The Struggle is real, but so is the pride

Athletes trying to move past seasons-long losing streaks


Tina Dang

Girls soccer co-captains Sibleigh Julander, left, and Shaylah Fernandez watch from the sidelines with assistant coach Kevin Wells on Sept. 19. The team has struggled for several seasons, from sharing uniforms with the boys team to not having a winning season in six years.

Sierra Williams, Staff Reporter

Some athletes choose the high school they’re going to attend solely based off the school’s performance in sports. It’s no secret Rainier Beach creates NBA-caliber players or that O’Dea, Garfield and Bellevue are known for their football programs. There was a time when female hoopers were clamoring to get into Cleveland, but now Eagle teams across the board struggle to attract top notch athletes. Now the question on the playing field is what’s so bad about playing for Cleveland?

Girls soccer has been a CHS sport for six years, but the girls have yet to have a winning season. The girls had just two wins last season, but for them, it’s not always about the team record.

“We’re working a lot harder together as a team; it’s not all about winning for us,” said senior Shaylah Fernandez, who has played soccer for Cleveland since her sophomore year. “We want to build a family.”

Fernandez is co-captain, alongside fellow seniors Sibleigh Julander and Murphy Cerezo Hernandez. For her final year on the soccer team, she wants to act as a mentor for the underclassmen so they can have a better record than she’s had on the team.

For some players, they appreciated the camaraderie but eventually it stops being about the team. It becomes about making it to the college level. Senior Jahleel Breland has high hopes of playing Division I football. He has played football since he was seven years old and has played for Cleveland since his freshman year. He considers the team his family, but his focus has shifted to being recruited rather than how many games the team is winning. This season, Breland was moved from his position as wide receiver to quarterback.

“The coaches wanted one of their top athletes playing quarterback because it’s an important position and they needed someone that really understands the sport to be successful,” Breland said.

Switching positions on the field not only affects Breland, but it also affects the people moving in to fill the void he left at wide receiver. In a domino effect, one person moves up and the rest must move up as well.

Starting linebacker, Makana Haynes, just started his first year of football. The freshman joined in hopes of following in his father’s footsteps of playing football in college. He came in with no football experience, but is more than willing to fill in where he is needed.

Magdalene Tran
The girls swim relay team competes in the 200 meter freestyle relay against Chief Sealth and West Seattle at the Queen Anne Pool on Sept. 22. It was the team’s first win in two years.

Show me the money

Funding for Cleveland athletics has always been low. It’s no surprise that another chronic problem athletes face is the lack of funding from the school. Girls and boys soccer were forced to share jerseys in past seasons. Multiple teams like cross country and girls basketball have worn hand-me-downs or mismatched uniforms for several years.

“It’s unfair that sports that aren’t as popular don’t get funding or new jerseys every year … football and boys basketball gets new uniforms all the time, but the boys and girls [soccer] have to share jerseys,” said Fernandez.

If girls soccer were to fundraise to get new jerseys they wouldn’t arrive before the season’s end. They could begin fundraising for next year, but seniors like Fernandez wouldn’t get to use or even see these new jerseys. Girls swim faces similar problems.

“Most girls don’t have matching swimsuits and if we want to get matching suits we have to pay for them with our own money,” said senior swimmer Anita Pham. “This year, we’re trying to do more fundraising so we can get better swimsuits.”

Lack of funding isn’t the only problem girls swim faces. They also practice before school at the Rainier Beach Community Center. Most girls go straight to school from practice, leaving them exhausted during the school day, but the mornings are the only opportunity for them to get pool time.

Nathan Burdick has been head coach of the girls swim team for three years. He says the team welcomes everyone; even those who can’t swim. But in doing so, it puts his team at a disadvantage in competitions.

“Swimming is an important life skill, so when girls come on the team in hopes of learning how to swim, we are at a disadvantage when competing against different schools,” he said.

“They are learning and growing together. Over the three years the team has grown in not only size but enthusiasm. The girls are more confident in themselves as swimmers and students,” Burdick said.

The girls swim team broke their three-year losing streak when they beat Chief Sealth, 74-60, on Sept. 22. 

Although the popular idea among students is Cleveland is not athletically gifted in sports, most of the athletes will tell say they are having a good time. Winning isn’t everything for the Eagles, but it sure feels good when they do.