For many GDS students, applying to college is the same arduous process involving lots of essays, interviews, recommendations and waiting. However, a select few have had a unique experience. There are currently four Hoppers who were recruited to universities due to their outstanding performance in sports: seniors Pierson Cooper and Tatiana Nazlymov and juniors Clara Yu and Adriano Arioti.
Cooper will play baseball for Tufts University, Nazlymov will fence for Princeton University, Yu will play volleyball for Columbia University and Arioti will swim for Harvard University. For these students, the college process began the summer after their sophomore years, when schools were first allowed to contact prospective athletes.
These athletes’ recruitments are part of a larger trend of increased athletic success for GDS. In addition to the state championship–winning volleyball team that Yu plays for, the varsity wrestling team recently won the MAC championship. In the fall, the women’s varsity cross country team won the ISL championship, and the men’s varsity cross country team came in second place in the MAC championship. Women’s varsity soccer also won the ISL championship for the A division, and GDS had ten athletes from the cross country and volleyball teams selected by the District of Columbia State Athletic Association for its all-state teams.
Senior Pierson Cooper committed to Tufts University in August 2022. After attending a number of sports camps hosted by college recruiters to showcase his talents, Cooper decided on Tufts. He liked the academics and location, and he said that Tufts’ program is “very highly regarded,” with a coach whom Cooper enjoyed speaking to.
Cooper added that he is making sure to use the remainder of his last year in high school to improve the skills he will need for college. “Learning to balance my baseball life and also my academic work will be a big thing,” Cooper said.
Though he has missed some school days for tournaments, Cooper said he has managed to keep up with high school and baseball by being communicative with his teachers, who have been understanding.
Senior Tatiana Nazlymov, who fences, committed to Princeton University at the beginning of her junior year, after a few months of communicating with coaches at Princeton. “I just knew I wanted to go to Princeton pretty early,” Nazlymov said, explaining that she reached out to the Princeton coach, scheduled an interview, visited and was offered a verbal commitment.
Her verbal commitment meant that she still had to go through the formal application process but was guaranteed a spot in the class of 2027 if she met the academic requirements. “I had to get at least 1450 on the SAT and just get good grades,” she said.
GDS does not have a fencing team, meaning that Nazlymov’s training happened outside school. Nazlymov comes from a long line of fencers; her grandfather is Vladimir Nazlymov, a six-time Olympic medalist who played for the Soviet Union and a ten-time International Fencing Federation World Champion. Her parents run Nazlymov Fencing Foundation, where she trains.
Nazlymov began fencing at the age of eight, and she said that while she did feel pressure to join the sport because of her family’s connection to fencing, she has grown to love it. Nazlymov is currently 12th in the International Fencing Federation rankings for junior saber competitors and 47th out of all age groups. She said that she has missed a considerable amount of school to fence.
Nazlymov said she flew back and forth between D.C. and Europe last school year, missing what she estimated to be 90 classes and making up schoolwork when she returned home. This year, Nazlymov has been staying in Europe between competitions, most recently spending two weeks in Bulgaria. Additionally, she has competed in Africa and will compete in Asia.
Her upcoming tournaments in Europe and Asia are significant for Nazlymov, as her performance will determine if she will qualify for the United States fencing team at the Paris Olympics in 2024. “If I am top three or top four in the country by next year, then I will make the Olympics,” she explained. As of Jan. 15, she was ranked fifth in women’s saber fighting by USA Fencing, and she competed for the US in the 2022 World Fencing Championships, which took place in Egypt in July.
Junior Clara Yu’s volleyball career began just five years ago, when she was 12 years old. After playing recreationally, Yu began to play competitively a couple of years ago, when she realized that she wanted to play in college. She attended multiple volleyball summer camps, began cementing her role on the school team and joined a travel team. This fall season, when the GDS women’s volleyball team won the DCSAA state championship, Yu was selected as the DCSAA girls volleyball player of the year.
Since June after her sophomore year, Yu has been contacted by about 15 schools. “It’s just a lot of phone calls, emails and Zooms with the coaches,” Yu said, to figure out what different programs offer.
After narrowing her list of colleges down to Harvard, Columbia, Emory and Fordham, she decided on Columbia in November. “It felt like the right fit,” Yu said. She liked the coaches and the girls on the team, who “were just really nice and welcoming.” Columbia “seemed like a place where I could see myself growing over the next four years,” Yu said.
To Yu, finding a college that provided a high-quality education was a priority. When she was able to find a place where she could thrive both academically and on the volleyball team, it was “a dream come true.”
Junior Adriano Arioti has been swimming competitively since he was seven years old. Earlier this year, Arioti verbally committed to swim for Harvard University. For Arioti, academics were always important. “My parents have been a big part of that process, making sure that I know that academics are the biggest priority,” Arioti said.
This year, Arioti broke at least three school records: one individual record in the 50-meter freestyle event and two relays. Arioti broke the school’s record for the 200-meter medley relay with juniors Curan Palmer and Joseph Stocker and senior John Yuan. He also broke the record for the 200-meter freestyle relay with Palmer, Yuan and sophomore Peter Kumar. Both Palmer and Kumar are on the Bit’s staff. When speaking about the records, Arioti explained that though he could not remember the specific times, “we didn’t just break the records. There were a bunch that we basically destroyed.”