HomeBlocksFront-GridCIF Awards Student-Athletes for Academic Achievements

CIF Awards Student-Athletes for Academic Achievements

The balancing act that high school students take on is not an easy task, but those with persistence, determination and dedication are able to prevail.
La Cañada High School seniors Ben Riesberg and Katelyn Matarese are prime examples of just that.
The two athletes have been awarded and recognized for their efforts in juggling both grades and athletics, and were selected as 2023-24 CIF Student-Athlete of the Year.
Each CIF-SS member school is entitled to name a male and a female “Student-Athlete of the Year” who must be a senior having maintained a minimum of a 3.5 GPA (4.0 scale) over the past three years, CIF officials said in a March 21 press release. In addition to earning a letter in at least one varsity sport, the student must have participated in extracurricular activities, such as music, drama and service groups. According to CIF, 405 student-athletes have earned individual Student-Athlete of the Year honors by their school.
Riesberg, who has been wrestling since he was in eighth grade, was shocked to hear his name called by his coach, Justin Luthey.
“When I heard my name called, I literally could not believe it,” Riesberg told the Outlook Valley Sun. “It made me so happy to hold up the award and stand in the front with my coach.”
Riesberg helped the Spartans boys’ wrestling team to their best-ever finish in the CIF Southern Section Dual Meet Wrestling Championships, reaching the semifinals of the Division III bracket for the first time. Riesberg won the deciding match in the quarterfinal against Bonita High, which clinched the semifinal berth for the Spartans. The senior also finished runner-up in the Rio Hondo League finals in the 144-pound weight class.
Riesberg said that his passion for wrestling started developing halfway through his sophomore year.
“The first few practices felt so long and difficult, but at the end of the season, they are not long enough,” said Riesberg. “I think that’s because wrestling is such a difficult sport, it makes accomplishments in the sport so much bigger.”
Luthey was impressed to see Riesberg rebrand himself for his senior year and shine.
“When most seniors were looking to coast, Ben put forth his hardest work in his last season both on and off the mat,” said Luthey. “In all of his matches, he showed grit, toughness and perseverance and I know that’s how he approaches life as well.”
Riesberg, holding a 3.79 GPA when he was selected as the CIF Student-Athlete of the Year, said juggling school, life and athletics can be difficult.
“Balancing school and wrestling and everything else can be difficult, but it makes it so much more difficult if you don’t know what your priorities are,” said Riesberg. “You will have to make sacrifices, especially in a sport like wrestling, whether that be free time, food, or even school days. It’s really just a matter of what your priorities are, and for me, performance in both wrestling and school are at the top of my priorities.”
Along with wrestling, Riesberg was part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Space Academy as a junior and returned to the program as a mentor in his senior year. He is also the vice president of the Plane Club at La Cañada High, which built a plane capable of flying hundreds of feet in the air while doing barrel rolls.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” said Reisberg of the Plane Club’s project.
The senior was also involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and helped raise $4,000 for cancer research as a co-candidate for the organization.
Riesberg said that the support of his family is also what keeps him going. He plans to continue wrestling, or some type of martial art as he enters a four-year college.
Matarese, who is a track and field and cross-country superstar, is adding another accolade to her list after winning the 2023 Heisman High School Scholarship in December.
“It was a real honor to win this award as I know there are many other top students and athletes at La Cañada,” said Matarese.
A team captain for both cross-country and track and field, Matarese has helped the Spartans teams to top finishes in elite competitions. She led the Spartans to a runner-up finish at the CIF State Cross Country Championships and captured a state title with the track and field team. She is a three-time All-American in track and field and an All-American in cross-country. Matarese also holds multiple school records and is also a two-time USATF Junior Olympics National Champion.
Matarese is not new to the balancing act of school, athletics and other extracurricular activities since she started running track and cross-country in the fourth grade.
“My dad’s favorite saying is if you want something done, give it to a busy person,” said Matarese. “I think having to balance school, sports and extracurriculars has forced me to stay focused and not procrastinate like many other students.”
On top of her commitment to both school and athletics, Matarese held a 4.0 GPA when she was named CIF Student-Athlete of the Year. On top of athletics, she has held top leadership positions, which include president of the La Cañada High School concert choir and vice president of the National Honors Society. She also completed her Girl Scout Gold Award.
“I look forward to running every day as it gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment,” said Matarese.
Chris Matarese, who coaches the girls’ cross-country and track and field teams, said he is proud of the Harvard-bound senior for her continued efforts and dedication to the sport. She said she will continue competing at the collegiate level in both cross-country and track and field.
“Katelyn is a phenomenal athlete who is also one of the most dedicated and hardworking athletes I’ve ever coached,” he said. “She is a natural leader and is always looking for ways she can help the team and her teammates.”

La Cañada High School senior Katelyn Matarese, named a 2023-24 CIF Student-Athlete of the Year, has added another accomplishment to her list in her passion for cross-country and track and field. – Photo courtesy Katelyn Matarese


The CIF academic team awards are based on a cumulative grade point average and awarded in 27 team sports.
Entries from 2,533 teams were received this year. To be considered, teams must have at least five student-athletes with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA average (4.0 scale) in the first semester or first two quarters of the 2023-24 school year.
Flintridge Preparatory School topped the academic awards with six different teams winning.
“The school has always prided itself on its academics, as well as its athletics,” said Flintridge Prep Athletic Director Sean Beattie. “I think the fact that we had six teams win a CIF academic championship just really shows that the school puts its best foot forward all the time. … It just goes to show that our kids are really working hard.”
Twenty-eight different CIF-SS member schools are represented among the team winners, according to the governing body. Schools are divided into two CBED enrollment categories, 1,500 and above and 1,499 and below.
The six different winning teams at Flintridge Prep include baseball, boys’ cross-country, football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and girls’ tennis.
The boys’ cross-country team held the highest team GPA of 3.979 for the Flintridge Prep team winners, while girls’ tennis followed closely with a team GPA of 3.965.
Beattie said he is always amazed at how athletes are able to balance school and life with two hours of practice every day. Three key attributes come to mind when Beattie thinks about how students can accomplish so much in a day: time management, commitment and perseverance.
“Watching what the kids can do on a daily basis, and the effort that they put into everything they do, not just their athletics, but their academics — sometimes you sit back and you’re in awe,” said Beattie. “I think about when I was in school and I don’t think I could have handled this. So, watching what these kids are doing on a daily basis, it’s amazing.
Last year, Beattie said Flintridge Prep had five teams that won the academic awards and hopes that the school prevails in the future.
The academic team winners will be honored in a pre-game ceremony before the Los Angeles Angels game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 22.

First published in the April 11 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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