Three student-athletes have proven time and again that success in both sports and school may be hard to achieve, but possible.
Soccer players Ryan Relucio, Diana Maniacop, and Chloe Salvosa are proof you can have both worlds, as they graduated with honors at Marianas High School last month. Relucio was the Top 4 of their class and recipient of the Principal’s Award, while Maniacop and Salvosa were ranked No. 6 and 7, respectively, with the latter also getting the Governor’s Leadership Award.
During their high school years with MHS, Relucio, Maniacop, and Salvosa have been playing with their respective clubs in competitive leagues on island and have also suited up for the CNMI national teams that participated in off-island tournaments.
All three attested that juggling school and sports are challenging, but they have no regrets going through tough times, as benefits definitely outweighed drawbacks.
Worth the sacrifice
“Juggling sports and academics was never easy. I was forced to really organize my schedule so that I was able to attend all trainings, especially since we had trainings almost everyday of the week,” said Relucio, who is now part of the CNMI national training pool preparing for an international tournament that will be held this year.
“I would always come home after trainings tired so instead of doing my homework right away, I would take a few hours to rest. With this routine, I would find myself sleeping late every night. Nevertheless, the positive side of being a student-athlete outweighs the negative. First of all, being part of the NMI National Team meant that we travelled off-island to compete and who doesn’t like missing school to go off-island? The bond with my teammates is also very rewarding—majority of them are even my friends in school. I always expressed that traveling to different countries alongside a team is a better experience than alone,” Relucio said.
For her part, Maniacop considered being a student-athlete and competing a taxing, but fulfilling journey.
“It gets harder everyday. But besides all of the struggles, I had a great time with the team. I get to meet amazing people that I consider as family. Traveling was one of the best part of this journey, as we get to know each other more and meet people from other countries. Through my experiences in playing and traveling with the team made me a better person,” said Maniacop, who is heading to California this fall to further her studies.
Salvosa, meanwhile, saw sports as an outlet.
“Through sports, I’m able to occupy myself productively. Through sports, I am able to focus better in all things that I do. I am forced to focus in school and assure that I stay on top of my game,” said Salvosa, the MHS Student Council president and a runner-up in the 2018 Miss Marianas pageant.
Winning and getting awards may be rewarding to student-athletes, but Relucio and company value more the lessons they learned while competing and playing sports.
“In our team, we’ve developed a culture in which we uphold each other to certain standards and if we don’t meet those standards, we call each other out on it. I was the captain of our under 19 national team and there were responsibilities that I had—like I was expected to take initiative. These things have helped me in the classroom as well. I’ve learned to set high standards for myself and to perform at that standard. Moreover, I brought my attitudes and experiences on the field into the classroom, such as being responsible and working in a group,” Relucio said.
For Maniacop and Salvosa, they learned a lot about discipline and time management while playing and studying at the same time, while Relucio touted his commitment.
“In order to excel in school, I had to study. In order to excel in sports, I had to practice. It’s the commitment to put in the time to get better that makes it all possible. I was always reminded that I am a student first and then an athlete. And that’s where the discipline comes in, one should not outweigh the other,” he said.
Hang in there
Facing pressure, physically and mentally, Maniacop once thought of quitting, but after a short while she found herself back at the pitch.
“There was a point that I felt like giving up and quitting the sport. I felt like it wasn’t for me anymore and decided to just focus on my studies. I was also at the point where I wanted to maintain my grades, so last year around November I thought about quitting. I took a short break because of a back injury and it has taught me so many things that I could do. But after I was healed, I got a message from our team manager (Angie Ito), making me realize that soccer has been a big part of my life, so why would I quit now. I would like to thank her because I probably would have made the biggest mistake of my life and that was to stop playing the sport that I love,” Maniacop said.
For all the achievements they got in sports and school, Relucio, Maniacop, and Salvosa gave credit to the people around them.
“The true essence of my awards and achievements are my coaches, teachers, family, teammates, and friends. There are too many to mention, but without their support and mentoring, nothing would’ve been possible,” said Relucio, who will pursue a degree in civil engineering at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
Salvosa, also Seton-bound and will take the same course, vows to do her best in her next journey as a way to thank all who had her back.
“My thank you is not enough to pay back everyone who has supported my student-athlete career, however I will work harder to prove that all their efforts and support won’t go to waste,” said Salvosa, who also received a scholarship from the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. “I will definitely come back to give thanks and serve my community.”
Maniacop said the support she received made her more determined to finish school and stay involved in sports.
“There are so many people I would like to thank, but most of all I would like to thank my parents and my siblings un California for always motivating me and supporting me in my studies and in soccer. Each day that I felt like giving up, I would always think on why and who I am doing this for and it was for them. It was never easy, but it was worth it,” she said.
Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan shared the honor and pride that parents of Salvosa, Relucio, and Maniacop felt after witnessing the student-athletes’ triumphs.
“I would like to congratulate every graduating student for this school year. I am particularly happy to learn that several of our national team players graduated in high school with honors,” he said.
“Study shows that playing sports actually helps one to become a better student as sports enhances one’s organizational skills such as time management as well as discipline. I am very proud of them as while they train hard on the soccer pitch as a national player, they still maintain good grades throughout their school year. Again, a big congrats to all,” the NMIFA head added.