till 6:30 a.m. School starts at 8 a.m, and Taplin’s in class till 2:30 p.m. After school if basketball practice starts late she jets home to grab a snack and cram in a little study time. Then it’s two hours of practice and 45 minutes in the weight room. She gets to bed around 11 p.m., depending on her homework of course. Over the weekend she chills and tries to get a jump start on the week ahead.

Taplin also belongs to a select basketball team, so during school ball she sometimes has stacked practices and plays year round, including the summer.

This busy girl experiences huge paybacks for her commitments.

“I like the intensity and having something you can work for and seeing how far you can go. If I don’t do well in school I can’t play sports, they go hand-in-hand. Both push me to work harder,” Taplin said. “Sports make me happy, they put me in a good mood. It’s an indescribable feeling of adrenaline. It sets me off.”

When this star graduates she’ll turn her focus entirely to the classroom and hopes to pursue athletic medicine in her studies.

Fellow Viking hotshot senior Brad DeShano, 17, finesses the gridiron as a running and line back, and also practices tae kwon do year round. DeShano has a 3.9 GPA in his classes; English 12, pottery, advanced placement calculus, German III, current world issues and anatomy and physiology. He hopes to be an engineer of some sort.

His schedule is just as demanding as Taplin’s; early mornings, hours of practice, hitting the books in between, games almost every weekend and refueling on the weekends.

Being an athlete is a part time job of some 20 hours per week, but this job’s payment far exceeds a twice monthly check.

“I want to keep improving and being better at sports and that makes me want to improve other parts of my life like academics,” DeShano said. “Sports adds to that. I do more on my own and it’s the same thing for academics – I want to get a 100 percent on that test or presentation.”

Senior Alex Van Deen and junior Dana Van Wyck are both three sport athletes at KHS. Both said sports keeps them busy, focused and free of laziness. Both have GPA’s of 3.9 or higher and finagle part-time job schedules while being full time students.

“Usually when I get home I’m lazy and don’t want to do homework but with sports I do it because I have a reason to,” Van Wyck said. “Sports instills in me a drive to always do better and try new things.”