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Ayaka Suesada

Morgan Burchhardt

Explore CDSWOY All-Time Roster Members

Ayaka Suesada

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2022
  • Class

    2022

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2022

Written by Mike MacAdam, The Daily Gazette

Ayaka Suesada’s school encourages everyone to explore their creative side, and although she called herself “not the best artist necessarily,” a school administrator credited Suesada for her “beautiful works of art in drawing, painting, sculpture, weaving, wood, iron and stone.”

When it came to Suesada’s senior season playing basketball for the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, she needed to tap into that creative side like never before.

Her graduating class totaled all of 11 students, so perhaps it was no surprise when numbers came up light to field a girls’ varsity team.

Not to be deterred, Suesada hatched the idea of playing on the boys’ team, and the result was a rewarding season that capped a career in which she played varsity basketball since seventh grade, while thriving academically, embracing the unique culture at Hawthorne Valley and helping her parents, who are caregivers at Triform Camphill Community, look after residents with special needs there.

With all that on her plate, missing basketball senior year would’ve left a gaping hole in Suesada’s high school career, but the so-called “gym rat, first to arrive and last to leave,” as Wildcats boys’ coach Jason Middlebrook described her, was able to find a way to fill it in an unusual way.

“When I was a senior, I guess a lot of girls weren’t interested in basketball, and I still wanted to play, so I was talking to the coaches and kind of joking around, ‘Oh, maybe I could be on the boys’ team, that could be fun,’” Suesada said. “My coach was like, ‘No, yeah, let’s make it happen.’ I’m really thankful that I was able to play, and it was really fun, probably one of my favorite seasons.”

That, despite the fact that Hawthorne Valley, one of the smallest schools in the entire New York State Public High School Athletic Association, did not fare well on the scoreboard while playing in the Central Hudson Valley League. Still, Suesada said that by the end of the season, the Wildcats had improved substantially, to the point where teams that had beaten them by large margins earlier in the season found themselves in very tight games the second time around.

Middlebrook credited Suesada, who was a captain on the team while playing point guard, for setting an excellent example for teammates to follow.

“Ayaka was fearless throughout her senior year, competing with and against young men and never backing down,” he said of Suesada, one of 10 high school honorees for the third-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards. “She was a vocal leader on and off the court throughout her school career – but especially this year.

“After every practice this past season, Ayaka went to the weight room, while the boys on the team went home.”

“At our school, everyone is super-accepting and welcoming, so they were very down with me being one of the captains,” Suesada said. “And it was really fun, also, being a senior. You have a little more confidence, so you don’t feel as shy to say, ‘Hey, stop doing that’ or ‘Come over here so we can stretch.’

“I usually don’t think of myself as competitive, but then when I start playing games, I’m a little bit competitive, and I don’t like losing. So I try my best, and I think everyone tries their best and puts everything on the court. We fight hard, and it’s really fun.”

Suesada carried a 4.0 GPA in the classroom and plans to study sports management at Syracuse University.
Besides basketball, she has competed in cross country, club soccer and varsity volleyball, for which she earned all-CHVL honors despite the fact that this was her only season playing the sport.

Besides having been exposed to the Waldorf School philosophy at Hawthorne Valley, where students are taught and encouraged to adopt principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, Suesada enjoys helping her parents at Triform Camphill.

“For me, most of my involvement is during the summer, when they need more help and I’m off school,” she said. “I’ll help in different work areas, often the bakery, because I enjoy that area. I do a lot of childcare for the other families.

“During the year there are events where I help out. I love the community. It’s very tight-knit. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, and you meet new people all the time. I feel a lot of fulfillment in many ways, and I’m so happy here.”

At Hawthorne Valley, Suesada has served as a mentor to younger kids in athletics, academics and social justice issues.

“I tell them to enjoy the present,” she said. “Be in the moment, because I think nowadays kids are very accelerated in their development in a lot of ways, and I think it’s important for them to live in the moment and enjoy being young and having this freedom to do anything when you’re young, and have fun with it.”

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Cameryn Shultes

Morgan Burchhardt

Explore CDSWOY All-Time Roster Members

Cameryn Shultes

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2022
  • Class

    2022

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2022

Written by Will Springstead, The Daily Gazette

Middleburgh’s Cameryn Shultes doesn’t get caught up in the many honors she has earned. She’d rather talk about the little moments, such as all the practices and time spent with her teammates. And she’s glad she got to do it in a town that cares as much about its kids as Middleburgh.

