NHS Prep Athletes Bond With Young Students

The Napa High School swimming and diving team got a lot out of its trip Wednesday afternoon to Phillips Elementary School.

For the more than 20 athletes representing Napa High, it served as team-building activity, as the Indians continue to prepare for the spring season, which begins in early March with dual meets.

Just as important was the hour that the swimmers spent reading to the young students, who comprise kindergarten through sixth grade. The Indians also helped out in other subjects, including math.

“When I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do team-building,’ it was great — 100 percent on board,” said Napa coach Lisa McMichael, who teaches third grade at Phillips. “The focus was mostly reading. High school students have to read every night. They’re role models, not only in academics, but they’re athletes, too.”

Napa swimmers broke up into groups, meeting and also working with students on homework assignments in the multi-use room, Room 18, the conference room and at the outdoor tables. The Indians also spent time, partnering up and reading to kindergartners and first graders, second and fourth graders, third graders, fifth and sixth graders.

“I think it’s a really cool opportunity,” said Rose Ballantine, a junior, who swims the 50 free, 100 free, 100 back, 200 free relay and 200 medley relay. “A lot of teams I know don’t really get involved in the community very often, so it’s kind of cool to be able to work with younger kids, give back in a way, encourage them.

“When I was younger, I always liked it when older kids would come and do stuff with us at school.”

Ballantine, whose older brother, Ben, is a Napa High graduate and a starting pitcher for the University of Michigan baseball team, helped the students with their math worksheets, on adding and subtracting, and also with pronunciation of words.

“They’re really enjoying us being around, being with them and helping them,” said Megan Minor, a sophomore and year-round swimmer for the Napa Valley Swim Team, who will swim the 100 back, 500 free, 200 medley relay and 400 free relay. “They’re willing to listen and to learn. It’s really fun being able to give back to the community.”

Nick Dagan, a junior, who swims the 50 free, 100 free, 100 breast, 200 free relay and 200 medley relay, enjoyed taking time out of his day to help out.

“Every one on our team is happy to be here,” said Dagan. “I think that they are really happy to have these older kids help them.”

Over 100 students from Phillips Elementary receive assistance each day from After School Adventures, an education-based program that is run by the city of Napa from 3-6 p.m. each day. There are counselors and tutors, who provide help in all subjects while also organizing indoor and outdoor games, along with arts and crafts.

“It’s awesome to have athletes hang out with younger kids, to have people want to give back,” said Jeremiah Nicolis, the After School Adventures site director, who played basketball at Vintage High, graduating in 2009.

McMichael, a four-time NCAA All-America swimmer at UC Berkeley, led the Indians in a team cheer.

Others participating for Napa were Bradley Erickson, Annika Erickson, Carson Seibert, Josh Seibert, Jelly Vance, Kyra Deus, Olivia Ott, Megan Jory, Sophia Souilah, Joseph Cazares, Greg Alexander, Nick Ebeling, Thomas Kensok, Mike McLoughlin, Celeste Yoakum, Nora Dondero, Catherine Abajian, Tori Martin, Tilly Blakesly, Maddy Jacques, Domiana Piazzisis, Kyle McCall and Nathan Transoro.

Danielle Carey and Curtis Tinloy, who are Napa assistant coaches, and JV coach Laurie Llewelyn were also on hand.

McMichael swam at Cal from 1984-1988 and earned All-America honors in the 200 medley relay, 400 medley relay, 200 free relay, and 400 free relay, swimming the anchor leg. She also swam the 100 fly, 200 individual medley, 100 free and 50 free.

She swam the 100 fly at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials.

She was a high school All-American and junior national and national participant from 1980 through 1984 at Hillsdale High-San Mateo.

McMichael walked on at Cal and earned a scholarship her junior and senior year for the Bears. She graduated from Cal with a degree in child development.

She is also the girls water polo coach for the Indians and is a coach with the Napa Valley Swim Team.

She is a former assistant coach for the Cal women’s team.