2016 Empire Runner Scholarships


Pictured above L to R between ER Board members Peter Kirk and Chris Mason are the 2016 recipients Joshua Palmgren, Joshua Pine, Devan Becker, Travis Claeys, Jacob Hayes, Aimee Holland and Adria Barich.

This year the Empire Runners were proud to present scholarships to seven qualified student athletes. We are lucky to have a rapidly growing Running club (now well over

1,000 strong) and thanks to this growth and the generosity of selected members the club was able to give out $7250 in total scholarships this year. The seven student-athletes had a combined unweighted GPA of 3.67. In addition, most of these recipients took an all honors AP curriculum. But these were not just great individual athletes but also great teammates and team leaders. They spent their spare time performing community service and were members of many school clubs, participating in various activities. The Empire Runners are very proud of these seven extremely gifted all around student-athletes.

Joshua Pine of Montgomery was a four year runner whose freshman year was particularly difficult. Being brand new to running, he worked hard each day but had problems with his fitness. Undeterred, he came back his sophomore year and was greatly improved. It was the summer before his junior year though that he became not only a runner but also very interested in the science of running, including nutrition and hydration, becoming a team leader and taking new runners under his tutelage. He also had his best year in cross-country with a PR of 22 minutes on the Spring Lake course (Spring Lake course). During his senior year his hard work and leadership skills continued to drive him as a team captain for the JV boys and a further improvement of his PR (personal record) on the Spring Lake course, running 20:14 on a particularly hot day at the NBL finals. He also had a 45 sec PR at the HokaOneOne 2 Mile at SRJC.

His teachers and coaches are thankful to get to work with this hardworking, dedicated and responsible young man. We are looking forward to seeing where life takes him as he continues his running and education at SRJC. He plans to volunteer coach for Montgomery high school. With continued work his best running is still ahead of him and he will make a great coach.

Joshua Palmgren of Rincon Valley Christian began his running sojourn his junior year on the track. As with any new sport especially running there were some growing pains initially but he concluded his junior track season on a high note, trained hard all summer and readied himself for cross-country. He worked hard and became a team leader as well as immersing himself in the science and numbers of running. His coaches and teachers were impressed with his leadership and maturity. As good a runner as he has become it might be dwarfed by his scholastic achievements with nearly a 4.0 unweighted GPA and the NCS scholar-athlete award for cross-country. He completed his senior year with a huge PR at league finals in cross-country with an 18:48 on the SLC and another PR on the NCS Meet of Champions 3 mile course in 19:02. He competed in three events at league finals in track (800,1600,3200) and had a huge PR at the Redwood Empire 1A meet with a fine 10:47 in the 3200. In his spare time he managed a number of community service activities and he might fit you with a pair of shoes at his part time job with the Fleet Feet team.

this former Rincon Valley Christian Eagle will matriculate to SRJC and become a member of David Wellman’s Bearcub Track team.

Travis Claeys of Sonoma Valley has travelled all over the west coast and British Columbia on four missions with his church, has volunteered at the Sonoma Ecology Center, spent the summer of 2014 in France as a foreign exchange student and is an Eagle Scout. He is a very good student and an outstanding cross-country and track athlete. He was a baseball player first and came to running his junior year. At the finish of his senior season he became the #2 runner all time for his school on his home course and the SLC. He finished the cross-country season #2 at league finals in a PR 15:48 (SLC). He followed that up with an outstanding 11th place at NCS in 15:56 earning a trip to the State cross-country championships in Fresno. There he finalized a fantastic season with a 16:19 time on a tough 5K course finishing in 66th place out of over two-hundred runners. His track season was more of the same with a fine 9:52 at league finals and a 9:58 at the Redwood Empire meet. He was awarded 1st Team All league and All Empire cross-country his junior and senior years.

His Coach and teachers laud his maturity and leadership on the field and in the classroom and his ability to be a team player. These skills will allow him to go far as he studies environmental science and runs cross-country and track at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Because of his late start in running we feel his best times are still ahead of him.

Amie Holland of Santa Rosa HS came to running from another sport; soccer. After a series of concussions derailed her promising soccer career, this athlete resiliently gave up her sport for another – running, starting on her track team and then becoming a member of the cross-country team. It was obvious to her coaches and teachers and is obvious to anyone who has had the fortune of watching her run or working with her in community service that this ball of energy is indeed very gifted but more importantly she has the intangible of grit, accepting all challenges, testing herself and the ability to give all of herself. Her list of honors and awards both running and academic fills over half a page yet they are dwarfed by her other extracurricular and community activities. She has not only maintained nearly a 3.6 unweighted GPA in an all honors curriculum she also excels in the Art Quest program.

This natural track athlete excelled in the 800 but also ran in both sprint relays. She was the two-time defending NBL 800 meter champion winning this year in 2:17.5, 2nd at the Redwood Empire meet and 8th in the finals of the Meet of Champions with a PR of 2:16.4. She was also this years Viking Track Classic 800 winner. In cross-country her grit and determination was obvious as she sometimes willed herself around the Spring Lake course. She finished 5th overall at the NBL finals with an outstanding PR of 18:51 to finish 1st team All League and honorable mention All Empire cross-country and All Empire 1st Team in track.