The three-sport athlete is, in the words of Middleburgh athletic director Gregg Johns, “loyal, reliable and hard-working.” She has excelled in the classroom, in athletics and perhaps most noticeably, in community service. Shultes has done most of her service with St. Peter’s Hospital.

“I participated in a program through school this year with St. Peter’s [New Visions Health Careers], where instead of just straight education, everything is tied into health services, so I got to follow the doctors on rounds, see different aspects of the healthcare industry, and it also ties in to giving back to the community,” said Shultes, who is one of 10 high school honorees for the third-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards.

In addition, Shultes has volunteered at St. Peter’s Hospital making Christmas/holiday gift baskets for all the staff. She also volunteered at Becky’s House cleaning the house and yard. (Becky’s House is a house affiliated with St. Peter’s to provide housing for families with relatives or children in the hospital for extended periods of time.) She also will be volunteering at the St. Peter’s Cancer Care Center in the upcoming few weeks.

“She has the drive and desire to do her very best, while always finding time and willingness to help others succeed,” Johns said.

Athletically, Shultes has been bowling for the longest, since the 2016-17 season. She was a Section II first-team all-star from 2017-22, a Western Athletic Conference first-team all-star from 2017-22, the team’s most improved player in 2019, the WAC MVP in 2022 and had the league’s high average in 2022. According to her coach and father, Richard Shultes, she had a high series of 754 this past season, which was the highest for boys and girls in the WAC.

“Cameryn led the team to a fourth consecutive sectional win,” Richard said, “and a second trip to small-school states, where they placed second statewide. Cameryn and the [Middleburgh] team has not lost a match in the WAC for the last four years.”
In soccer, as a goalie, she was the team co-defensive MVP in 2020, won the Coach’s Choice Award in 2021, was a Section II first-team all-star in 2020 and 2022 and was the WAC Mohawk Division Defensive MVP in 2022.

In softball, in which she is the catcher, she won the Coach’s Choice Award in 2021.

Academically, Cameryn Shultes was a NYSPHSAA Scholar-Athlete in bowling from 2016-22, in soccer from 2018-22 and in softball in 2019, 2021 and 2022. She is the salutatorian and will attend SUNY Geneseo, where she plans to major in biology on the pre-med track.

Looking back, Shultes said she had to learn how to develop as a leader.

“I always wanted to be a leader, but obviously when you’re young, you’re not built for that yet,” she said. “I certainly think as I got older, I did learn to become a leader for the younger girls, especially in soccer. Your goalies aren’t usually going to be your captains because they’re not involved in every bit of the up-and-down that other players are, but I learned how my voice could be heard as a goalie and a leader for others. I worked very hard.”

When discussing athletic memories, Shultes doesn’t mention the headlines, but rather the day-to-day moments. Those are what sports are all about for her.
“Just the excitement of playing, the release of being able to play and to put all your energy into something,” she said. “Plus, one thing about sports is all the emotions that come out of them. Another thing I enjoy is the team aspect. I’ve made lifelong friends through them. And just the excitement of doing something all the way through.”

Give her hours of practice and time spent with friends any day of the week. And by all means, let it be in Middleburgh.

“Thankfully our school is very community-oriented because it’s not very big, and being able to compete in front of a lot of the community members and having it be a big deal in our town is nice,” Shultes said. “Not all schools can be that way because they’re so big.”

“She is the epitome of what, as a coach, we look for in a student-athlete,” Johns said. “She is well-rounded in academics, athletics and school activities. Cameryn is a great teammate, a great leader and just a solid and respectful young woman.”

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Kate Sherman

Morgan Burchhardt

Explore CDSWOY All-Time Roster Members

Kate Sherman

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2021
  • Class

    2021

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2021

Written by Mike MacAdam, The Daily Gazette Sports Writer

The athletic achievement portion of Kate Sherman’s high school resume requires multiple volumes, like a set of encyclopedias.

A grand pair of bookends complete the picture, though, as the Mohonasen High graduate bracketed her outstanding career as a distance runner with a stellar academic record on one side, and a busy schedule of school and community service on the other.

For that, Sherman was named to the Capital District Sports Women of the Year’s class of 2021.

“I was very honored to be picked as one of them, and I was honestly kind of shocked, because I didn’t know it was an award that was do-able for me,” she said. “But I thought it was really cool, and it’s really great that they were doing specifically a women’s award.”

