As the Crossroads boys swimming team went through its stretching routine this season, coach Tara Shima would interject with a question: “You all got A’s today, right?”
But, Shima said, she didn’t need to provide much guidance on schoolwork. Her athletes already took pride in their scholastic duties, as evidenced by their distinction as the most academically dedicated bunch of male high school swimmers in the state.
Crossroads produced the highest collective grade-point average in the state this year in boys swimming with a 3.81, the California Interscholastic Federation announced this month. The Santa Monica private school’s girls tennis squad also garnered CIF honors with a team GPA of 3.93.
“I was really proud of them,” Shima said. “There were times they needed to go because they needed to do their homework, and they learned to manage their time. The way they balanced obligations was far more mature than a lot of high school kids. We had a very young team, and for them to figure out how to do that was impressive.”
The CIF academic awards program began in 1996 to honor sports teams for their grades on an unweighted 4.0 scale. Only classes with college-readiness credit are considered, Shima said.
Crossroads was one of just four schools this year to have two athletic teams with state-high GPA marks, joining Los Angeles-Pilibos, Cerritos-Whitney and Pasadena-Polytechnic. The local school’s boys cross-country team received the award in 2011.
Making the swimming team’s more impressive admirable, Shima said, is the fact that many of her athletes are involved in acting and other artistic disciplines. She noted the efforts of Finnegan Wong-Smith, a CIF Southern Section qualifier who is also a talented musician.
“It’s not just academics,” she said. “They pull these grades off while also doing performing and fine arts. It’s amazing.
“In order to be a student-athlete, whether it’s in elementary school or high school, you have to learn how to manage your time. And I do believe their ability to do all of these extracurricular activities and pull it off for years gives them an advantage.”
Shima also noted that Crossroads attracts students from across the region, meaning many of them spend additional time commuting to and from Santa Monica.
Roadrunners girls tennis coach Zach Bromberg said in the fall that many of his players have interests beyond tennis but added that the sport can still provide them with valuable lessons. “It’s a tool to discover more about themselves and utilize that in the passions they do have,” he said.
Shima said coaches at Crossroads are approached by academic advisors at the school when there are issues regarding grades.
“Anybody at risk is getting the help they need,” she said. “And we’re making sure we’re giving them time to do their homework.”
Back in March, the Crossroads boys swimming and girls tennis teams were honored as academic winners by the CIF Southern Section. Shima said her swimmers were unable to attend the recognition ceremony on the field at Angels Stadium because it conflicted with their league championship meet.
“The boys were pretty bummed about that,” she said.
But the two Crossroads teams could take comfort in knowing their school will receive banners to recognize their accomplishments.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” Shima said.