Napa High School seniors Grace Vlandis and Robert Mitchell are very dedicated to their respective sports. They are extremely disciplined about all the training and work that goes into being year-round athletes.
Vlandis plays goal keeper for Napa High School soccer and travels to Santa Rosa five days week to play with her club team, Santa Rosa United.
“It’s a passion,” Vlandis, 17, said.
Mitchell is a distance freestyle specialist who competes for the Terrapins Swim Team of Concord. Mitchell travels to the East Bay six days a week, with three of those days being double practices.
“I’ve put a lot of hard work in. It’s finally paying off,” said Mitchell, 18.
Vlandis and Mitchell each signed a National Letter of Intent Wednesday, as they will be taking the next step in their careers. Family, friends and school staff were on hand for the signing ceremony.
Vlandis signed with UC San Diego, a member of the NCAA Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association. She will receive an athletic scholarship to play on the women’s soccer team and plans to major in psychology.
Mitchell signed with the University of Wyoming, a member of the Western Athletic Conference. He will receive a scholarship to swim on the men’s team and plans to major in accounting.
“It’s a dream come true,” Mitchell said in the school library. “As a kid, I’ve grown up always wanting to be an Olympian and everything. To me, this is just one step in that direction. I really have worked hard. It’s been a really hard, long process, a lot of workouts, super early in the morning.”
Vlandis is equally as excited and proud of her collegiate opportunity.
“Being able to sign is opening a new door,” she said. “It’s just something that I can do to move on. It feels really good, because it’s showing me how hard work really does pay off.”
A closer look at Vlandis and Mitchell:
Last year, as a junior, Vlandis was named as the Goalkeeper of the Year on the All-Napa County team. For the season, she had six shutouts, blocked three penalty kicks, and had 68 saves.
Napa (7-12-3 overall, 3-7 Monticello Empire League) finished in fourth place, it’s last year in the MEL.
“I’m excited and hoping we’ll have a successful season and make the playoffs,” Vlandis said. “I’m excited to see what this new (Vine Valley Athletic League) has to offer.”
Vlandis was named as the Newcomer of the Year on the 2016 All-Napa County team as a freshman.
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She enjoys the challenge of playing the keeper position.
“You’re almost like the quarterback. You control the team,” she said. “Often times, you’re the difference between a win, a tie, and a loss.
“You just wait for your one time to come. You’re just waiting for that one shot.”
UC San Diego has won 11 CCAA titles. The Tritons (18-2-1) won a fourth straight CCAA Tournament title this year.
“I just want to contribute as a helpful member,” said Vlandis, who has been accepted to UCSD academically.
Vlandis played club soccer for Napa United for four years and has been with Santa Rosa United for three years.
Mitchell gets up three days a week at 3:30 a.m., and is on the road to Concord for practice starting at 5 a.m., before he goes to school. There is a second practice, after school, which he goes to three days a week.
“For me, I love being with the team,” said Mitchell. “It’s a great group. We challenge each other every single day. But I also love the individual aspect — that it’s just me and then a clock, that’s all I’m really competing against and that’s the best part.
“When I get into the water, any problem or anything that I’m dealing with kind of just goes away.”
Mitchell swims the 200- and 500-meter freestyle and the mile. He has been with the Terrapins for seven years.
He was named to USA Swimming’s Scholastic All-America Team for the 2017-18 season.
He represented Pacific Swimming at the Pacific Swimming Distance Camp, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs earlier this year.
This past April, Mitchell won the 1,650-meter freestyle at the Speedo Far Western Championships in Santa Clara.
Mitchell will swim at the Speedo Winter Junior Championships at the University of Texas in December.
He has been accepted academically to Wyoming.