BY KYLE BRENNAN
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a four-part series about the 2021-2022 CIAC scholar-athletes of the year from Naugatuck and Woodland.
Woodland’s Isabela Mejias was surprised this spring to find out she was the Hawks’ female recipient of the CIAC Scholar-Athlete award, but that wasn’t because she doubted her own qualifications. She just knew how many other deserving candidates were in the class of 2022.
“It felt amazing to earn this award especially because I was not expecting it at all,” Mejias said. “There are so many other amazing students and athletes at Woodland, so earning this award was definitely a surprise and a privilege.”
Mejias put together a successful career both in the classroom and in athletics for Woodland, where she helped the Hawks to Naugatuck Valley League championships in each of the three seasons.
She entered high school as a soccer player with high expectations, owing to Woodland’s history as a competitive program. After falling short in the league tournament during her first two seasons and having the 2020 tournament canceled due to the pandemic, the Hawks finally broke through to win the 2021 title in a 2-1 thriller against Holy Cross.
“One of my proudest moments was definitely when my soccer team won the NVL championship this past fall against Holy Cross because we had been working for it since my freshman year,” Mejias said.
She may not have planned quite as successful of a career in another sport at Woodland, but she found it in track and field. Mejias was among the Hawks’ most versatile athletes, competing in the hurdles, high jump, sprints, and anywhere the team needed help.
That versatility and flexibility helped Woodland win two indoor track and two outdoor track league championships out of the six competitions held in her career.
“I really enjoyed the community and friendships I built on the track team,” Mejias said. “Even though we compete individually, everyone is very supportive of each other. I also found it super interesting because unlike soccer which I have done my entire life, this was something new that I found to love because of the competitiveness.”
Being a three-season athlete while taking a challenging course load can be stressful, but Mejias said she learned how to manage both.
“It definitely took a lot of time management and balance,” Mejias said. “I found myself prioritizing my academics in my free time when I was done with my athletics. It was also helpful that I was passionate about my athletics, like soccer and track, so it was always easy to keep up with that side. I also made sure to find time to focus on myself and have social time to keep myself from not getting overwhelmed with everything. Something I’m most proud of is how I have been able to find connections and friendships within my academics and athletics so whenever things got stressful, I could ease it.”
The recent grad’s next destination is UConn, where she will enter the nursing program.
“UConn has always been on my radar for college since both my sister and dad went there,” she said. “I of course applied to many other schools with amazing nursing programs, and even though I was admitted to these programs, UConn still seemed like the best option since it felt familiar from my family and the nursing program there is one of the top (ones) in Connecticut.”
For the next group of student-athletes entering high school, Mejias said she recommends spreading out interests and obligations to prioritize a healthy balance.
“My advice would be to prioritize a school/sport/social balance in their lives,” Mejias said. “It is very easy to overwhelm yourself with different responsibilities, but as long as you find time to relax and focus on yourself, it will be easier to reach your goals.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN