Balancing the life of a student with the life of an athlete can often be a tough one. Bellingham High School makes its approach very clear, though.
“We are student-athletes. Student comes first,” Bellingham Athletic Director Chad Larsen said in a phone interview. “We put a high priority on that.”
The focus on school paid off for the Red Raiders’ fall teams this year, as both their girls’ cross country and volleyball teams were named WIAA 2014 2A Fall Team Academic State Champions on Friday, Oct. 31.
The process of awarding the teams begins with grade checks in mid-October before it goes through many sets of confirmation between the high schools and the WIAA.
Throughout that process, Larsen along with fellow staff are in constant communication with the coaches, teachers and athletes.
“We just express how proud we are of them,” Larsen said. “It speaks to the quality of students we have, the support of our parents and the instruction from teachers. It also says a lot about the support from coaches, who place a high value on what these kids are doing in the classroom.”
Bellingham’s girls’ cross country team, which is led by coach Bill McClement, recorded a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. The team of six girls was long awaiting the award, as they had missed out on it in 2013 after recording a 3.999. Another team tallied the perfect 4.0 to sweep the state championship from under them.
“The consistency and excellence that group of girls maintains is incredible,” Larsen said.
The volleyball team, coached by Kim Bjorklund, recorded a 3.992 to secure the award.
Not only did the Red Raiders have two teams secure the academic state title, they also had all fall sports teams record above a 3.0 grade-point average.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Larsen said. “We’re thrilled that our kids that already perform well on the court or field perform well in class.”
Larsen added that although Bellingham got the honor, it’s a district-wide philosophy that includes all the city schools that has made this happen.