Division I Commits: Achievement On and Off the Field

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MC is known as a breeding-ground for top-notch athletes in every sport, and many of our graduates go on to play at world-class universities. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the Division I recruiting process can be complicated, and can push athletes to excel not just on the field, but in the classroom as well. We at The Roar spoke with seniors Nick Gernhard (football), Sean O’Keefe (lacrosse), and Cali Raukar (swimming) about their goals for their athletic careers, the college recruiting process, and what they’ve gained from playing sports at MC. All will be competing next year at highly-selective Division I universities.

Every dreamer has gotta start somewhere. We learned that senior Gernhard, one of the best linebackers in the county and an Air Force Academy Commit, began playing at age ten for San Marin Pop Warner program. Likewise, O’Keefe and Raukar started young too. Raukar told us she moved to California when she was seven and started swim lessons because she wanted to learn how to surf, and O’Keefe said his lacrosse career of nine years was launched when his neighbor told him to try a camp and he instantly fell in love with the sport. O’Keefe is now a Georgetown commit, and Raukar is a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) commit and hoping to make the Olympic cut for Rio 2016.

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Each athlete shared a different story about their recruiting process and why they picked their respective schools. Gernhard will be attending Air Force Academy in 2017, which is definitely not the average college experience because of the added aspect of the military. “I have always wanted to serve and this is a way for me to do that while going to a top college … and still being able to play football,” Gernhard said. He continued by saying he connected with Air Force through a rep that visited MC in his junior year, and verbally committed after an unofficial visit to the campus over the summer.

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Raukar’s recruiting process began at the end of her sophomore year. Already on the radar of many top-tier universities, she fielded phone calls and emails from different schools, and ultimately picked the first college to send her a letter: UCLA. “I chose [UCLA] because I felt like I fit in well with the team and I love the coaching staff.” She added that she loved the idea of staying in the California sunshine, something O’Keefe will be missing when he moves to Washington, D. C. next year to play lacrosse for Georgetown.

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O’Keefe said of his recruiting journey, “My [lacrosse] club coaches told me which colleges were interested me and gave me their phone numbers. Because I was a freshman at the time they could not contact me first, so I had to call them and communicate that way. It was a fairly simple process in that regard.” He stated that the school’s beautiful campus, competitive academics, and excellent coaching staff were major draws for him. “I wanted to go to a school that was well rounded socially, academically, and athletically and Georgetown does that perfectly for me.” O’Keefe also pointed out that he is looking forward to having a degree from a university that will help him in life even after he steps off the lacrosse field.

The Roar also explored how Division I academics can effect their committed high schoolers’ approaches to school. Gernhard, Raukar, and O’Keefe all said that just because they are committed does not mean they get to slack off academically and focus exclusively on sports. Instead, they want to keep their grades high and prove to their schools how dedicated they are in every part of their lives. “I want to be prepared when I step on campus,” O’Keefe stated. “But no matter if I was committed or not, I would still work hard in school because everyone should.”

Division I athletics puts a unique kind of pressure on its athletes, and only students who are truly passionate about their sport should commit. College athletes have rigorous practice schedules and often travel for competitions, unlike regular students who might be able to allocate more time  to their studies without the responsibilities that come with being a student-athlete. But MC’s commits are prepared to take on the challenge. “D1 athletics are a huge commitment and are definitely different from the average college experience; however, I look forward to experiencing that [type of college experience],” said Gernhard. “I think that many college athletes have normal college lives that just tend to be more structured and involve extremely competitive athletics. That being said, it is not for everyone.”

An advantage of being a student-athlete is that commits often have access to some of the best resources and teachers in the country. Raukar said she can’t wait to study what she wants at UCLA, and O’Keefe mentioned he is excited to start his life and own career in the coming years. Both Raukar and O’Keefe identified that another one of the advantages of being a college-athlete is immediately having a group of teammates on campus to make memories with. “I can’t wait to know 45 guys right when I walk on campus …”, O’Keefe said. The Roar drew comparisons to what these athletes have already found here, at MC. “Being on a team with a bunch of great guys and playing a sport that we love – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” finished Gernhard.

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