For top student honoree, breathing is difficult but sports arent

For the fourth straight year, the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California will be honoring a class of student award winners along with its regular inductees.

This year’s list of seven includes Danielle Diamond, the winner of the annual Aerial Gilbert Award, given to a athlete who has overcome obstacles and thus serves as a role model for other athletes. The award is named for Aerial Gilbert, a blind rower from Petaluma and a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee.

 

Danielle Diamond photo/tony gruen

Diamond, a basketball player for San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay, is a standout athlete despite having asthma and a separate condition, vocal cord dysfunction, that often is described as like trying to breathe through a straw.

 

“Obviously, it’s a little difficult to play a full game of basketball when you can’t take a full breath,” said Diamond, who also plays lacrosse for a club team in Berkeley and has a black belt in Kuk Sool Won, a Korean martial art. “I have to know when to push myself and know when to sit out, but it has made me a stronger athlete.”

Diamond, a 5-foot-7 senior, averaged 3.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season for a JCHS girls basketball team that won its division title, advanced into the second round of the section tournament and finished 14-7 overall. The Wolves also scored a dramatic 44-42 double overtime win over Palo Alto’s Kehillah Jewish High School in the annual “Golden Tallis Game.”

As a forward with a gritty style of play, Diamond excelled defensively and as a leader — but she also excelled off the court, particularly in the Jewish community. She participated in the student journalism advocacy program Write on for Israel and has been involved with AIPAC. And before she starts college in the 2012-2013 school year, she will spend her gap year in Israel (at Midreshet Yeud in Jerusalem).

An excellent student with a 3.92 GPA, Diamond plans to attend Franklin and Marshall College, a small liberal arts college in Lancaster, Pa.

The other six student honorees also excel in the classroom, in addition to their numerous athletic and personal accomplishments.

Elan Bernstein, who plays basketball, football and soccer at Piedmont High in the East Bay, was voted the school’s most outstanding male senior athlete. As a volunteer, he has gone to Mexico with BuildOn to build houses for poor people, and he cooks and serves meals at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.

Brad Katz has competed in many sports at Watsonville High School, including basketball, baseball, water polo and swimming. Outside of school, he was a counselor at Camp Kayetz (the summer day camp at Temple Beth El in Aptos), served on the board of Santa Cruz Reform Federation of Youth and worked on regional events for NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth).

Alice Mintz of Santa Cruz High capped off her prep tennis career by teaming up with Laura Aitkins to win the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League girls doubles title last November. Mintz also has worked on behalf of the Women’s Honor Society (raising awareness of sexual harassment), volunteered for Santa Cruz County Animal Services and was a counselor-in-training at Camp Kayetz.

Laura Schrier of Marin Academy is an outstanding swimmer who took home multiple medals, including a gold in the 200-yard freestyle relay at the 2010 Bay Area Conference swim finals (the 2011 finals have not yet been held). Also an all-league water polo player, the San Rafael resident is involved in the Marin Academy Eco Council, the Girl Scouts of the USA and the National Charity League, and she also volunteers for the Amigos de la Americas program.

Sam Seder of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay is an elite-level athlete in rowing. “He’s probably a future Olympian,” noted Don Collins, chair of the Hall of Fame education committee. He was part of the Marin Rowing Club varsity boys crew that won the prestigious 2010 Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge, Mass., in a course-record time. He also volunteers on a rescue boat and at a homeless shelter in his hometown of Berkeley.

Noah Springwater of University High School in San Francisco wrapped up his four-year prep basketball career as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and this past season he was named first-team all-city by several newspapers and websites. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18 points, eight assists, five rebounds, five steals and two blocks per game in the 2010-11 season, and he is going to play in college at Columbia University. He also played in the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel in 2009, on the 16-and-under USA men’s team that won a gold medal.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr is J.'s former managing editor and former Hardly Strictly Bagels food columnist. He lives and writes in Mexico.