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Making Character Count

Edgar Melik-Stepanyan

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE -- “Pursuing Victory With Honor” is an operating

principle of the California Interscholastic Federation.

The federation condones this principle.


Awards athletes for their demonstration of it.

But, in the era of the superficial athlete, more often than not,

pursuing victory with honor is thrown on the back burner during intense,

highly competitive and emotional games.


It’s easy to keep your composure and walk away from a loud-mouthed

athlete who’s trying to play mind games when your team is on top.

And it is simple to keep your self-confidence and pride when your team

is winning more than losing.

Now try doing that and walking into a nearly empty gym when you know

your team is in for a long night and it would be a success to accumulate

at least a handful of wins in a season.

Step into the shoes of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy senior girls’


basketball player Kathryn Di Pietro.

During her three-year varsity stint, the Tologs never won a Mission

League game in 30 tries, went a combined 10-55 and didn’t win more than

four games in a season.

"[As a freshman], for whatever reason I chose to do basketball and

I’ve never regretted it,” Di Pietro said.

For her demonstration of pursuing victory with honor, Di Pietro --

along with Eric Morgan of Rocklin High -- was selected among more than


150 nominees as the spring CIF Spirit of Sport Award winner.

Di Pietro, who is also on the school’s girls’ track and field team,

was notified the she would receive the award Feb. 28 and will be

presented with a plaque at a ceremony May 3 in Ontario.

“I felt very honored,” Di Pietro said. “I was definitely surprised.”

The award is based on sportsmanship, school and community service and

leadership skills. The athletes are nominated for the honor by their

school’s administration.

“Nobody was even close to her,” Flintridge Sacred Heart Vice Principal

Katy Sadler said. “This young lady is such a woman of character.

“As an athlete she is very competitive. Sometimes with competitiveness

you go over the top. That’s not the case with Kathryn.

“She is dedicated. She just leads by example. She is very unique. She

is one in a million.”


“It is easy to be a good sport when you win, but it is difficult to

maintain a positive attitude after losing unrelentlessly,” Di Pietro

wrote in the essay she submitted for the award.

It is in losing that athletes build character.

It is in frustration and disappointment when one learns to funnel her

emotions in a positive manner.

As humans, we’re prone to fail.

Frederick Douglas, a prominent 19th century writer, once wrote, “You

are not judged on the height you have risen, but from the depth which you

have climbed.”

It is the ability to bounce back from adversity that shapes a person.

“I hate to lose,” said Di Pietro, who is also involved Amnnesty

Interational, a human rights organization. “The whole thing is kind of

like testing yourself.

“You build your own character and you learn, even though you want to

win so badly, you can’t compromise your own values for that. You have to

do the best you can and it becomes a whole new challenge just to see what

you can do to make yourself better.

“It’s in losing that you have to persevere. If you don’t face the loss

and don’t learn from it, the losing will defeat you. But if you’re able

to accept that and learn from it, then it builds your character.”

Quitting the basketball team would have been easy. Not many would have

blamed her for walking away from a losing program.

But for the 18-year-old DiPietro, it didn’t cross her mind.

“No. Never,” said Di Pietro, a three-year starter. “High school

basketball is my passion. I love everything about it. The competition,

the teammates is so much fun.

"[I played] for the love of the game.”