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2016 wharf to wharf

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6 WHARF TO WHARF SATURDAY | JULY 23, 2016 SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL SANTA J ohn Ross remembers one day in early May when he thought his mind would melt. He had to take three international baccalaureate tests back to back to back, for a total of more than six hours of essays and exams. "I had practice right after," recalled Ross, a distance runner at Scotts Valley High. "I got out and was like, 'OK coach, let's go run.'" Erika Malaspina had a similar experience. She remembers spending an entire morning taking SAT tests, then jumping in the car and driving straight to a track meet. "I think that's the day I actually ended up breaking the county record," the Pacific Collegiate School pole vaulter said. If Ross and Malaspina make juggling athletics and academics look easy, rest assured it hasn't been. Yet their abilities to excel at both deserves recognition, according to the Wharf to Wharf scholarship committee, which recently named them its Howard Marcus Memorial Scholarship winners. In addition, the committee honored Aptos' Matti Peoples and San Lorenzo Valley's Sam Schubert with its Otis Chandler Memorial scholarships. The Howard Marcus Scholarship — named for a longtime member of the Wharf to Wharf organizing committee — has been awarded to one male and one female track and field or cross country athlete since 1989. Recipients are gifted $3,000 per year for up to four years of collegiate athletic participation. Otis Chandler scholarships, meanwhile, are good for $3,000 a year for up to two years. "I definitely lucked into it," Ross said. "It's really cool, especially for high school runners like myself." Luck had little to do with it. Ross churned out both a mind-boggling 4.71 grade-point average and a Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title in the 3,200 meters. He also finished second to teammate Luke McCartney at the SCCAL cross country championship. Last year, Ross helped Scotts Valley become the county's first boys cross country team to place at state, when he finished ninth and the team took third in Division IV. "My all-time favorite moment is the cross country state meet of my junior year. I think back to that moment quite a bit whenever I'm looking for motivation, something to strive for," Ross said. "Every athlete searches for a certain moment when everything comes together, where your body is working perfectly and nothing can stop you." Ross said he hopes to find that feeling again at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, where he plans to study civil engineering and will try to walk on to the cross country team. Malaspina, like Ross, has become a master of fitting in studying and practicing wherever they will fit in her busy schedule. As a result, she graduated PCS having never earned a "B," leaving a trail of fallen pole vault records behind her. She initially broke the county record held by former teammate Nicole Trenchard in March, after her SAT test. Since then, she has snapped her own mark several times, topping out at 13 feet, 9 inches to win the Central Coast Section title in what was not only a section record, but also the third-best performance all-time in California. She went on to take second at the state meet and recently placed third in the USA Track and Field U20 Junior Nationals. Both were held in close to 110-degree heat at Buchanan High in Clovis. "It's hard," the Stanford-bound Malaspina said of the athletic/academic balancing act. "You do not get a lot of sleep, necessarily. Some days I have to leave early from practice. As much as I want to be at the track, I can't always be there. I have to be studying." Usually, though, one helps the other: sports provide some stress-relief for burned-out brains, while brains can give a tactical advantage in competition. That's a lesson Peoples and Schubert have also learned. The UC Santa Barbara-bound Peoples won back-to-back CCS D-III cross country titles her junior and senior year while accumulating a 4.111 GPA. Schubert, meanwhile, won the SCCAL and CCS titles and placed sixth in state in the 110 high hurdles this season. He will compete next season for Cal State Fullerton. In addition to the scholarships, the committee that puts on the Wharf to Wharf has also been helping resurface local all-weather tracks and contributing to youth and community athletics programs with proceeds generated by the popular six-mile road race between Santa Cruz and Capitola. "While the annual race is obviously the most visible aspect of what we do, our goal is to promote running as a path to health and fitness," Wharf to Wharf Race board president Ken Thomas said in a statement. "To do that, we and our sponsors contribute more than $250,000 a year for youth projects and programs and scholarships as well." This year's race is scheduled for July 24. Ross, for one, can't wait. "I'm starting to get ramped up," he said, noting he took some time off to, ironically, get his wisdom teeth pulled after the end of track season. "I just got my bib in the mail. I'm definitely stoked." Wharf to Wharf Scholarships: MALASPINA, ROSS BRIM WITH BRAINS AND BRAWN by Julie Jag, Santa Cruz Sentinel "every athlete searches for a certain moment when everything comes together, where Your body is working perfectly and nothing can stop you." – JOHN ROSS, SCOTTS VALLEY HIGH DISTANCE RUNNER

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