La Center’s letter-perfect student-athlete

Natasha Lewis to study neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and run, too

A perfect student.

A perfect athlete.

An imperfect finish to an incredible high school career.

Nathasha Lewis was named the co-valedictorian at La Center High School, and this was supposed to be her final high school season of track and field. 

With spring sports cancelled, Natasha Lewis of La Center trains every day to stay in shape for her college career. Photo by Mike Schultz
With spring sports cancelled, Natasha Lewis of La Center trains every day to stay in shape for her college career. Photo by Mike Schultz

There will be no season, and any ceremony to honor the Class of 2020 will surely look different or be delayed or, well, who knows?

“Walking at graduation was something I was really looking forward to,” Lewis said. 

Still, she has a positive outlook, even during the pandemic, because that is what she has learned at La Center.

“Our teachers and a lot of people have been coming together to show they really care about us,” Lewis said. “Even though we likely won’t get our typical ceremony, it will be really cool whatever it is. They’re trying to make it special for us.”

Her time at LCHS has been special, indeed.

It has prepared her for what’s next. She will continue as a student athlete as she pursues her education at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she plans to study neuroscience.

When she was a freshman, Lewis zeroed in on two missions she wanted to accomplish in high school: Maintain a perfect grade-point average and earn 12 varsity letters in her three sports: cross country, basketball, and track and field.

“I would say I’m very goal oriented,” she said. “I really enjoy challenging myself and seeing what I can accomplish.”

She met both of those goals.

Natasha Lewis of La Center will complete her high school career as a perfect student and an athlete who earned 12 varsity letters. Photo courtesy Photography by Sue Fox
Natasha Lewis of La Center will complete her high school career as a perfect student and an athlete who earned 12 varsity letters. Photo courtesy Photography by Sue Fox

Many schools in the state, including La Center, have announced their policies toward spring sport athletes and letters. 

“Every senior that lettered last year automatically letters this year,” said Matt Cooke, the school’s athletic director.

Lewis does not need the letter to validate anything. Even so, the Wildcats knew it was the right thing to do.

“She’s just amazing. It’s a rarity to have a three-sport athlete, let alone a 12-letter athlete,” Cooke said. “Not only that, but she’s a great kid as well. I’m so excited to see what comes in her future.”

Lewis will run cross country and track and field in college. Interestingly, she grew up playing soccer but never kicked the ball around for the Wildcats.

“I ran cross country in middle school. Eighth grade was my last year of playing club soccer. I love soccer, but I really loved cross country more,” Lewis said. “I wanted to see what I could do if I continued on the road of doing cross country.”

She and her cross country teammates stood on the podium at state in all four years of high school, finishing in the top four.

“Cross country is a sport that really bonds you with your teammates because of the hard work you go through every day and how you have to push each other every day,” she said.

Basketball, she said, was never her best sport. But she knew how to work hard. She earned a letter her freshman year. La Center would go on to state her first two years and won three league titles in the four seasons, including her senior year.

“Winning the league title this year was pretty cool because we didn’t win it last year,” she said.

Her high school athletic career ended too soon, of course.

“I was really bummed because I wanted to spend (the spring) with my friends and just see what I could do,” Lewis said. “Junior season I didn’t run the times I wanted to. I was having trouble with an injury. I wanted to come into my senior season really strong.”

This spring, she and her teammates got in about two weeks of track and field practice before school was closed.

Everyday life came to a sudden stop, or at least a major slowdown. That had to be an adjustment for someone like Lewis.

She is, after all, the type of person who took three advanced placement classes as a junior.

“I wanted to challenge myself,” she said of AP calculus, AP physics, and AP English. “Those are my favorite classes I’ve ever taken. The things I learned were so interesting. They were a big part deciding to go to Johns Hopkins and further my education there.”

Because she wasn’t busy enough, she took a pre-neuroscience course last summer. 

“A lot of it is still a mystery to us,” she said. “I want to further understand the human brain.”

Naturally, Lewis wants to start off college on the right foot, academically and athletically. So she is studying and running.

“I’ve still been training almost every single day. That’s been really helpful,” she said. “I’ve been able to still get outside and stay in shape. Right now, I’m looking forward to my cross country season in college.”

Once there, she will establish new goals, new challenges for herself.

But she will always remember where it all started.

“I really enjoyed being at La Center,” she said. “The people in the town have had the biggest impact on me. Teachers. Peers. The small town of La Center has been the perfect environment.”

For a perfect student.

And a perfect, 12-letter athlete.


About The Author

Paul Valencia joins after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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