ACIC SCHOLARSHIP ATHLETE: Mejias overcame his challenges through hard work and dedication

BY KYLE BRENNAN
NEW CITIZENS
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a four-part series on the 2021-2022 CIAC Naugatuck and Woodland Scholars-Athletes of the Year.

Woodland’s Isabela Mejias was surprised this spring to learn that she was the Hawks’ recipient of the CIAC Athlete Scholar Award, but it wasn’t because she doubted her own credentials. She just knew how many other deserving candidates were in the Class of 2022.
“It was amazing to win this award, especially because I didn’t expect it at all,” Mejias said. “There are so many other amazing students and athletes at Woodland, so winning this award was definitely a surprise and a privilege.”
Mejias led a successful career in both classroom and athletics for Woodland, where she helped the Hawks to Naugatuck Valley League championships in each of three seasons.
She entered high school as a football player with high expectations, due to Woodland’s history as a competitive program. After failing in the league tournament in its 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 last fall against Holy Cross because we had been working on it since my freshman year,” Mejias said.
She may not have anticipated such a successful career in another sport in Woodland, but she found it in track and field. Mejias was one of the Hawks’ most versatile athletes, competing in hurdles, high jump, sprints and wherever the team needed help.
This versatility and flexibility helped Woodland win two indoor track and two outdoor track league championships out of the six competitions held during his career.
“I’ve really enjoyed the community and the friendships I’ve built on the track team,” Mejias said. “Even though we compete individually, everyone supports each other a lot. I also found it super interesting because unlike the football I’ve been doing all my life, it was something new that I found to love because of the competitiveness.
Being a three-season athlete while taking on a tough course load can be stressful, but Mejias said she’s learned to handle both.
“It definitely took a lot of time and balance,” Mejias said. “I found myself prioritizing my studies in my spare time when I was done with my athletics. It also helped that I was passionate about my athletics, like football and athletics, so it was always easy to follow that side. I’ve also made sure to find time to focus on myself and have social time so I don’t get overwhelmed with everything. What I’m most proud of is how I was able to find connections and friendships within my studies and my sport, so whenever things got stressful, I could soothe them.
The recent graduate’s next destination is UConn, where she will enter the nursing program.
“UConn has always been on my radar for college ever since my sister and dad went there,” she said. “I of course applied to many other schools with amazing nursing programs, and even though I got accepted into those programs, UConn always seemed like the best option because it felt familiar to my family and the program. nursing is one of the best (those ) 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/sports/social balance in their lives,” Mejias said. “It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with different responsibilities, but as long as you find time to relax and focus on yourself, it will be easier to achieve your goals.”