It’s not every day that a high school athlete answers a reporter’s question by quoting Aristotle.
But it figures the question had to do with academic excellence.
Cardinal Newman High School senior Trevin Anderson-Soria cited the Greek philosopher when asked about Newman’s being awarded the Elmer Brown Excellence Award.
“As Aristotle said, excellence is a habit, not just one act,” Anderson-Soria said. “I think excelling in not just athletics but academics speaks volumes for our school.”
The Elmer Brown award, named after a Santa Rosa High alum who spent the better part of five decades working with athletes and students and student-athletes through various posts with the North Coast Section, has been in existence since 2007. Mission San Jose has won it three times, Monte Vista twice and Marin Academy and Dougherty Valley once a piece.
This is the first time a team from Sonoma County has won.
A quick reminder: There are 176 schools in the North Coast Section. Only one school can win this one. Schools get points for how they far in the North Coast Section tournament for all sports. They also get points for team grade point averages.
Conspiracy theorists may wonder how the scoring works, like say 10 points for a championship banner and one point for a decent GPA?
North Coast Section commissioner Gil Lemmon points to Newman’s spring lineup.
“There are no points in sports, but they earned 11 scholarship points for girls and 24 for boys, so clearly there is a weight toward academics,” he said.
“You can win an academic pennant even if your team loses,” Lemmon said.‘
And it doesn’t always turn out that way. Some squads, some kids have brains and brawn.
Take, for example, the boys basketball team. Remember? The squad that won the North Bay League and made a playoff run all the way to the NorCal region semifinal game. Those guys also produced a team average GPA of 3.39 — tops among Division 4 schools.
Other teams that posted the best GPAs in their sport and in their division? Boys water polo, boys swimming, boys golf, as well as girls lacrosse and girls track. Each of those teams earned a gray pennant that hangs in the Newman gym, principal Graham Rutherford said.
The basketball team has won the GPA pennant in five of the past six years.
“Is it a priority? It’s beyond a priority,” longtime Newman boys basketball coach Tom Bonfigli said. “I tell them the gray pennant is more important than the blue pennant, the sectional pennant, and the league pennant.”
But the banner for top school among all 176 NCS campuses?
“That is a crown jewel of all awards a high school can win,” Bonfigli said.
“You talk about a distinguished high school. How distinguished is that?”
Except for a very few outliers, strong academic performance is built at least in part on organization and discipline — two things that most coaches value in an athlete.
Being an athlete and a student athlete complement each other.
Among all of the positives being a part of an athletic team, time management is at the top of the list for Christina Messer, a teacher and swim coach at Newman. “It’s honestly a really good thing,” she said. “You have to find time to get your homework done before you are too tired to do it.”