by Brad Zanetti
The Empire Runners Club has a long-standing commitment to providing scholarships to deserving student athletes of Sonoma County making the transition from high school to college. Made possible by dues and contributions from our members, we are giving our 4 recipients a total of $2250 in scholarship awards this year. All club members should be proud of the part they play in this most wonderful of traditions through generous donations.
This year’s group of SGF recipients have lived through a historically trying 4 years. If it wasn’t being impacted by fires in our own backyard with destruction of homes, lives and livelihoods then it was weeks of extremely poor AQI due to smoke from fires up to hundreds of miles away. Then 2020 showed up with a worldwide plague the likes we have not experienced before. Our SGF group now had to deal with masks, staying at home minimizing contact with friends and online zoom school due to Covid.
Even the shortened XC and Track seasons, which happened only through an immense amount of work by the administrators, ADs and Coaches to comply with Public Health standards, were less than satisfying for our athletes. (A great big thank you to all of those that worked to make even a shortened season a reality). So, to say there was ever a ‘normal’ season for our athletes would be a gross understatement. Yet our 4 SGF recipients did indeed persevere and achieve, with one of them running top times in the 800,1600 and 3200 setting school records at all 3 distances.
Our first SGF recipient ran track all 4 years at Santa Rosa HS and XC 3 years. She had excellent times in the 100m, 200m and 400m as well was a top performer and anchor for the 4x100m relay. During her sophomore year her relay team ran the second fastest time in SRHS track and field history. One of her best memories was participating as a freshman at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational. Her future track goals are to continue running track in College.
Her coaches have stated that she wasn’t only a great athlete but also a great teammate who helped improve other runners’ success and experiences. Her dream is to go to a University and get her bachelor’s degree in Nursing. She was accepted to her dream college, USF and will start there in the Fall.
Our first recipient of the Empire Runner SGF Scholarship is Santa Rosa High School’s Anastasia Wong.
Our second SGF recipient was a busy man at Casa Grande HS. He ran XC 3 years and Track all 4 years while maintaining an unweighted GPA of 3.70 and filled his spare time with the Tech Club and Science Olympiad as well as working and volunteering (Salvation Army Food Drive, Una Vida, 3D Hope and Adobe Christian Church.
Highlights of his XC exploits include a Spring Lake Course best of 16:21, 3rd Team All-Empire in 2019 and a trip to the State HS XC Championships where he finished 3rd for Casa Grande in 16:51 for the full 5K. He was also All-League and XC team MVP. On the track he had a best of 10:13 in the 3200 and was an NCS Scholar Runner 7 times.
Our second SGF recipient will continue running in college and is currently running with the Bearcubs of SRJC.
We are proud to congratulate the former Gaucho Luke Baird upon receiving this scholarship.
Our third recipient ran track all four years at Montgomery HS. He started out as a Jake of all trades for the track team, running both hurdles, the long jump and the sprints. His true love was the sprints however and he continued in the 100m, 200m, long jump and added the 4x100m relay. His natural ability and hard work garnered him the top sprinter at Monty in sophomore year. He has had more than his share difficulties since the pandemic but kept at it and finished his senior season with FAT PRs of 11.49 in the 100m and 23.66 in the 200m, with his 4×100 relay best time 46.09.
His plan is to continue his running exploits to SRJC this year and hopes to improve all of his times and then transfer to a 4-year college and major in computer science. We all wish the best of fortune for our 3rd recipient of a scholarship, the former Viking and current Bearcub, Jake Maltby.
Our 4th and final SGF recipient not only was a 4-year Varsity XC/Track and Field veteran but also played basketball for 3 years. After his sophomore season his goals included a plan to run in college at the Division 1 level and adjusted his life (mileage, nutrition and sleep) accordingly.
His plan and hard work have paid off with multiple MVP, All league and All Empire awards in both XC and Track. In his senior year facing a limited XC and Track schedule locally, he signed up for 3 events in Arizona and Texas and travelled there for the necessary competition. Long story short this SGF recipient achieved school records in the 800m (1:55.14), 1600m (4:15.63), 3200m (9:25.83) and 5K (15:40). He also ran open 400m and was a member of the 4x400m Relay and has a 15:40 PR on the Spring Lake Course in XC.
Space doesn’t permit all of the team awards to be presented but I am guessing one of his favorite awards is the Sarah Sumpter Award for Biggest Heart and Team Captain. His athletic achievements were matched by his scholastic career with a 3.85 non-weighted GPA, Class Rank of #5 and 8-time NCS Scholar award winner. All of these achievements happened while he maintained a job at Healdsburg RC, interned at the Healdsburg FD and volunteered at CarePortal, Mexico Mission Trip (First Presbyterian Church) and Healdsburg Shared Ministries.
Even though his goal was to run NCAA D1 in college he has found a collegiate home in Santa Barbara at NAIA Westmont College. This former Greyhound from Healdsburg HS has become a Westmont Warrior.
Congratulations Jack Vanden Heuvel.