East Kentwood High School graduate Andreea Matei was perfect on the tennis courts this spring and even better than that in the classroom during her high school career.
By just about every measure, Matei’s scholastic and athletic achievements personify the “perfect” student-athlete. She was East Kentwood High School’s 2012 Class Valedictorian and a captain for the Falcons’ girls tennis team, posting an undefeated 27-0 record and winning a Division 1 regional championship at No. 2 singles this spring.
Matei – who earned a full-ride academic scholarship to the University of Michigan – never received a grade lower than an A- in high school and maintained a 4.452 grade-point average (prior to having her spring classes averaged in). A 4.0 average is a perfect “A.” The bevy of Advanced Placement (AP) college level classes she took while still in high school are weighted heavier and raised her grade-point average well over that perfect 4.0 “straight-A” mark.
But she nearly was pressed into making a decision that would have compromised one or the other of those outstanding academic and athletic efforts.
A scheduling conflict with her AP final exams nearly forced her to miss her team’s Division 1 girls tennis regional, which was played at Jenison High School on May 17, the same date that AP tests were scheduled to be administered.
“When I found out I had an AP test on same day as regionals, I talked to people at school and was told that I couldn’t retake the exam, because they said athletics wasn’t a good enough reason for rescheduling it,” Matei said. “Obviously I didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t going to get to play at regionals, but I didn’t know if there was anything I could do. I wasn’t going to push it too far.
“I did have to talk to my parents about it a lot. In the end, we felt that if I didn’t have an option, that taking the exam would be the better choice in the long run, even though I really wanted to play in the regional tournament.
“It was a tough decision, that’s for sure.”
It was similar to the situation facing Yale quarterback Patrick Witt last fall. Witt had the season’s biggest game against arch rival Harvard coming up, but was also a Rhodes Scholar candidate and had interviews scheduled at Emory University in Atlanta on the same day.
Witt, who carried a 3.91 grade-point average at Yale, was forced to choose. He had to decide if he wanted to continue his pursuit of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, or stay with his team to play in the 138th installment of what is known in Ivy League country as “The Game.”
When the scholarship committee declined to accommodate Witt’s request to reschedule his interviews, he ultimately chose to stay and play with his team. Witt withdrew his Rhodes scholarship application and Yale ended up losing “The Game” by a score of 45-7.
“I think there can always be a compromise, one way or the other,” Matei said. “You shouldn’t have to choose between school and athletics. Of course, sometimes things happen and sometimes you’re caught between two things and you have to make a difficult decision.
“A lot of it is patience. I knew in the end that something would work out, but I was fine with the situation either way.
“I was one of the lucky stories, unlike the Yale football player.”
The final exam in question was an AP World History test. Matei is leaning toward majoring in history at the University of Michigan and was required to take it in order to receive college credit.
“Whenever we can make something work, we want to do whatever we can to help students attain their goals,” East Kentwood High School principal John Keenoy said. “Andreea has worked so hard and represents everything a student-athlete is all about, with an emphasis on student first and athlete second. She represents herself and her school in a way that we can all take pride in.
“But when you’re working with college board exams, it’s sometimes difficult because of rules and restrictions and tight schedules. We looked at the rules and all of Andreea’s options, and, fortunately, there was a way around it where she would be able to play in the regional and make up the World History exam at a later date.
“In the end, Andreea was able to make a decision that she felt was in her best interest, and we totally support that.”
Matei defeated M.J. Bothma from Rockford 6-2, 6-2 in the regional championship match, and East Kentwood finished in a two-way tie for third-place with Grandville. She was 3-0 against Bothma during the season, winning in conference dual play, conference tournament play and in the regional championship match to cap off her perfect 27-0 season record. It was her final match of the season, because only the top-two teams in the regional advanced to the state tournament.
“It was one of those defining moments and kind of summed up whole high school career at East Kentwood about having to choose between academics or athletics,” Matei said. “You just have to prepare mentally that you might not get what you want. Luckily, it worked out for me.”
Matei participated in East Kentwood’s 2012 graduation ceremonies on Thursday, one day after taking the makeup World History exam.
True to form, she Aced it.
Game. Set. Match.
It was the perfect ending to a perfect season.
“That grade-point average is the best thing,” East Kentwood girls tennis coach Duy Tran said. “To me, being a good student comes first and being an athlete second.
“But for her to do what she did is very rare and very special.
“She did it all. She was class valedictorian and had an undefeated record. And, on top of all that, she received a full-ride academic scholarship to the University of Michigan.
“It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
courtesy of Don VanderVeen at mlive.com