Lowell athletes have a history of dominating the AAA League. As a result, the school has produced many players who aspire to play sports at the collegiate or professional level.
Running - Sopagna Eap
As a member of the Lowell class of 1999, Sopagna Eap found that the challenge of balancing school and sports in college proved to be an easy feat. Eap was well prepared for college both academically and physically due to the competitive atmosphere at Lowell and the discipline of her track coach Andy Leong. “My ability to balance athletics and academics wasn’t too different because Lowell was so academically rigorous,” Eap said. “I already knew the importance of time management and my high school coach did a really good job of preparing me for the athletic transition into college running.”
A two-time All-American at UC-Davis, Eap attended graduate school at the University of Oregon where she earned her doctorate degree in clinical psychology in 2009. Although she clearly had outstanding scholarly achievements, Eap's greatest accomplishment was qualifying for the Olympic Trials in 2008.
Now 29-years-old, Eap continues to run and compete in marathons. “I continue to compete, mostly because I married a runner,” Eap said. “So in a way he is my teammate.” Together they have run in the Boston Marathon and motivate each other to run in their free time. “Our favorite thing to do on the weekend is go for a long run or a really hard workout in the morning and then cook a big delicious breakfast afterward,” Eap said. “The best part about burning all those calories is that you get to stuff your face full of French toast and bacon to refuel.”
Throughout her running career, Eap kept strong ties with her teammates. “You can’t help but bond when you and your teammate are keeled over from exhaustion after an important race or an especially hard workout,” Eap said. “Without my friends, I would have never gotten to this point.”
By maintaining her physical health and keeping up with her graduate studies, Eap was able to meet each challenge. “I loved competing in college,” Eap said. “I was intimidated by the prospect but I think I have learned some great lessons through my participation in sports — the most important being patience, perseverance, and frustration tolerance.”
Softball - Sati Houston
After playing four years of softball, class of 2007 alumnus Sati Houston led the Cardinals to victory in the 2007 City Championship.
After her high school success, Houston stepped up to the plate and tried out for UC Berkeley Bears’ softball team. Now she is a successful Bear walk-on. “I tried out for Berkeley’s softball team not expecting to make it, but I was given a wonderful opportunity to become a part of the team,” she said.
The scheduling involved to play on Berkeley’s softball team was more demanding than Lowell, although the experience was similar due to having to find the time to balance athletics with academics. “The difference between playing in the AAA and playing PAC-10 Division I is like night and day,” Houston said. “We have a grueling 56-game season in the spring and then the post-season, which can range from 3 games to 12 games. Moreover, during the season we leave for tournaments on Thursdays, which means I have to miss part of my Thursday class and all of my Friday classes. As I am an engineer, it’s been very hard to balance my time commitments.”
Although Lowell gives everyone a stepping-stone before doing college sports, Lowell did not fully prepare Houston for the toughness of playing Division I softball. “The caliber of play is elevated. As Cal has a historically strong program and our current team is ranked 11/12 in the nation, the standard is above and beyond that of the AAA,” she said. “I have had to work twice as hard to elevate my level of play to the level of my teammates: the preparation that they had in high school, I needed to achieve in a few short semesters.”
Currently, Houston studies Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley and is a part of TAU BETA PI and ALPHA PI MU, two engineering honor societies.
Baseball - Emil DeAndreis
“It’s like an academic meat grinder where if you don't put in the proper effort,” Lowell class of 2004 Emil DeAndreis said. “The likelihood is that you will get trampled and left in the dust.”
After spending four years at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH), 24-year-old DeAndreis has come back to Lowell this year to serve as an assistant coach for the baseball team, and his school spirit has not dwindled a bit. “I want to see these kids have the success that my team was lucky enough to have,” DeAndreis said. “I want all the students of Lowell to be proud that they are Lowell students.”
At UHH, DeAndreis broke the university’s previous record of 46 career appearances with his 52. DeAndreis held a 4.2 earned run average his senior year against some of the Nation’s top 20 division I schools, including a strikeout against Kansas University and pitching a curve ball that was clocked in the low fifties.
DeAndreis does not think that simply being a part of a high school team prepared him for college, but attributes his success to being a part of Lowell’s baseball team specifically. “We had an unmatched tenacity for our opponents and enjoyed nothing more than humiliating them into self-destructing when they had come to the game thinking we would be an easy win,” DeAndreis said. “We were relentless but 2004 turned out to be the best year in Lowell’s baseball history, ultimately being nationally ranked 37th by Baseball America.”
