If there’s one common factor in all of the Top 10- student-athletes, it’s how driven they are, in the classroom and in athletics.
Baileigh McCuskey has a little added motivation, a bit of a chip on her shoulder about how her school, North Valleys, is perceived.
The North Valleys senior, an outstanding softball player who signed in April to play for Pomona University in Southern Calif., wrote a letter to the NIAA expressing her desire to be one of the Top-10 student-athletes.
She wrote about overcoming the reputation of North Valleys, that of not being a strong athletic or academic school.
McCuskey is one of the NIAA’s top 10 student-athletes and will be honored at a banquet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Peppermill Hotel-Casino. She has a 5.225 GPA.
In her letter, she wrote, “Most of the students at NVHS are overlooked and taken for granted because of the area we live in. In athletics, most schools think we’re a joke and not worth a game.”
She went on to say that she has worked hard to help North Valleys overcome that stigma.
In the eighth grade, McCuskey decided she wanted to be valedictorian in high school, after someone else in her middle school won a top academic honor.
“She said, “I’m going to be valedictorian, because I can control that (outcome),” her father Eric McCuskey said.
She is the valedictorian, No. 1 in her class of 479 seniors.
It took a lot of extra studying, sometimes even during practices or even games, to the amusement of her teammates. She played volleyball and softball all four years at North Valleys and tried cheerleading one year.
“She got told at one point when she was young that she wasn’t big enough, fast enough or strong enough,” Eric said.
She started playing softball at age 10 and was on traveling tournament teams at age 12, most recently for former Wooster and Oregon State standout Brianne McGowan.
McCuskey plans a course of study called P-P-E (philosophy, politics and economics) with the goal of going to law school and eventually becoming a sport agent.
“Brianne and my softball coach Danielle Verlanic, (at North Valleys) have been an immense help in getting me to where I am now. I would not be the player I am without those two,” McCuskey said.
She first studied philosophy last year, in English class.
“I got into it last year. It lit a fire under me,” Baileigh said. “It opened my eyes about a lot of different things.”
She is on the executive council of the Fellowship of Christian Athletics and participates in district-wide meetings and social events with chapters from other high schools.
NIAA Top 10 Student-Athletes
BANQUET: The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association will honor the 10 with a banquet at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The 10, five boys and five girls: Kai Benedict (McQueen), Beau Billingsley (Lowry), Jack Clouthier (Incline), Stephen Osborne (Bishop Manogue); Corey Reid (Carson);
Kelsey Beattie (Wooster), Abigail Bolt (Galena), Tara Gallant (North Tahoe), Baleigh McCuskey (North Valleys) and Alexandria Tedford (Fallon).