Sophomore Alexandria Curtis is doing something most students wouldn’t even consider — competing in two of UC Merced’s first varsity intercollegiate sports this fall while juggling a full college course load.
“It feels really cool to be able to do both sports, to be able to do volleyball and cross country; I love both sports,” Curtis said. “I never thought I’d be able to play volleyball in college. I made both teams, and here I am doing two practices per day.”
The student-athlete says striking a balance between class work, training and social activities has been the key to maintaining a 3.7 grade point average.
“My advice for students balancing their academics and whatever other things they have going on is academics is first,” Curtis said. “But also, not to immerse yourself just in academics, because that’s when you sort of lose yourself. You don’t just want to just be here going to school. You want to be able to become a part of the school and leave something behind.”
Curtis, a literatures and cultures major from San Jose, started playing volleyball in the eighth grade, but she says she was cut from the team her junior year because she was too short. Now, Curtis will be starting in the Golden Bobcats’ home opener on Sept. 22.
“She’s going to be an impact player for us,” said women’s volleyball coach Allen McCreary. “She is going to come in and help us a lot this year.”
Curtis said doing her best on and off the playing field is essential to getting a well-rounded education, and her coaches agree.
“I love how she manages running cross country and then playing volleyball as well,” McCreary said. “She’s doing a really good job at that. When she first came and approached us about it, I was for it. We sat down and discussed all of the factors, and time management really is the thing that we talked about.”
Cross country coach Spencer Castro said in addition to her athletic abilities, Curtis has shown inherent leadership abilities.
“She is definitely a lead by example person,” Castro said. “When there are mats out after we’re done working out, she’s the one grabbing them and putting them away. When we’re supposed to be jogging on a rest, she’s the one telling the girls, ‘Keep your feet moving, no matter how tired you are.’”
Curtis ran for UC Merced in the Bobcats' first varsity sporting event earlier this month, the University of San Francisco Invitational. She's been the top finisher for the UC Merced women in both of their meets this year.
“What I saw mostly for the race and in training is the confidence and understanding, deeper understanding — in patience, pace, the ability to deal with discomfort — most of the mental things that you look for in an athlete,” Castro said.
Managing two college-level sports requires time, dedication and organizational skills. Curtis admits she’s had to make sacrifices, but she feels she has been able to strike a good balance between academics and athletics.
“I don’t think I would be able to handle this if I didn’t have a social life,” she said. “I love hanging out with my friends. It really helps to relax. It really helps to keep that balance of life and sports and school.”
Written by Brenda Ortiz