By Nick Giannandrea
College of the Sequoias' baseball player Luke Garispe plans to go into business, most likely in the agriculture field.
Samantha Martinez, who plays softball for the Giants, desires a career as a sports counselor.
Volleyball player Emily Soto's goal is to become a physical therapist.
All three are a step closer to accomplishing their career objectives after wrapping up their third semesters at COS, where Garispe, Martinez and Soto are among the many Giants who balance high academic achievement with the demands of being athletes.
"I don't want to say it's difficult, but you have to be disciplined and want to do the work (academically and athletically,)" Martinez said.
Time management becomes key for student-athletes who carry demanding academic loads while also being committed to practicing their sport school-year round.
It's especially crucial during end-of-semester finals week, which concluded at COS on Dec. 14.
"It wasn't easy," Soto said. "I just took the time I did have to study as much as I could."
"You've got to find time in your schedule to get your work done," Garispe said.
Here's a glimpse into the lives of these three student-athletes over the past semester.
Garispe doesn't like having idle time.
Luckily for the former El Diamante High standout, he didn't have much of it on days that began with 7:30 a.m. weight training and ended with three-hour baseball practices that wrapped up around 5:30 p.m.
In between, Garispe took a class-load that included a financing and accounting course, a plant biology lab, English 2 and a theater course as he knocked off requirements toward completing his Associates of Arts degree.
Garispe said he would study between classes, late into the night or even on weekends in order to maintain a 3.6 grade point average.
"I get bored sitting around if I don't have enough to do," Garispe said. "I'd rather be juggling school and a sport than having a lot of free time because that's how I like to go about it."
Garispe hopes to transfer in the fall, and has applied to Fresno State, Cal Poly, San Diego State, Long Beach, Fullerton and Arizona State. He plans to major in business.
Primarily a third baseman, Garispe will launch his sophomore season Jan. 31 at home against Golden West. Garispe hit .280 with three doubles and 11 RBI as a freshman for a Giants team that went 24-18 overall and 15-6 in the Central Valley Conference before losing in the first round of the Northern California Regional playoffs.
When the stress of balancing academics and athletics would get to Martinez, she had the perfect sounding board on speed dial.
Her older sister, Alyssa, played softball at NCAA Division I San Jose State.
And one of Alyssa's most valuable pieces of advice to Samantha was to make a list of the things she needed to do and cross them off as she finished them.
"(Alyssa has) been through it," Martinez said. "So having her guidance helped a lot."
Martinez took a challenging class-load in the semester before softball season starts, including courses in biology, psychology, political science, sociology and music history.
She would be in class between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., with weight training at 2 p.m. and practice from 3-5:30 p.m. After that, Martinez typically spent three-plus hours catching up on homework and studying at home.
Martinez, who plans to major in sociology, carried a 3.6 GPA.
"I've always been pretty good on my grades," Martinez said. "My parents always instilled school in us.They want me to have a good career, so that is motivating."
Martinez was also very good on the softball diamond last season, hitting a team second-best .439 with 10 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 25 RBIs and a team-leading 50 runs to help the Giants go 24-14 overall, 16-5 in the CVC and reach for Super Regionals in the Northern California playoffs.
Martinez, an infielder from Wasco, will lead the Giants into their season opener Jan. 25 during a doubleheader at Foothill. COS' home opener is set for Feb. 2 when it will host Cabrillo at 11 a.m. and San Joaquin Delta at 3 p.m.
"(Athletes) have a bad reputation of getting handed grades or having teachers help them," said Martinez, who hopes to move on and play at a four-year university but doesn't have a scholarship offer yet. "I've earned my grades. I take a lot of pride in having good grades and being a good student-athlete."
Sleep became a precious commodity for Soto as she juggled school with volleyball and a part-time job as a receptionist at a local salon.
On her busy days (Mondays and Wednesdays), Soto would arrive at school at 7:20 a.m. for a load of classes that included anatomy, psychology and kinesiology. She would remain at school until practice ended around 7:30 p.m.
Then Soto would head home to make dinner, do homework and study, often as late as midnight or 1 a.m.
So to catch up on her sleep, Soto would take brief naps in her car during breaks in classes.
"It keeps you busy and out of trouble," Soto said of her busy schedule. "And I think it helps you to be more responsible and it teaches you leadership skills."
An outside hitter from Tehachapi, Soto said she had a 4.0 in her first year at COS and around a 3.5 last semester despite missing class time, particularly in anatomy, for road trips all around Northern California during the three-month volleyball season.
"Mentally, I had to take it one day at a time, one thing at a time," Soto said. "Whatever I was doing, I focused on that."
A 4.0 or better student in high school, Soto said she has always been driven to achieve good grades.
She was pretty successful for the Giants on the court, too. Soto contributed a team third-best 196 kills, 178 digs and 19 blocks to a COS team that went 21-9 overall and 14-4 in the CVC before losing in the first round of the Northern California Regionals.
Soto plans to continue her volleyball career and education at a four-year university in the fall, with plans to major in physical therapy. She has an offer from Providence Christian in Pasadena and is receiving interest from a pair of schools on the East Coast: University of Maine at Presque Isle and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"I'm a perfectionist," Soto said. "I like the feeling of success when I have good grades. I want to do my best in everything."