Two of Tracy High’s top student-athletes won awards — the coveted “blankets” — for their dominance in their respective sports.
Billy Strmiska received the Jake Longmire Senior Award for his efforts in soccer, football and especially for his spectacular wrestling career.
Ali Berrien won the Dr. John Kimball Senior Award for her participation in water polo, basketball and swimming, which led to her being recruited by the Division I University of California, Irvine, swim team.
Tracy High varsity coaches vote every year on the top senior athletes, one male and one female.
“Billy winning this award is really awesome,” said Strmiska’s longtime wresting coach, Darryl Rond. “He is a hard worker, which is important, because he’s not a natural athlete. He just stayed focused and eventually things started working. I’m proud because he really represented the school well.”
Billy was a four-year varsity wrestler under Rond and was coached by him for four years before that with the Tracy Mat Wizards, a youth wrestling program.
Billy won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship in February after qualifying for the CIF Section meet for the third straight year. In his second trip to the CIF State Wrestling Championships, he placed 12th this past March, losing a closely contested match that cost him a top-eight finish and a medal.
Strmiska, like his coach, attributes his success to hard work.
“It takes a lot of work in the off-season, as it does in the regular season,” said Strmiska, who would often wrestle year-round with freestyle competition in the summer months, complementing his school year time on the mat. “Coach Rond says summer wrestlers make winter champions, and I always did that, and I felt that’s what it takes to do well in wrestling.”
on top:At left, Tracy High’s Ali Berrien loads up as she looks to shoot past Lodi’s defense in this 2006 file photo. Above, Billy Strmiska rolls his Foothill opponent over in his first-round win at the Masters Wrestling Championships in Stockton in February. Berrien won the Dr. John Kimball Senior Award for her participation in water polo, basketball and swimming, and Strmiska received the Jake Longmire Senior Award for efforts in soccer, football and wrestling.
Press file photos
Ali has been swimming since she was a 5-year-old Tracy Triton. She qualified for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I meet four years in a row and made the San Joaquin Athletic Association All-League team twice. She also broke two Tracy High swim records, the 500-yard freestyle and her own 200-yard breaststroke time.
“It’s an honor,” she said. “It’s nice to receive (the blanket) because I feel like I’ve worked hard to earn it, and my parents are proud.”
She was coached by Nancy Morehead for three years in water polo and all four years for swimming.
“Ali is very deserving,” Morehead said. “She had an outstanding four-year career with me. She’s very talented and very coachable, and she improved every year. On top of all that, she’s a good team member.”
Both students will continue their athletic careers in college; Ali will be headed to UC Irvine this fall, and Billy will attend Sierra College in Rocklin.
Editor’s Note: The West High athlete of the year stories will run later in the week.