San Jose State University seniors Stephanie Relova and Michelle Taikeff were named this year’s Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports Scholars national award winners in the sports of women’s gymnastics and women’s water polo, respectively, in the April 4 edition of Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
Relova, from San Ramon Valley High in Danville, Calif., was named the publication’s #1 female gymnast scholar-athlete, a national semifinalist among the 20 female sports categories and the overall national runner-up for the 2019 Arthur Ashe Jr., Sports Scholar female scholar-athlete of color.
She is a three-time All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) award-winning gymnast. The San Jose State University President’s Scholar award winner is a business management major with conference and national academic honors. Her volunteer activities include teaching youngsters how to compete at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, visiting local elementary schools and participating in campus clothing and food drives.
Taikeff, from Pioneer High in San Jose, Calif., was this year’s women’s water polo national scholar-athlete of color. Like Relova, Taikeff is a team captain, a San Jose State University President’s Scholar and has received conference and national academic honors. This year’s San Jose State University Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) elected secretary is in her second year of service to her fellow student-athletes. In the community, Taikeff served an internship as a legal aid preparing court petitions for low-income citizens to gain access to the legal system.
Named after the late tennis great Arthur Ashe, Jr. (1943-1993), an African-American men’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champion who devoted much of his adult life to identifying and providing solutions to end discrimination in all facets of life, the awards program now is in its 27th year.
Student-athletes of color possessing a 3.50 cumulative grade-point average, have sophomore standing or higher, are contributing members to their team and are active in community activities are eligible to be nominated.
“We thank Diverse: Issues in Higher Education for honoring our outstanding San Jose State scholar-athletes of color. To be attached to the legacy of Arthur Ashe, Jr., and what he personified is very meaningful,” says Eileen Daley, San Jose State University senior associate athletics director for academics and student support. “We are proud of our student-athletes that earned this award and especially Stephanie and Michelle who were named as the top sports scholars in their sports.”
In the last four years, San Jose State student-athletes of color have received 102 Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports Scholar awards from Diverse Issues in High Education and have been named the top scholar-athlete of color in the sports of football (Tim Crawley in 2017), women’s gymnastics and women’s water polo.
Recipients of Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar awards
***Megan Au, Women’s Swimming & Diving – 1st Team, Kinesiology
Kai Bohannon, Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field – 1st Team, Mathematics
****Brenna Bushey, Women’s Swimming & Diving – 2nd Team, Public Relations
**Carmen Contreras, Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field – 2nd Team, Psychology
**Jeff Dukes, Men’s Soccer – 1st Team, Business Administration
**Makayla Englestad, Softball – 3rd Team, Business Administration
**Kate Hanf, Women’s Swimming & Diving – 2nd Team, Psychology
**Gabby Heng, Women’s Swimming & Diving – 1st Team, Anthropology
**Carlie James, Women’s Soccer – 3rd Team, Art/Graphic Design
**Janessa Lozano, Softball – 2nd Team, Justice Studies
***Stephanie Relova, Women’s Gymnastics – top scholar-athlete; national finalist; national runner-up, Business Management
**Michelle Shalit, Women’s Gymnastics, Psychology
**Michelle Taikeff, Women’s Water Polo – top scholar-athlete, Justice Studies
* – number of Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Awards earned
About San Jose State University
The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its eight colleges.
With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.
The university is proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.
About San Jose State Athletics
San Jose State sponsors 22 (nine men’s and 13 women’s) NCAA Division I intercollegiate sports programs for approximately 470 student-athletes annually. In football, the Spartans are a member of Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the NCAA’s highest level of competition.
The Spartans’ primary conference affiliation is with the Mountain West. Selected teams belong to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and the Golden Coast Conference (GCC).
San Jose State has 10 NCAA team championships and 52 NCAA individual titles. Sixty-two (62) Spartans competed in one or more Olympic Games. San Jose State athletes have won seven gold, six silver and seven bronze medals at the Olympics.
Annually, about one-third of the student-athlete population earns either an institutional, conference or national recognition based on outstanding academic performance.