Over the course of her running career at Mohonasen, Sherman broke 11 school records at various distances in indoor and outdoor track, while winning multiple Section II championships, and holds the school record on almost all of the cross country courses that Mohonasen typically competes on.

She reached the cross country state meet for the first of three times as a freshman, and finished 16th there as a sophomore and seventh as a junior, while winning the Section II championship and earning all-state first-team honors, a first for a Mohon runner.

Sherman said her most memorable race was a third at sectionals when she was a freshman, because, for one thing, it served as a springboard for everything that followed.

“That was my first time going to states, and I feel like it was the first time that I performed really well and it was that start of everything like that, because I went to states two years after that, too,” she said.

“It definitely helped me prepare better. I knew what to expect for when I would actually be more competitive in the state meet.”

During her pandemic-disrupted senior season, Sherman managed to be named Mohonasen’s Athlete of the Year while also earning the Artemis Award for having the highest athletic point total and a 96.7 academic average. She has been a NYSPHSAA scholar-athlete every season and serves on the Mohonasen Athlete Advisory Committee and served on the Suburban Council Athlete Leadership Council for two years.

Sherman was an officer for the Mohonasen Student Athletic Club, a community service organization involved in activities such as Toys for Tots, City Mission, Mohon Food Pantry and Anchor Room, which collects clothing donations for students.

“And with our team, we always do a Thanksgiving food drive and put together boxes,” she said. “My school helps a lot with that, but also my parents helped me get involved in stuff like that. It feels good to know you’re helping someone, especially at the holidays like Thanksgiving. It’s really important, and I always feel happy after.”

Sherman will attend Iona College, where she will run track and cross country and plans to major in political science.

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Heather Schmidt

Morgan Burchhardt

Explore CDSWOY All-Time Roster Members

Heather Schmidt

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2022
  • Class

    2022

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2022

Written by Stan Hudy, The Daily Gazette

Rowing has taken Niskayuna High School senior Heather Schmidt to New Jersey, Florida, California and even Bulgaria.

Next, the sport is taking her to Stanford University.
Schmidt will row as part of the Stanford women’s rowing team in the fall after a six-year career with Niskayuna Rowing.

“If you told me my freshman year that I’d be talking to someone at one of the best schools and the best rowing programs, I wouldn’t believe it,” Schmidt said at her final senior practice on the Mohawk River at the Niskayuna Rowing boathouse.

One of 10 high school honorees for the third-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards, Schmidt is a four-time New York State Scholastic Rowing Association champion, a two-time Stotesbury Cup Regatta champion, a three-time Scholastic Rowing Association of America champion and a two-time silver medal winner at the USRowing Youth National Invitational regattas.

During her sophomore year, Schmidt recorded the fastest 2,000-meter time for a high school female on a rowing machine, referred to as an erg.

“The school record was 7 minutes, 11 seconds and I just wanted to beat the record,” Schmidt said. “I beat that by four seconds and then I beat my [personal record] again last fall.”

With a GPA placing her in the top 5% of students at Niskayuna and her new school record, she became a top rowing recruit.

“Our women’s rowing program has a storied tradition, each year competing for scholastic state and national championships,” Niskayuna athletic director Larry Gillooley said. “We have scores of young women who have continued their rowing careers at some of the finest colleges in the country. I can state without hesitation that Heather Schmidt is one of the best women’s rowers who has ever rowed here at Niskayuna.”

An avid skier, Schmidt is also part of the Gore Mountain ski patrol.

“My entire family are ski patrollers,” Schmidt said. “I took the ski patrol course during the spring rowing season which is a lot to handle — practical exams, written exams.”

Schmidt also played three years on the Niskayuna girls’ basketball varsity squad.

“In the winter, I would be in the weight room for crew in the mornings twice a week, play basketball six days a week and then on the seventh day I’d be skiing the whole day,” Schmidt said. “I’ve definitely kept myself active with a lot of things.”

Schmidt still had time to be the secretary of the Niskayuna Outing Club.

Completing her senior year, Schmidt rowed to a national title in the girls’ double at the SRAA national championship regatta in New Jersey in late May and earned a silver medal in her last high school race at the USRowing Youth National Championship regatta at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota in the girls quad. She then flew to California for the US Rowing National Selection Camp for an opportunity to row at the World Rowing Championships in Italy in July. Last year, she rowed for the USA in Bulgaria.

“Rowing has given me such an opportunity to study harder, to train harder and go to really cool places,” Schmidt said. “It blows my mind every day what I’ve been able to do and I’m only 18. It’s super fun to think about.”

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