Paso Robles girls water polo standout, Tatiana Smeltzer, and Atascadero 3-sport athlete, Cael Cooper, were named CIF-Central Section Scholar Athletes for their accomplishments in the classroom and on their respective playing fields.
“My coach always says, ‘You’re a student-athlete, and the student always comes first,’” Smeltzer said.
The student-athletes won’t get to attend an award banquet but being named a scholar-athlete is an honor the two are grateful for.
"I submitted them so long ago, but so much has happened, even though it wasn't that long ago,” Cooper, who played football, wrestled, and ran track and field for Atascadero, said. “I kind of accepted that I wasn't hearing anything about it, so I was just like, 'Oh well.' But then I got the call and found out. That was so cool."
"It's definitely weird because we already had a potential day on the calendar for going to the banquet. We weren't sure if we were going to go or not, but with all that's going on outside of our house, it's really crazy,” Smeltzer, the all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in steals in Paso Robles girls water polo history, said. “We're finding ways around it, and it's still a really great honor to be able to receive that award, even if it is through the mail."
Just 25 student-athletes in the entire Central Section were chosen: Smeltzer and Cooper made the cut.
“As I started to fill it out and as we started to go deeper in it, I realized, 'Dang. I've done a lot of cool things.’ Even if I don't win, it's kind of cool to be able to reflect on the things I've been able to do,” Cooper said. “I'm very proud that I would be considered as one of the top people. It's really cool."
"Being a scholar-athlete to me – it shows a role model. I always try to be a role model for my younger sibling, or to my cousins,” Smeltzer said. “Especially to my teammates, and to be able to show them that it's possible to do both: You can be the nerdy student and the athlete. It's okay to be both. It gives them hope and something to look forward to with my accomplishments."