Academic All-State top-10 fall-season teams in Central Oregon

Football

6A — 1, Summit, 3.5 GPA. 5A — 6, Ridgeview, 3.04. 4A — 9, Crook County, 3.14. 2A — 2, Culver, 3.38.

Volleyball

6A — 7, Summit, 3.73 GPA. 5A — 9, Crook County, 3.64. 1A — 9, Central Christian, 3.7.

Boys soccer

6A — 8, Summit, 3.5 GPA. 5A — 7, Ridgeview, 3.37.

Girls soccer

6A — 7, Bend, 3.81 GPA. 5A — 7, Ridgeview, 3.69.

Boys cross-country

5A — 2, Redmond, 3.92 GPA.

Girls cross-country

6A — 1, Bend, 3.98 GPA. 8, Summit, 3.93. 5A — 4, Redmond, 3.93.

In big-time college sports, the term “student-athlete” can elicit objections from those who claim that those students are there mostly for athletics.

In high school sports, it seems easier to think of the athletes as students first. Still, while following all of these talented and successful athletes, sometimes we need a reminder that, in most cases, success in academics is what will truly shape their future.

The Oregon School Activities Association helps provide that reminder. The governing body for high school athletics in Oregon features an Academic All-State Program, which recognizes teams throughout Oregon that have maintained a combined GPA of at least 3.0 and provides top-10 academic rankings for each sport across all six school classifications.

Central Oregon fall teams were well-represented on those top-10 lists. Some notable placings include Summit football, which was No. 1 in Class 6A with a 3.5 GPA; Bend High girls cross-country, which was tied for No. 1 in 6A with a 3.98 GPA; and Redmond boys cross-country, which was No. 2 in 6A with a 3.92 GPA.

“It’s so easy to focus on the athletic part of it,” says Redmond and Ridgeview athletic director Kevin Bryant. “The sports thing in our country has such a bigger vibe to it. I could be the best SAT (test) kid or smartest kid in the school and I’m probably not going to get my name in the paper. But if you run for 96 yards and score two touchdowns you can have an article written about you.”

Bryant says he and other Redmond/Ridgeview staff conduct grade checks on sports participants every three weeks, ensuring that students are passing at least four out of five classes to remain eligible for athletics. But Bryant says he and his coaches do not want athletes to simply “major in eligibility,” as he puts it. Rather, he wants to make sure that Redmond and Ridgeview athletes are on track to graduate.

“Our real goal is graduation,” Bryant says. “Use the athletic experience as a motivator for kids to stay in school, stay academically solvent and beyond. It helps to have sports in their life.”

Bryant says that Redmond and Ridgeview have a wide range of student-athletes, from 4.0 students to those who struggle to remain eligible for sports and on pace to graduate. Athletics gives those students on the academic fringes some extra motivation to keep their grades up.

“We have some great CTE (career technical education) going on now, too,” Bryant says. “Anything that draws them passionately to school is a huge boost.”

OSAA associate director Kelly Foster says the Academic All-State Program has been around for more than 20 years. The program is part of the OSAA Cup (formerly the Oregonian Cup), which recognizes overall excellence by schools in academics, activities, athletics and sportsmanship.

According to Foster, schools earn points based on their participation and placings in OSAA state championships and for top-10 finishes in the Academic All-State Program.

For the sportsmanship component, schools are awarded points each season for having no participant ejections. The points are updated and released at the end of fall and winter seasons and totaled at the end of the school year.

“It’s all focused on wins and losses sometimes,” Foster says of high school sports. “What we really love about this program is … it really balances the importance the OSAA puts on academics as well as athletics and activities. It’s so important to so many of our schools.”

Bryant says a goal in his district is to get Redmond and Ridgeview in the top five of the OSAA Cup in the next three to five years. Summit, now in 6A, has won the OSAA Cup the past five years in Class 5A.

“We’ve been really fortunate the last few years to be successful and win some state championships,” says Summit athletic director Mike Carpenter. “But I know a lot of our coaches are even more proud of the fact they’ve been top 10 and top five in the state as far as the academics.”

Carpenter says that a number of athletes at all three high schools in Bend get recruited by colleges at “pretty high levels.” And some of the schools that recruit them have stringent academic standards.

“We had a lot of really quality athletes, but then the kids are really getting it done in the classroom,” Carpenter says. “We don’t churn out a whole lot of (NCAA) Division I football players, but there’s kids with high grades here that will make a difference for them later on in life.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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