By: Cassidy Van Vooren
The clock is ticking, the miles are being crossed, and there’s nothing stopping this runner from crossing that finish line to thunderous applause. The pressure is on and the match is set, the stakes have escalated and there’s no one in the way to stop this Libero from insuring her team’s victory. Though they don’t even know each other, these two girls may be more alike than they could even know.
The spotlight has fallen on two fellow freshmen athletes, Natalie Hernandez and Haley Saba. Both of whom were members of their sport’s varsity team, and are tearing it up! They both have had explosive seasons, in their teams and on their own. Natalie Hernandez runs hard for Samueli Academy’s Cross Country Varsity team, with her 3 mile race times nearly all under 19 minutes. Haley Saba plays the Libero position for the Firewolves’ Varsity Volleyball team, which finished its season last Friday after a tough season. These girls’ teams and individual progress are a testament to their hard work and dedication, as well as their athletic ability.
“She has a natural gift to run.” Coach Kalbhenn said enthusiastically. Coach K, has been coaching Cross Country since the team was started. The new member to this year’s team, Natalie, has had a fantastic season thus far. Who has also finished near first in most of the races she’s ran, was talked about by coach.
“It means they’re not missing practice, that they are trying to get better every single day, and the actually willingness to actually be coached,” Coach Kalbhenn disclosed the qualities that he looks for in an athlete. “What makes a good athlete is a humble athlete. One who just may be very talented, but they just act like they are not above or better than anyone else,” Kalbhenn continued, also stating that Natalie is one of those athletes.
“Many people don’t think Cross Country is a team sport… you do have to work as a team in Cross Country,” Moises Marquez, the Boy’s Varsity Cross Country Captain, shed some light on how much Natalie contributes to the team’s standings. “It’s like golf, the lowest points wins, so if I get first, I’ll get 1 point, and she’s always getting first... she’s a great asset to the varsity team.”
Just last Friday, Natalie helped lead her team to take 2nd place in league, as well as take the title of Girl’s Varsity League Champion for herself.
Along with being a Cross Country runner, Natalie enjoys playing basketball and soccer. Her sports career started with soccer when she was a lot younger, and went on to confess that she never actually liked running until two years ago.
Natalie, although fully invested in Cross Country, knows her priorities. “School first, because without the education,” she states, that in the future when colleges investigate your athletic abilities, “first come grades, then the running skills.” When asked why she still did it (run), Natalie replied, ”It’s not all about winning,” she says, like most people think it is, “It’s about having it in your heart, and being proud of what you’ve accomplished.” Also happily adding, “It’s fun!”
Haley Saba plays the Libero position on the Varsity Volleyball team, which is the middle back position that plays mostly defense. Haley, who with her team, ended their season just last week, truly loves the sport that she plays and has been pursuing it for many years.
Although the volleyball team’s tough season had not yielded many victories, the freshmen volleyball player’s positive attitude remained intact. “We haven’t won many games, but it’s still fun,” she said with a smile.
Being a freshmen, and new to the Samueli’s Girl’s Volleyball team, Haley addressed her initial nervousness, how she felt about being the rookie, and how it quickly vanished. “It feels pretty good, everyone's super nice and it’s just a fun team to be on,” she admitted the eve of her last game. Volleyball, like Cross County, is a team sport. This athlete really stresses its importance to the team and the sport specifically. “You have to do your best, personally... if I make a pass it’s not just for me it's for the entire team,” Haley stressed.
“She brought her many years of experience to the team,” Bella Speer, and the team’s DS (Defensive Specialist), talked about what a great experience it was having Haley play for the Firewolves. Both for Haley’s benefit and the team’s. Bella also, being a senior who’s now closed her last season playing volleyball, foresees that Haley, ”will maintain a strong varsity for years to come.”
Although sports, mainly volleyball, are a big part of her life, Haley understands the importance of balancing it with other aspects. “Sports can really distract you from school,” Haley said, going on to say that balance is key, and school has to be the number one priority.
Having both played key parts on their teams, Natalie Hernandez and Haley Saba, Cross Country and Volleyball stars, have put in a lot of hard work into their craft, and it’s safe to say that they have bright futures ahead of them, in athletics and academics, so long as they keep up the outstanding work.
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