DeAndreis's hard work on the Lowell team paid off when he was given a chance to be recruited in Hawaii. “I will forever be indebted to Coach Donohue for taking the team out there for a tournament where I was seen by UHH's baseball coach,” DeAndreis said.
DeAndreis was offered a contract to play professional baseball in Belgium but turned down the offer because of an injury to his arm after college, so as of now he is content with serving as an assistant coach for his former high school.
Tennis - Ilya Gendelman
Former first-ranked American tennis player Andre Agassi once said, “Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work. It was a grind. It meant training and sweating every day. But I was completely committed to working out to prove to myself that I still could do it.”
Ilya Gendelman from the class of 2005 worked hard when he played for Lowell Tennis, always pushing himself to stay on top of his game. His early success led him to play for the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz, where he graduated in 2009.
A Lowell tennis legend, Gendelman placed in multiple All-City Championships, receiving second place in the boys’ varsity singles division in 2003 and 2005, while placing third in 2004.
Playing for the Cardinals gave Gendelman a head start on what he could expect in college sports. “Lowell tennis definitely prepared me for UCSC,” Gendelman said. “It made me more passionate for the game and helped me believe that I could play at a higher level.”
Even with high school success, Gendelman quickly realized that playing for college is more competitive because of the hodgepodge of highly qualified players who come to UCSC. “The level of public high school AAA sports in the city is fairly low,” Gendelman said. “In college, you're going up against players not only from all over California and the rest of the country, but also against many international players, making the level of competition very high.”
The experience and guidance he received at Lowell helped him realize he could do anything he set his mind to, as a result he strived to challenge himself. “This moral was first placed in me by my high school tennis coach, Terence Doherty, and later drilled into my thought process in college,” he said. After all the hard work and focus, at UCSC he was a part of two NCAA National Championships, one ITA Indoor Championship, and finished his senior year ranked number one in his region and fourth in the country in doubles. He was named as a three-time ITA All-Academic All-American, and his senior year ESPN named him as All -Academic Athlete.
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Swimming - Rex Chien
When Rex Chien was a part of the Lowell swim team, the Cardinals walked on water. The team never failed to swim their way to All-City to dominate the pool. After first getting into the pool at the age of nine, Chien swam all four years for Lowell, graduating in 2005. Chien was a part of the 2004-2005 All City Championship boys’ 200-yard medley relay team with Henry Szeto, James Bautista and Tom Li. In the same year, he placed second in the boys’ 100-yard butterfly event. “My high school swim coach, Art Octavio, was especially instrumental in teaching me how to dedicate myself to the sport,” Chien said. “Even though he's gone, I still remember all that he taught me.”
Chien attended Grinnell College, a liberal arts college in Iowa, where he swam with the team for all four years, then graduated in 2009. Although Lowell gave Chien a strong foundation, college sports proved to be more difficult than high school where the swim meets and team dynamics were a lot more structured. “The coaching and practices were definitely more intense, and the level of commitment needed was much higher,” Chien said. “The coaches expect a much higher level of responsibility, and there was more of a team environment since everyone lived on the same small college campus.”
Currently, Chien is back in the Bay Area trying to live up to his eight years of swimming. “I still try to swim a couple times a week, but it’s much harder to find pools and the time to swim after graduating,” he said.
Crew - Jasmine Conrad
Passion is essential when you enter the world of sports. One has to be dedicated to the sport they choose to go out for. One Lowell alumni takes this dedication to heart as she rows vigorously. “College sports are different from high school sports in the sense that everyone on your team is there for the same reason you are with the same passion and love that you have for the sport,” Lowell class of 2009 alumnus Jasmine Conrad said. “Everyone is as ambitious, competitive and loyal as you are to the sport and the school.”
After rowing with the Pacific Rowing Club in San Francisco, Conrad was well prepared for UCLA’s vigorous rowing team. “Rowing in high school definitely prepared me for college sports because there is no way I could have mentally or physically competed with these other women without having the background of a high school rower,” she said. “Without the commitment to Pacific, there’s no way I would be able to wake up at 5 a.m. everyday and practice for almost five hours a day.”
Going to Lowell, Conrad struggled with balancing athletics with the rigorous academic life, but the challenge helped her work hard and continue with the rowing crew in college. She never really imagined herself as an NCAA Division I athlete and did not realize she could complete at such a high intercollegiate level. “My junior year I just kept my head up, put in work, and tried to be the best at what I do,” she said. “I got myself this far, and I have a long way to go, but my experiences in high school have taught me how to push myself to be physically and mentally capable and prepared to challenge myself in every way, every day.”
