Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Members of the Madera South Stallions girls water polo team gathers around Berenize Rangel-Tapia after she signed her National Letter of Intent to throw discus and shot put at CSU Stanislaus.
When Berenize Rangel-Tapia entered high school, she never even thought of going out for track and field.
However, four years later, track and field or, more specifically, throwing the shot put and discus has led her to sign a National Letter of intent for CSU Stanislaus.
“It all started at college applications,” she said. “I applied to Stanislaus. “I didn’t want to, but my counselor told me to. I looked more into their program for track. I contacted their coach. I kept on bugging him because Mrs. Devine (Madera South Athletic Director Andrea Devine) told me to keep bugging him. He got back to me and I went on an official visit.”
Rangel-Tapia knows that her ability throwing the shot put and discus wasn’t the only reason she received a scholarship. She used her 3.35 grade point average to earn enough financial aid to get most of her schooling paid for.
“They also looked at my academics and things I do in school,” she said. “It wasn’t just because of how well I throw. I’m not that good, but I’m good enough to be playing with them. Academics for me is very important. For Hispanics, the tradition is high school graduation and that’s it. I believe that I could go further than that and am going further than that. If anything, I’ll have to purchase some books, but college is paid for. I’m so happy and honored. I don’t have that stress.”
However, Rangel-Tapia wasn’t even thinking about college until she had a talk with Devine.
“My goal when I was little was to get a high school diploma and become a police officer,” she said. “I believed I could go to college to throw after talking with Mrs. Devine.”
In addition to track and field, Rangel-Tapia also played on the water polo team.
“As a player, she always played hard and put out 100 percent in the water,” water polo coach Richard Petzinger said. “Until her senior year, she never understood the kind of strength she had. Once she figured it out, which was helped from discus and shot put, her senior year, she knew how strong she was. She had that cannon and can throw really hard. She caused a few concussions. Just about every game, I would see a girl from the opposite team, and sometimes our team, be on the bench somewhere because she was hit by one of Tapia’s ball or someone trying to stop her arm.”
Rangel-Tapia will double major in criminal justice and Spanish with goals of becoming a police officer and then a detective.
“I was just nervous to sign my name,” she said. “It felt good to sign the letter. I’m just waiting to graduate to start training.”
“I remember having a conversation with her about her academics,” Petzinger said. “I became more of a fan of hers after that conversation. She’s self-motivated and wants to do her best.”
In middle school, Rangel-Tapia played tennis and softball.
“I didn’t even know about track,” she said. I thought track was all about running.”
Rangel-Tapia went out for tennis, but she said she sucked at it. She also played softball for a couple of years, but went out for track because they said it was fun. She even tried to juggle swimming and track during the same season her junior year.
“I started with water polo my freshman year,” she said. “Mr. Petzinger recruited me. He said I should try water polo. I did it and I liked it. I hung out with some of the swimmers. That’s when he started talking to me.”
Rangel-Tapia found her way to throwing the discus and shot put because she didn’t want to run. Track helped her with her arm strength for water polo.
“Track benefitted me more for water polo,” she said. “Coaches told me I had a cannon.”
Now, Rangel-Tapia finds herself regarded as a role model, something she isn’t used to, but is honored.
“It feels weird,” she said. “I never thought to see myself as a role model. It feels really good. I have a lot of people that tell me they look up to me because of all of the stuff I juggle on my plate. I feel very honored.”
In addition to younger players, Rangel-Tapia sees herself as a role model to her third grade sister, as well.
“She’s already playing sports, too,” Rangel-Tapia said. “She playing water polo and swimming.”