This scholar-athlete’s coaches and teachers praise her leadership, her passion and her ability to bring her classmates and teammates with her on her journey of excellence. That is high praise indeed for a young lady whose first year of life was spent in an impoverished orphanage in China. Her goals seem so simple: run to the best of her ability and have fun while doing it and to become a Registered Nurse and make a difference in the world. She will be running and studying at Winona St University in Minnesota.

Jacob Hayes of Piner came to running his freshman year just because his friends did. At that point he had not run before nor had he been on a team. His freshman year he was a middle of the road JV runner until league finals where he finished with a 90 second PR, 17:31 on the Spring Lake course. That race forever changed not only how he thought of himself as a runner but also his position in life. He continued to improve and mature as both a runner, as a teammate and leader; becoming the MVP and team captain in cross-country after junior year. A serious injury curtailed his early season preparation and results this year but after working hard on his physical therapy he came back and helped lead his team to a league championship, a 3rd place finish at NCS and a trip to the state championships in Fresno. Although he had his best times during his junior year (16:25 on the Spring Lake course) his ability to come back from serious injury and support his team is more telling of his true worth as a teammate and leader. His track PRs are 2:08 (800), 4:40 (1600) and 10:22 (3200).

But statistics alone do not tell the true story of this scholar-athlete. He graduated third in his class with a 3.97 unweighted GPA in an all honors course load. He was a CSF member, president of the Math club and Christian club, created lesson plans and taught basic science class for special-needs students and is one of six students working on a level 3 STEM certificate. His STEM research involves analyzing geographic earthquake and city emergency response data which will be presented to the city of Santa Rosa.

A leader, a teammate, a teacher and by his cross-country coaches assessment a great friend, this outstanding student will be taking a gap year with Torchbearers International in Costa Rica and Albania doing mission work prior to matriculating to either Biola, Corban or George Fox Universities where he plans to major in kinesiology and physical therapy.

He will be greatly missed by his coaches, teachers and friends in the Piner Family and he will be welcomed and appreciated at the University of his choice.

Devan Becker of Montgomery began his running career as a self proclaimed mid pack runner in middle school. In a decision he now says is one of his biggest regrets he first came out for cross-country his junior year and NOT his freshman year. But from the start he committed himself to two years to cross-country and in its essence that is his story: dedication, determination and commitment, to give nothing less than his best on a daily basis. If you ask him, he will say he is not physically gifted but that is because his essence of hard work dominates his results. His inner confidence is bolstered by this gift and he shares that gift with teammates as an effective leader and as his coach’s voice on those long workouts.

His two years had an incredible impact as demonstrated by the results – 4 min PR 16:48 on the Spring Lake course, 10:27 2nd in his heat at the Hoka 2-mile Madness, 2015 NBL All league) and by team effect (Coaches Award, Leadership Award, Steve Prefontaine Award. With an unweighted GPA of 3.92 and a top Varsity member of NBL Champion, Montgomery HS Golf team this athlete was his school’s Scholar Athlete of the Year for the Redwood Empire. His teachers laud this young man’s commitment, focus and maturity as well as the respect he garners from his peers. Those skills as well as his incredible personality will serve him well as he continues his education in the math field with a goal of teaching high school math (preferably at Montgomery) and Head cross-country coach. We would not bet against that. This former Montgomery Viking will continue his running and education at SRJC with Coach Wellman.

Adria Barich of Casa Grande has achieved great things both scholastically and athletically since her first day of her freshman year even though, as she says, she joined cross-country on a whim, more as a social event often slowing down during workouts to run with friends. As a freshman this reciStephen-8773pient made it on to the varsity cross-country team that begin a run of four trips to Fresno and the state cross-country championships while in track she was already one of the top 800 runners in the NBL. In her sophomore year there was continued improvement dropping a minute in her Spring Lake course time and a four second improvement in the 800. In fact, in a rarity in female high school distance running, this athlete had significant improvements all four years to become one of the best combination cross-country and 1600 runners in the history of her school and the Empire. Her final cross-country season left her with PRs of: 17:57 on the Spring Lake course (#19 AT), 17:52 at NCS (12th AT), 18:19 at Woodard Park (#17AT-5K) and on the Track 2:21.5 in the 800 and 4:57.9 in the 1600 (#11 AT). She is three times All Empire in cross-country and track, three time Heart & Sole Athlete of the Week and at least half a dozen team awards.

That is impressive indeed but running accomplishments are not the whole story. This young lady has excelled in the classroom with a 3.97 GPA unweighted. Her teachers and coaches remark on this scholar athlete’s ability to set goals, formulate a plan and achieve. They laud her ability to perform the hard work necessary both individually and in a group effort along with her leadership skills. Her maturity is evident as she finds time to give back to the running community that she feels an integral part of; coaching elementary school track, volunteering for local races including Empire Runner events and numerous fundraisers for her school’s all weather track. Our final scholarship recipient’s achievements have landed her a scholarship at the University of Nevada Reno.

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