May 24, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Northwood High School’s scholar athletes honored in virtual ceremony

Northwood senior co-captain Chris Pukszta takes a shot in a game last season. (Photo courtesy Michael An, For OC Sports Zone)

Scholar athletes in the Pacific Coast League, including those at Northwood High School, were honored in a virtual ceremony.

The program is held annually at an Irvine high school, but this year had to go to a virtual format because of the coronavirus pandemic.

OC Sports Zone is running recognition of the scholar athletes by each school. Northwood’s top scholar athletes were Kathleen Overbaugh and Chris Pukszta. Here are the profiles of the scholar athletes from co-athletic directors Brandon Emery and Sierra Wang:

KATHLEEN OVERBAUGH: Kathleen Overbaugh has earned six varsity letters in soccer, cross country and track and field. She has participated in the CIF post season three times. After two ACL knee surgeries while playing soccer, she found her passion in running. In track and field, Kathleen was a varsity team member for four years, and team captain for the past two years. Her awards include sprinter/hurdler athlete of the year. Kathleen ran in the California Winter State Track and Field Championships for the past three years. She has represented Northwood at the OC Championships and the Arcadia Invitational. Kathleen is a school record holder for the individual 200 meters, the 1,600 meter sprint medley relay, the 4×200 meter relay, the freshman all time record for the 200 meters, the junior all time record in the 200 meters, the fourth fastest 100 meter time in NHS school history, and the fifth fastest time in the 400 meters in school history. She has a total weighted GPA of 4.16. Kathleen will be studying Business Administration and Management and running track at Boston University in the fall. 

ASTRITI DIHINGIA: Astriti Dihingia has been a part of the Northwood varsity tennis team since her freshman year, earned four varsity letters in tennis, and participated in the CIF post season three times. This year she had the honor of being tennis captain. In her sophomore year, Astriti was ranked in the top 100 players in her USTA division. She’s earned the Most Inspirational Award as well as the Coach’s Award for her enthusiasm during matches and her ability to persevere. Her passion for tennis extends off the court as well, as she partnered with her tennis academy to create a community outreach group that tutored at under privileged elementary schools. In response to her efforts towards her community, she was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Bronze Award. She has been a scholar athlete for all four seasons, with a cumulative GPA of 4.2. Astriti is a National Merit Finalist and will be pursuing a combined major in Health Sciences and Psychology at Northeastern this fall with a National Merit Scholarship. 

MARY KING: Throughout Mary King’s time in high school she has earned seven varsity letters in cross country and track and field. She has participated in the CIF post season three times, making it to CIF finals every time, been a Pacific Coast League cross country all-league runner three times. Mary was awarded the coach’s award in ninth grade, the outstanding dedication award, and the most valuable player award. She has been a scoring varsity runner all four years and was the cross country captain senior year. She was the frosh-soph PCL champion in the 3200 her sophomore year, as well as PCL co-champion the next. In track, she was awarded distance rookie of the year, frosh-soph girls distance athlete of the year, and the coach’s award. She also served as the distance track captain her senior season. Additionally, she was the top female Northwood high student in the 2017 Timberwolf 5K. Mary has made the principal’s honor roll every year. Mary is honored to be attending New York University to pursue her academic and athletic careers this fall. 

ASHLEY PETERS: Ashley earned three varsity letters in girls lacrosse while playing her sophomore, junior and senior year. She developed her love for lacrosse at OC United, SoCal Express, Ladies of the North and NOC. In lacrosse, she was awarded first team all-league and won the team MVP offensive player in 2019. At the UCLA women’s lacrosse camp she was awarded the Head, Heart and Hustle award by her role model Trenna Hill. Her junior and senior year, she was honored to serve as the varsity girls lacrosse captain. Ashley has a 4.14 GPA and will study at Irvine Valley College for two years and hopefully transfer to UCI from the honors to honors program to study Business Administration. While at IVC, she wants to start a local women’s club team so she can pursue playing and coaching lacrosse in college. 

ETHAN DUONG: Ethan Duong earned five varsity letters in football and volleyball. He participated in the CIF post season three times, including a CIF semi-finals appearance for football and a CIF second- round appearance for volleyball. In football, Ethan played quarterback and defensive back and was presented the Coach’s Award as a freshman. He capped off his senior year with the most outstanding defensive back award and a selection as first team all-league. In volleyball, he played opposite and libero and was awarded most improved his sophomore year. In addition to his athletics at school, he played club volleyball and served as a head coach for his former middle school’s flag football team. Ethan is involved in a number of various clubs and organizations at school, including Link Crew and co-president of the Business, Finance, and Investment Club. He has a 4.24 GPA and will attend Cornell University studying Economics. 

CHRIS PUKSZTA: Chris Pukszta has totaled 10 varsity letters across his time in both water polo and swimming. He was a part of the CIF Southern Section winning swim team in 2018 as well as competing in one other swimming CIF and four water polo CIF tournaments. He led the water polo team as a co-captain his senior year to a Division 3 semi-final finish and was a co-captain his senior year for the boys swim team. Chris has been in the water almost his whole life, learning to swim at age six and joining the Novaquatics swim team. He played for the Northwood water polo club team from age 10 to 14 and had multiple top-ten finishes during his time there. He returned to the Novas in the past few years to resume his swimming career. Outside of Northwood athletics, Chris is an avid triathlete, competing in USAT High school nationals as well as other nationally ranked events. Chris has a total GPA of 4.21 and will be majoring in Bioengineering at The California Institute of Technology (Caltech). 

NIKHIL RAJAGOPA: Since his freshman year, Nikhil Rajagopal has been a starting varsity athlete for Northwood High School’s boys tennis team, where he has to-date received three varsity letters. Nikhil has participated in the CIF postseason three times, and during his junior year, his team was ranked second in league, with a record of 15-2. This enabled the team to qualify and rank third in the highest open division of CIF, where they reached the quarterfinals. Nikhil has served as a captain of the varsity team for the past two years and played in the No. 1 doubles position for the 2019 season. During his junior year, Nikhil won the PCL doubles tennis tournament and advanced to the round of 16 of the CIF individual doubles tennis championships. Additionally, he was selected as part of the first team all-county boys tennis team selected by the Orange County Register. Nikhil has a 4.30 GPA and will study Computer Science at UC Berkeley this fall. 

CORY STONE: Cory Stone earned six letters in varsity cross country and track, and served as team captain for five seasons. His junior year, he led the boys’ cross country team to its first ever placement at the CIF-SS Finals meet in Division 2. He set school records at the Woodbridge-Northwood Classic and Dana Hills Invitational and was honored as most dedicated this year, and rookie of the year and was a coach’s award recipient in previous years. Cory has a 3.89 GPA and will study Chemical Engineering while continuing to run cross country and track at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. 

Northwood High’s sportsmanship winners were Malak Hassouna and Jaden Piazza: