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First Champs for Life recipient reflects on Madera South

For The Madera Tribune

Madera South’s first Champs For Life female award winner Sherry Ramirez shows off her Physical Therapy Assistant program’s Valedictorian certificate at her pinning ceremony last June.


When Madera South High School first started athletics, its ultimate award was named the Champs for Life, which is the equivalent of other schools’ Senior Athlete of the Year.

However, the Champs for Life recipient wasn’t just the best athlete on campus. “They had to reflect be a well-rounded individual,” said Marty Bitter, then Madera South Athletics Director and current Madera Unified School District Director of Athletics. “They had to be a combination of a good athlete, a multiple sport athlete, a great student and a good representative in the community.”

The first recipient of the award in 2009 were three-sport athlete Derek Hansen and softball and soccer player Sherry Ramirez.

“Getting that award was very awesome,” Ramirez said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I did what I had to do, kept my grades up and played sports. To be acknowledged for something like that was really big to me. I really appreciated that. Seeing it now, I can’t believe I was the first one. My name will forever be up on the wall. It’s unrealistic. I feel like I still do and practice things I did in high school — staying focused and doing what I needed to get done, playing sports or extracurricular while trying to keep everything organized in life now.”

Ramirez was a member of the first Madera South team sport to win a league title and also a member of the first non-cross country team to play for a Central Section title, losing to Highland-Bakersfield in 2008.

Eleven years later, Ramirez is still trying to uphold what the award meant to her. She tries to carry on the lessons she learned playing softball and soccer at Madera South into her current life.

“Playing sports and doing athletic training kind of shaped who I am now,” she said. “To the coaches, the players and everything I learned, I carry it with me.”

After graduating from Madera South in 2009, Ramirez attended Fresno City College. She played summer league softball for the Rams, but decided to concentrate on her schooling. After Fresno City, she attended UC Riverside and got her degree and came back to Madera.

“I worked at Valley Children’s Hospital,” she said. “I went back to school to got my degree for a physical therapy assistant. Now, I’m working at a physical therapist. I’m at a rehab facility in Chowchilla. It’s been a year there. I want to make my way back to pediatrics, eventually.”

Ramirez found her love of physical therapy during her ROP Athletic Training classes a MSHS.

“When we did our job shadowing, I shadowed Barrow’s Physical Therapy,” she said. “I got my first actual job out of high school there. From there, I knew that’s what I wanted to be doing. I kind of stuck to it. It finally paid off and I got a job.”

After 11 years out of high school, Ramirez tries to go back to Madera South just to catch up, especially with former softball coach Kelly Valmonte.

“It was a fun time,” Ramirez said. “I definitely go back, when I can. They were definitely the easier years where I didn’t have as much responsibility. I visit Valmonte to go over life and get input on decisions in life. It’s also catching up with her and visiting the kids. I’ve known them all of their lives. It’s kind of reminiscing all together.”

While now an adult, she feels having Valmonte and other former coaches and teachers as someone she can bounce her thoughts off of as an asset.

“It’s awesome to have someone I can talk to,” Ramirez said. “I don’t see anything coming between that. It’s different not knowing Valmonte is not going to be at Madera South. We will have to go to Thomas Jefferson Middle School to see her. It’s awesome to have somebody like that. Even Vern Valmonte (Kelly Valmonte’s husband) and the Cosgroves. It’s awesome to see her kids go to college and it makes me feel very old. It’s crazy to see Valmonte’s kids going to high school.”

Ramirez still tries to be active when she can. She plays coed softball in Merced and also plays indoor soccer.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “I see a lot of people who have had knee surgeries multiple times. I don’t know if I could go back if I had knee surgery. The worst I had was an ankle sprain in high school and I fractured my ankle playing indoor after high school. For some reason, I was very lucky and didn’t get injured.”

However, now that she is a little older, she hopes she isn’t the one taking up space.

“It’s not the same 10 years later,” she said. “It’s fun to play sports, especially when you get to play with people you played back in the day. There are some players I played with, but there are some younger girls I don’t know, but they played in high school. I am surprised to see old faces and to feel like the old ladies trying to be on the field. It’s definitely weird to be the old people of the group. I remember being the younger ones. I remember thinking these old ladies are still good and so old. Now, I’m that old lady. Hopefully, I’m the old lady that’s good and not taking up space.”


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