Thompson does it all

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


In this age of specialization, multisport athletes are getting harder to find. Then there’s Natasha Thompson, who not only competed in two sports at Pinewood School this year – she did them in the same season.

Natasha Thompson” width=
Courtesy of Astrid Thompson
Natasha Thompson plays soccer for Pinewood. The senior has committed to Vassar College for soccer.

The Los Altos Hills resident played basketball and soccer for the Panthers during the winter until a knee injury put an end to that in late January. And Thompson did all this while maintaining an A average in the classroom that helped her get recruited to play soccer at Vassar College, where she’s headed in the fall.

“From a young age, I’ve been pretty good with time management,” said the senior, who started playing soccer and basketball when she was 5. “I’ve always had a lot of practices and games, but my parents and I always put academics first. I’m grateful for that; it should make college easier.”

Thompson made Pinewood’s powerhouse varsity girls basketball team her freshman year and played high-level club soccer throughout high school. She didn’t want to graduate from Pinewood without playing at least one season for her school’s girls soccer team, though, and joined the squad in November.

Thompson pointed out that she wouldn’t have been able to do so without the support of basketball coach Doc Scheppler, soccer coach Whitney Wood and athletic director Matt Stimson.

“That was nice,” she said. “At bigger schools, they probably would have said no. But Pinewood is a small school, and I was able to work it out with the coaches and the athletic director.”

They all agreed that basketball would remain her top priority, which was fine with Wood; she was happy to have a multi-position player of Thompson’s caliber even part time on a team that won only one game the season before.

“Natasha had a huge impact on the Pinewood soccer team,” Wood said. “She was balancing playing basketball and soccer, so she was only around for half of our games, but when she was there, she was a difference maker. The team as a whole played better and harder when Natasha was playing.”

Thompson’s afternoon soccer matches rarely conflicted with her basketball games, which were usually at night, but there were days she played in both.

“I had a doubleheader a few times, but I always got to (the basketball game) before warm-ups,” Thompson said. “Since I grew up playing both, I grew up with the craziness and came to love it, so it all worked out.”

That is, until Jan. 22. That’s the day Thompson suffered a torn ACL playing in a Pinewood soccer game.

“I heard a pop, and that kind of worried me,” she said. “There was definitely pain, but I thought (an ACL tear) would hurt more, so I was hopeful. Then I had the MRI and found out. I was disappointed, but I’m still glad I got to play for Pinewood.”

Thompson, who had surgery Feb. 12, added that “rehab is going well,” but she expects to miss her freshman season at Vassar. She still can’t wait to get there, though.

“When I visited the campus, I really liked it,” said Thompson, who plans to major in computer science. “It’s smaller and very pretty. I felt at home there, and I really like the coach.”

Thompson also admires the coaches she’s played for over the years – including Wood, MVLA club coach Seth Alberico and her first coach: dad Matt Thompson.

“As soon as I could walk, my dad had me kicking a ball,” said the left-footed forward/back, whose father played at Stanford.

On the basketball side, no coach has made a bigger impact on Thompson than Scheppler.

“Doc has taught me work ethic and so much about the game,” she said.

Recalling her four years as a reserve on the basketball team, the 5-foot-7 Thompson treasures the Panthers’ triple-overtime upset of Mitty in the 2018 NorCal Open Division final most.

“It was insane to be a part of that,” she said. “It was so nice to beat them. I will never forget it.”

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Spring sports officially over at high schools

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday’s announcement by the California Interscholastic Federation dashed that last sliver of hope Matt Leong had of playing baseball again this season for Los Altos High. As expected, the CIF – which governs the state’s high school athletics – declared that spring sports are over for 2020 due to COVID-19.

“Well, basically I was trying to stay optimistic throughout this entire time,” Leong said, “but based off the previous comments from our governor, I had a pretty good feeling the season was about to get canceled.”

So did his head coach, Gabe Stewart, yet receiving the official word from the CIF still stung.

“Not a surprise but still a shock due to the impact of the decision when the announcement was made,” Stewart said.

That impact is especially hard on seniors, who will never suit up for their schools again. Seniors like Mountain View High swimmer Lexi Rudolph, who prior to the announcement feared that she would not be able to compete in the Central Coast Section and state championships.

“It doesn’t help when you add on the fact that this is my senior year and I’ll never get these chances again,” she said.

At Los Altos High, athletic director Michelle Noeth is making sure that her seniors will be acknowledged – season or not.

“I am working with the spring coaches to get photos of spring- sport seniors to recognize them throughout the season on Instagram and Twitter,” she said. “(This) week I will be posting a slide show of our seniors.”

Noeth added that she is also working with the spring coaches “on how we want to wrap up the season, so the athletes have a feeling of closure.”

While this isn’t the way Stewart envisioned his team’s promising season to end, the longtime baseball coach and teacher sees a lesson in what the coronavirus pandemic has wrought.

“We are all disappointed, but I know the team is intelligent and mature enough to understand the gravity of the current situation,” he said. “It’s a time for everyone to focus on the fact lives are at stake and this is an opportunity to figure out a way to grind through adversity.”

Leong aims to do just that.

“While I was disappointed it ended so early, it just motivates me to work even harder to make next season that much more memorable,” the junior said.
The CIF will now focus on the fall sports season, with hopes that there will be one.

“As always, our top priority is everyone’s ongoing health and safety during this challenging time,” CIF executive director Ron Nocetti said in a statement, “and we all look forward to the day when education-based athletics resumes.”

High school athletes try to stay ready in case spring sports resume

Brock Susko
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Los Altos High junior Brock Susko takes a swing March 12 against Leland, the Eagles’ last game before school closed.

For high school athletes in spring sports, the season is fading fast. Three weeks of play have already been wiped out due to the coronavirus, and most schools aren’t expected to reopen until at least May. 

LAHS grad makes a splash at Georgetown

Riley Fujioka
Courtesy of Victoria Fujioka
Georgetown junior Riley Fujioka competes in this year’s Big East Conference swimming and diving championships. The Los Altos High graduate won the 1- and 3-meter diving events.

As a toddler, Riley Fujioka said she enjoyed tumbling but wasn’t very coordinated when it came to playing sports that involved a ball. The Los Altos native spent several years as a gymnast before finding her ideal athletic endeavor – diving. 


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