For Mariah Serrato, every season at Tracy High has included participation on a team, while Pablo Ceja hopes he can pass on his passion for competition to younger athletes. Both received their school’s blanket awards — which acknowledges the top male and female athlete of the year — at Tracy High on May 14.
Ceja received the Jake Longmire Senior Blanket Award after three years of varsity football, a sport he has loved since he started playing with the Tracy Raiders as a second-grader.
He adds the blanket award to a list of honors that include all-San Joaquin Athletic Association offensive line. Ceja was also tapped to represent the Bulldog football team in next month’s 39th Annual Central California Lions All Star Football Game.
“All of these years have paid off,” Ceja said, adding that while the awards mean a lot to him and his family, most of all he has benefitted from the life lessons football has taught him. “It builds communications skills, especially team sports. It helps you become a leader, and helps you cope with other people. It teaches you how to deal with different personalities.”
In addition to football, Ceja has been a wrestler with the Bulldog team for two years, and also has been on the track and field team, representing Tracy in the throwing events.
Aside from the value of teamwork, he has also learned a work ethic that he expects will make him successful in college and beyond.
“You can’t really mess around that much,” he said. “Once practice is over, 6 or 7 o’clock, you have to get home and do your homework. It keeps me busy.”
Ceja credits English and college preparatory teacher, Bond Cashmere, with helping him develop solid work habits.
His college goals include a studying at a local community college, either Las Positas or San Joaquin Delta College, until he can transfer to a California State University campus, most likely Humboldt State, where he hopes to study environmental science.
Serrato continues to collect awards in her senior year at Tracy High. Her 3.89 grade point average gained her the Sac-Joaquin Section’s scholar-athlete award last month, and this week she added Tracy High’s Dr. John C. Kimball Senior Outstanding Athlete Award for Women.
It’s another acknowledgement of her high school career where 12 seasons of sports, including water polo, basketball and soccer, were a natural part of her educational experience.
Serrato said that a strong presence on Bulldog athletic teams has become a family tradition. Her two cousins, William Serrato and Billy Strmiska, were among the past recipients of the school’s male athlete of the year award.
She was also the homecoming queen for the 2012 senior class, and on graduation day she will find out if she is also selected for the school’s efficiency award, given to the senior who exemplifies success in all aspects of campus life.
Now she prepares to head to Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, where she will study biology with the ultimate goal of becoming a dentist. She said that athletics will continue to be part of her routine.
“It’s going to help me being on a team every year. That’s what I’m used to,” she said, adding that she intends to join the Sonoma State women’s water polo team. She expects it will be a familiar routine and give her a strong role in the life of the campus.
“Playing water polo is going to be just like how it’s been for my four years here,” she said.