Nederland’s Ava Wiltz takes on sports, academics with focus on mental health

Published 12:36 am Thursday, September 15, 2022

It is not uncommon to find a student athlete who can give full effort on the field or in the classroom. It is not even uncommon to find one that can do both well.

It is, however, rare to find a student-athlete who has been first team all district in multiple sports, salutatorian of the senior class and finds time to attend leadership conferences and pursue hobbies outside of school.

Nederland senior Ava Wiltz has a high school resume that many would like to have.

Wiltz has played on varsity for several sports since her freshman year. (Chris Moore/The News)

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Despite her superhero accomplishments on the court and in the classroom, the way she handles her very human moments might be what actually separates her from her peers.

Much like any sport, time management is something Wiltz has practiced for several years.

“My time management is way different than it was my freshman year,” she said. “There was one time, I didn’t sleep one night. I went to school and stayed up all night doing homework. I had a tournament and had to turn in some stuff the next day. I put a lot before my happiness. School is awesome to put first, but you need to be able to put yourself first and give yourself a 10-minute or 20-minute break. You have to focus on small things that make you happy.”

Wiltz learned to trust herself and has gotten more sleep over the past year and change.

This year, Wiltz is playing volleyball and plans to play basketball and run track later in this academic year. Usually by this point on the calendar, Wiltz has already participated in multiple cross country meets, but decided to delay her participation until this week.

Wiltz serves the ball during a tournament. (Chris Moore/The News)

“It is not always easy to balance everything,” she said. “This year, I took a step back from cross country. It is probably my best sport, but I had to take some time off for myself. It is my favorite sport to do, but mentally, I wasn’t there. I am not afraid to admit that now, as much as I was in the beginning. (Wednesday was) my first day back at practice.”

Wiltz said people have to listen to their bodies and understand their limitations.

“You can push past limits, but you also have to know when it is unhealthy,” she said. “I know I can push my body, but I also know when I need to stop.”

That clarity was hammered home this summer when Wiltz developed unhealthy sleeping habits due to a drive to succeed.

“This summer I struggled with some things and even went to counseling to help me out,” she said. “Just talking about it helps you realize where you are at. I knew I wasn’t in a good place with how much I was doing. I had to cut that out for a little bit. I never stopped running, but I cut out the race aspect and it helped me out a lot.”

Part of the reason Wiltz needed to take a step back was due to her competitive nature.

Wiltz runs on the track team for Nederland. (Chris Moore/The News)

“We do court conditioning for volleyball,” Wiltz said. “My friend Sydney (Nelson) will say that I can go first. I tell her I want to go second and see where we are at so I can finish first. It is little things like that. I am competitive about everything.”

Wiltz’s talents don’t just stop at the school door. She has several instruments at home and enjoys playing, especially her drum set.

Next year, Wiltz plans to head to Colorado Springs, which is where her brother lives, to pursue a career and go to college. During the summer, she went to visit her brother and to shadow him as a paramedic at legendary venue The Red Rocks.

“Going to Colorado was the best part of my summer and probably the best thing I have done in high school,” she said. “…My brother works those types of events all the time. It was also cool to see the different aspects of people’s lives. Denver is way different than Nederland. It is very large. It has changed my perspective on the way I live now, just going to that one concert.”

Wiltz plans to enroll in a class her brother teaches to be an EMT and wants to major in Nutrition Psychology or try to pursue her passion of being a film director.

“I love film and anything cinema,” she said. “I really like action.”

Volleyball Head Coach Ally Crommett said Wiltz is the ideal student athlete.

“For her, her studies will always come first,” she said. “That is not to say she won’t put in 110 percent here. She is just very good at taking care of that. It says a lot about her and her work ethic. Some people are good at one or two things. To be good at five, six and seven things is so rare.”

Girls basketball coach Jody Walker praised Wiltz’s ability to give it her all.

“I have had her since she was a freshman,” he said. “She has been the same way in the classroom. She is the same competitive kid. Every so often, you see a kid like that. It is kind of like those special athletes you get every so often. She is just a phenomenal kid all the way around. It has been a blessing to be around her.”