Trib HSSN athletes of the week: Sewickley Academy’s Arjan Bedi, Oakland Catholic’s Jayla Ellis
Wednesday, May 9, 2018 | 10:51 PM
School: Sewickley Academy
Claim to fame: The tradition of boys tennis greatness at Sewickley Academy appears to be in good hands, or on the good racquet of 10th-grader Arjan Bedi. Bedi has been pure gold this spring, first helping the Panthers to a 15th consecutive WPIAL Class AA team crown, then last week sweeping through the field to capture the district singles title. He and his Sewickley Academy teammates will try to win a third straight PIAA team title next week and then the PIAA singles tournament will be the last weekend in May.
How did it feel to follow in former teammate Luke Ross' footsteps in winning a WPIAL singles championship?
It felt great to win the singles title for the first time. Seeing Luke Ross win the tournament last year really motivated me to try and win it this year. Seeing somebody who is that good at tennis really inspires you to be the best that you can be
What was more rewarding, winning the singles title or leading Sewickley Academy to a 15th straight WPIAL crown?
Both winning the singles title and winning the WPIAL team tournament was unique in its own way. We had a really great time together as a team throughout the whole season, and having your friends around you when you win is a great experience.
Do you and your teammates talk about the team streak a lot, and is there that added pressure to win it all each spring?
As a team we don't really talk about the WPIAL team streak. I think that we take tennis one point at a time. We leave the coaching, strategizing and big-picture thinking to our coach, Whitney Snyder.
How old were you when you started playing tennis, and do you work on your game year round or do you have an off-season?
I was 6 or 7 years old when I first started playing tennis, and I really enjoyed it. I started playing tournaments around sixth grade, and I train all year round.
Do you have a favorite musical group or singer?
I don't think that I have a favorite singer.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I really enjoy watching the new Marvel comic and Avengers series.
School: Oakland Catholic
Claim to fame: Jayla Ellis is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of many when it comes to track and field. A year ago, the then-Oakland Catholic sophomore won gold at the WPIAL track and field championships in the 300-meter hurdles and the long jump and brought home silver in the 110 hurdles. Now as she prepares for the district championships later this month, she has added another event to her resume. At last week's prestigious Baldwin Invitational, Ellis won the 100 hurdles in a time of 14.42 seconds and, in her new event, she took first place in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 4½ inches.
You were already a champion in the hurdles and long jump from last year. What prompted you to add the high jump?
I added on the high jump because I usually do the multi-events during the summer, and high jump is a part of it. It was one of my weak points, so I decided to do it on a consistent basis during high school season to improve.
How did you become so good so quick at that event?
It took having my approach completely redone for me to see improvement. I had one practice with the new steps for me to see a huge personal record a couple days later at the South Fayette meet. I am still in shock.
Did winning the 100-meter hurdles and the high jump at the Baldwin Invitational last week offset not winning the long jump?
In the long jump, I fouled all three of my jumps. It was the first time I ever did that, so I was pretty upset; however, I am grateful it happened at an invitational and not at a qualifier. The fouling issue is due to a slight technical problem, so it will be an easy fix before WPIALs. I do believe my performance at Baldwin overall was great since I was able to put down some solid times and marks in my other events.
You have had great success in three different track and field events. Is there one you think you are best at or is there one that is more of a favorite of yours?
My favorite event is long jump; I started off track doing the event. I've done it since I was 11 and continue to enjoy it.
Is your goal to win multiple gold medals at both the WPIAL and PIAA championships later this month?
Yes. It would be amazing to place well in all of my events at both WPIALs and the states.
In a straight one-on-one race between the sprinter and the long distance runner, how long before teammate Hannah Schupansky catches and passes you for good?
I may be able to hold off Hannah for 400 meters. After that, it's her territory.
What are three things you hope to do this summer?
I want to continue working at the Shadyside Boys & Girls Club. I worked there last year, and it was such a fun experience. I also plan on competing at New Balance Nationals since I can be pushed by some of the best in the nation who will be there. The trip will also serve as an opportunity to visit some colleges in North Carolina. I definitely want to get a head start on my college applications during the summer as well, because I know senior year will be hectic, especially in the fall.
Don Rebel is a TribLIVE High School Sports Network broadcaster and staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].