Volleyball - Lorriane Ichiyasu
Colors and spirit truly show when you are a Lowellite, so class of 2009 Lorriane Ichiyasu missed the support she had at Lowell. Ichiyasu graduated to attend City College of San Francisco, where she realized she had taken the cheers of the crowd for granted. “The level of school spirit at City is not as great as it was at Lowell,” Ichiyasu said. "There is not as much school pride, because everyone is looking to just get in and get out of City, so many people do not even know that we have a school team.”
The four year bond Ichiyasu was able to have with her coaches and teammates at Lowell made her a fundamentally sound player with more respect for the sport. “I personally miss Lowell volleyball a lot, and I hold those seasons very close to my heart,” Ichiyasu said. “The amount of school spirit it placed in me and the determination and focus I gained from it are priceless.”
Even as she moved away from her high school years into her college career, Lowell continued to have a positive effect on Ichiyasu’s life. “Lowell was always more than just a school to me, it was a lifestyle," Ichiyasu said.
City College has broadened Ichiyasu’s appreciation of the city’s many cultures. “The diversity of my team at City College is unbelievable compared to Lowell as well as other schools that we competed against in our conference,” Ichiyasu said. “At City, we have a very colorful team.”
Currently Ichiyasu does not plan to continue playing volleyball for City College due to her heavy academic schedule. “I plan on getting all of my requirements and general education classes out of the way so that I can transfer to a UC within the next two years or so,” Ichiyasu said. However, even while her focus is on education at the moment Ichiyasu still plays volleyball regularly throughout her week.
Running - Jin Ichiro Daikoku
Jin Ichiro Daikoku graduated from Lowell in 2001 to attend the University of Arizona. “High school sports were fun, but college was all business,” Ichiro Daikoku said. “The struggle, however, was an important part of my maturing process.”
The transition from high school to college was a difficult one and Ichiro Daikoku was unable to adjust as easily as he would have liked. “Going through what felt like a foreign country and without any support network, I actually performed worse both academically and athletically than I had at Lowell,” Ichiro Daikoku said. It didn't help that on top of the difficult transition, the competition also proved to be a huge step up from what Ichiro Daikoku had encountered in his years running for Lowell. “At Lowell, I often went into races knowing that there were at most one or two people for me to compete against,” Ichiro Daikoku said. “In college, the people I was competing against were always State or National Champions from wherever they came from.”
Ichiro Daikoku may not have won many races in college, but he still remains a champion at Lowell. He ran for Lowell’s Cross Country and Track teams from 1997 to 2001, when he took second at the California State Meet in 2000 in the 1600 meter race. He still holds Lowell's 800 meter, 1600 meter, 4x1600 meter relay, and Distance Medley relay school records as well as the San Francisco All-City record in the 1600 meter.
After graduating, he came back to be an Assistant Coach for the track team. “I am looking forward to see how the team does this year, and I hope that I will be able to coach the person who eventually breaks my records.” Ichiro Daikoku said.
Baseball - Conor Casey
Graduating from Lowell in 2005 after batting with the Cardinals for four years, Conor Casey moved on to running bases with the Swarthmore Phoenixes, a Division III contender in Pennsylvania.
Lowell's baseball team prepared Casey for his future endeavors. “Being on the team encouraged the team spirit I carried over into college, as well as a good work ethic, competitiveness, determination, and love for the game. All those are things I definitely feel like I developed while I was playing for Lowell,” Casey said. Lowell also played a good amount of games, which prepared Casey for his college seasons. He didn't play too many more games at Swarthmore, but they were packed into a shorter season because of a longer winter, which made for more games during the week in college.
Swarthmore baseball proved to have different standards from high school sports due to the intensity and demands in the college setting. “Weight training was not something I ever did in high school, but after my freshman year in college, it was something I realized was essential to becoming a competitive college player,” Casey said. In contrast to the seemingly lax Lowell baseball practices, the Swarthmore team practiced, 6 days a week for 2 hours each day in the spring pre-season. During the season, the team would have games at least three days of the week, sometimes four or even five, so then the number of practice days would be limited.
Although Lowell reigned in the AAA, always being on top did not prepare Casey for college-level competition. Lowell always dominated the competition ladder, whereas Swarthmore was at the bottom. In high school, he’d found it easy to take winning for granted, but later Casey realized that success was something one could work at and still not achieve. “It was good for me to get a taste of both ends of the spectrum, to experience being a part of a perennial winner, as well as a team struggling to get out of the conference basement," he said. Casey realized that although it feels good to triumph he learned more from the losses.
Baseball has not seen the last of Casey, as he still wants to participate in adult leagues. “I have learned from both the wins and losses in my playing career and believe it will help me win with a team in the future.”