Column: For Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Tommy Beres, attaining perfection is no fluke

Tommy Beres of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is a water polo player and baseball catcher who scored a perfect 36 on his ACT.
(Eric Sondheimer)

At 11 p.m. on a Friday night last February, with his mother at his side and his father asleep, Tommy Beres clicked on his computer to find out what score he had attained on the ACT.

“I really didn’t think I did that well,” he said. “I thought I scored 32, 33.”

When he saw 36 — a perfect score — he thought it was a mistake.

“I thought it was a template to show what your score looks like,” he said. “Then I realized it was my score. I just sat there and couldn’t believe it. We both kind of sat in awe.”


Then Beres woke up his father to tell him the news.

“He did finally get up. ‘What are you talking about?” Beres’ mother, Kelly, recalled her husband asking.

(Los Angeles Times)

Out of 2,030,038 tests taken in 2017, there were 2,760 perfect scores. That’s one-tenth of 1%.


Eight months later, entering his senior year at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame as captain of the water polo team and catcher for the baseball team, the 16-year-old Beres has a 4.6 grade point average.

He was asked what reward he received from mom and dad for showing his academic prowess.

“Ah, nothing,” he said. “I’m still waiting.”

For now, Beres uses humor and humility to celebrate his achievements on and off the field.


He’s still waiting for one of his baseball teammates to challenge him to a swim competition. He had the only goal for Notre Dame in a 15-1 loss to No. 1-ranked Studio City Harvard-Westlake in water polo. He’ll be the starting catcher this spring for a baseball team that has top pitchers in USC-bound Lucas Gordon and Yale-bound Carter Kessinger.

He’s still trying to persuade baseball coach Tom Dill to let him call a few pitches from behind the plate.

“I’ve asked once or twice, but he knows what he’s doing,” Beres said. “Pitch calling isn’t just about being smart. It’s about knowing the game.”

Beres’ intelligence works well playing catcher.


“It helps me see the field and think two steps ahead,” he said. “I’m always analyzing and trying to be in the play.”

Water polo helps him stay in top condition for the challenge of crouching behind home plate for seven innings or longer.

“In the seventh inning, when they think I’m tired, I still have it,” he said.

His baseball teammates do give him a hard time when they see him on a poster near the pool, in which he’s in a Speedo throwing a water polo ball.


“They know I really like to do it and it’s making me a better player,” he said.

Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and MIT are among the schools interested in him playing baseball. He’s headed on an official visit to MIT this weekend. He could go into engineering, focusing on biomedical, aerospace or nuclear. He could become a surgeon. Or he could start his own company and be an inventor.

Whatever happens, scoring a perfect 36 on the ACT is something few achieve but many would gladly take. And Beres isn’t resting on his laurels. He’s taking Physics I and II concurrently this year.

“It really means a lot that all my hard work has come together,” he said.


Twitter: @latsondheimer