There are athletes, there are students, and then there are student athletes. Combining scholastic aptitude and physical prowess, they juggle homework and practice to maintain a high grade-point average as well as a starting position on the team.

These student athletes were honored last week with the announcement of the CIF Southern Section Academic Awards, in which 1,451 team entries were received for the 2009-10 school year. In the group of schools with student populations greater than 1,500, San Marcos High School received the most top-five finishes out of the 22 sports included.

San Marcos’ boys’ cross country, girls’ swimming, boys’ volleyball and wrestling teams placed first for the highest cumulative, nonweighted GPAs in their respective sports; each team will receive a banner to commemorate the achievement.

The Royals had 17 top-five finishes, which equals 77 percent of their sports teams in the top tier academically. The teams that placed second included baseball, boys’ basketball, girls’ soccer and boys’ tennis. The third-place teams were football, boys’ soccer, girls’ volleyball and boys’ water polo. Girls’ track and field finished in fourth place, and boys’ golf, softball, boys’ track and field and girls’ water polo placed fifth. Often the margin between the first and second place teams’ GPAs were hundredths of a point.

While the CIF-Southern Section divides schools into two categories — populations greater than 1,500 and smaller than 1,500 — the King’s Page, the school’s student newspaper, conducted further research by combining all public schools from both divisions. With all large and small public schools combined, San Marcos had 14 top-five finishes, or 64 percent of its teams in the top tier academically — more than any other public high school in the Southern Section.

Dos Pueblos High School received recognition for its student athletes as well, finishing just behind San Marcos with 13 top-five finishes in schools with student populations greater than 1,500; its cumulative GPAs for girls’ cross country, girls’ soccer, softball and girls’ track and field earned the school first-place recognition. The teams that placed second included football, boys’ soccer and boys’ swimming. The third-place teams were boys’ golf, girls’ swimming and girls’ water polo. Boys’ track, boys’ volleyball and boys’ water polo finished in fourth place.

Santa Barbara High School earned three top-five finishes, with wrestling and girls’ track finishing second and boys’ track earning third.

Each CIF Southern Section member school also can name a male and female Student Athlete of the Year. Seniors Jenny Ann Martinez (4.0 GPA) and Matthew Welsh (3.97 GPA) earned the honor for the Royals. The Chargers honored Katherine Boehm (4.0 GPA) and Nathaniel Block (3.56), and the Dons recognized Rebecca Neilsen-Robbins (4.0 GPA) for having maintained high GPAs in college-prep or higher-level courses for the past three years, earning a varsity letter in at least one sport as well as participating in extracurricular activities.

Athletics provide a positive outlet for youths in the community, teaching responsibility, time management and commitment, San Marcos Athletic Director Abe Jahadhmy said. The Student Athletes of the Year and their teammates are leaders on campus and on the field.

“Student athletes are the leaders and role models for the entire school,” Jahadhmy said. “It is important for the student body to see that these excellent players are also dedicated students.”

— Katie Shara is an assistant editor of the San Marcos High School student newspaper, the King’s Page.