For the fourth consecutive summer, The Suburbanite will conduct its Summer Athletes Series, which follows local high school athletes readying for their senior seasons and balancing the demands of busy summer schedules.

Each athlete in the series will be a senior this fall and each represents one of the schools The Suburbanite covers in one of its three weekly editions. For each edition of the paper, one athlete per fall sport will share insights of what they’re going through as they get ready for the final year of their high school athletic and academic careers.

Past SAS participants have included football players on their way to Ivy League colleges, soccer players working at their first summer job as a dishwasher at a restaurant and a cross country runner learning Russian. The purpose of the SAS is to provide insights on what life is like for a high school athlete who is working to get ready for what they hope will be a successful senior season while also trying to enjoy their time off from school. 

This year’s SAS lineup features 11 athletes from seven different schools across Stark and Summit counties. Some have stacks of college recruiting letters in their mailbox, while others are planning on joining the military after high school or starting down their chosen career path academically.

Each SAS story is determined by that athlete’s training, work and travel schedules. For many, that includes time spent volunteering at the youth camps high school teams often hold during the summer for younger athletes in their district who hope to someday follow in their shoes at the varsity level.

Others have family vacations scheduled that will test their ability to stay focused on training and conditioning while enjoying time at the beach or in the mountains. Their stories will also illustrate some of the pressures and challenges high school athletes face in an era when many sports have become year-round endeavors that require athletes to train, practice and prepare 12 months a year in order to compete for starting spots and have a chance at a college scholarship.

The athletes taking part in the SAS this summer for Hoover are:

Brady Nist, Football

Nist, a wide receiver for the Vikings, and his teammates ended last season on a high note. A win over playoff-bound arch rival Jackson allowed the Vikings to finish 5-5, ending a streak of three years with losing records. With that momentum driving them, they hope to springboard into an offseason that sees them lay the groundwork for an even better mark in Nist’s senior season.

One of his goals is to get the entire team involved in summer drills and conditioning.

“Getting the team together and making sure each person is doing their best at the drills will help the team greatly is one goal that I will be working on this summer,” Nist said. “I could achieve this goal by encouraging my teammates and by giving my best 100 percent of the time and hope that my actions will encourage them to try their best.

A second goal is more personal, as Nist wants to get his conditioning back into top form after spending the winter and spring focusing more on lifting and strength. Those are important areas as well, but having his cardiovascular conditioning where it needs to be is important as well. Lately, he’s tried to run stairs, run the track at Memorial Stadium and get on the treadmill when possible. Although he knows it will take time to get to the fitness level he wants to reach, Nist believes it’s attainable by the time summer ends.

Ava Dalpra, Cross country

Dalpra, like many seniors approaching their final year of high school, has been having plenty of conversations with her family about what lies ahead after graduation.

“To prepare for my senior year, me and my parents have been discussing colleges and set up some visits for the summer,” Dalpra said.

Having run cross country since seventh grade, Dalpra is looking to put a winning exclamation point on her Hoover career. She also runs track and has logged a lot of miles wearing Hoover orange and black, but knowing this will be her final season competing for the Vikings adds to the pressure to do her best and finish well. Her best time in cross country is 24:55 and improving on that mark is one standard she’s working to meet, but when it comes to the summer, Dalpra wants to build a strong bond within the team because in many ways, cross country “is such an individual sport,” she noted.

Just as with many cross country programs, summer conditioning is largely organized by the athletes themselves, setting up team runs and other activities. As one of the team’s seniors, Dalpra wants to use the summer to build a role as a team leader so she can motivate and encourage the team’s underclassmen throughout the season. If the Vikings can build a good bond, it would be a big boost in trying to chase down GlenOak and Jackson, the two teams that have dominated Federal League girls cross country in recent years. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB