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South Tahoe star athletes, students choose colleges

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Surrounded by family, friends, coaches and teachers, three South Tahoe High School athletes were celebrated Wednesday for taking their athletic, and scholastic, talents to the next level.

Volleyball star Maiella Riva will enjoy the sun, sand in southern California. Football standouts John Whisnant is also headed to southern California and James Adams will reunite with a former South Tahoe quarterback in northern California.

John Whisnant celebrates with (from left) mom Jennifer, sister Nichole and dad John Whisnant IV.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Whisnant to attend D3 Whittier on scholarship

Whisnant’s hard work has paid off in a big way. The Vikings senior linebacker/lineman hit the books, has an astronomical grade point average and earned a scholarship to attend Whittier College that competes in the NCAA division III.



Whisnant has a 4.1 GPA and Whittier’s scholastic requirements were key in making his decision. That and having good conversations with The Poets coaching staff.

“Whittier’s GPA requirement being a 3.8 drove me because I’ve been working to have a high GPA,” Whisnant said. “I’ve been working super hard. It was important to me that I have football and a super good education. I’m trying to graduate from Whittier with a psychology degree as well as be the best football player I can.”



Whisnant is receiving about $30,000 a year and eventually wants to become a therapist and earn his PhD.

Whisnant said the Whittier coaching staff sees him as a tight end, rather than his high school positions.

“They want me to be a tight end because they see some speed,” Whisnant said. “I’ve had a lot of talks with the coaches and they’re super stoked on me. They really talked to me on a personal level. I’m hyped to be with them.”

Whisnant posed for photos with his mom, Jennifer, his dad, John Whisnant IV, and his sister Nichole, and also with friends.

“I love this event and how everyone comes out to support us,” Whisnant said. “The town raises a person and that’s definitely true with me. It’s really nice seeing everyone gathered here because they are all part of this.”

Maiella Riva celebrates with her family (from left) including her dad, Dooley, and mom Jeanette.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Riva earns ride to Marymount California University

Riva was the star on the Vikings volleyball team and was at, or near the top, of every statistical category. She was ultra competitive and could jump out of the gym.

“I’m so excited for her,” said Vikings head Coach Siramanee Ruchupanai. “She worked so hard this season. It was exciting to see her sign and go on to the upper level. She’s exciting to watch and a fierce competitor. She always gives 100%.”

She was first on the team in attacks/kills, recording nearly twice the amount of her next teammate. She was a dominant server with 36 aces, almost twice as many as the next Viking.

Riva also put in the school work and is getting rewarded with academic scholarships that total about $15,000, renewable every year. She’s hoping she can also eventually work her way into an athletic scholarship.

“It’s been such a crazy ride, especially with COVID,” Riva said. “But I couldn’t be happier. Everything about the school is a perfect match for me.”

She doesn’t yet have a focus of study but is leaning toward business. But she does have a goal of coaching college volleyball.

The Mariners compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and Riva is looking forward to working hard for playing time in beach and indoor volleyball.

“I talked to the coach on my visit and she said whoever plays the best gets the most playing time,” Riva said. “So if I work hard enough I will be playing. So far, I love the team and am super excited.”

Riva had a large family there to celebrate, including her mom and dad, Jeanette and Dooley.

James Adams celebrate with his family including (from left) his dad Andy, his siter Molly and mom Lori.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Adams reunites with Tarwater at College of Sequoias

Adams has been a star on the Vikings football team since he was a sophomore. And the pandemic may have affected him more than others.

The Vikings played just 10 games over the last two seasons and his stats were less than half of what they likely would have been with a full schedule, and playoffs in his junior season when they were 5-0.

“Playing in like eight games in two years, and not having stats for my last year was tough, and not too much film,” Adams said. “And I’m not that insane prospect who’s 6-foot-4, 230 (pounds) who can run a 4.3. It was tough but I just have to work hard.”

Adams didn’t have many options but he is teaming up with his former teammate and quarterback Jake Tarwater who also transferred to Sequoias.

The Giants will play Butte in their first game. NFL great Aaron Rodgers was discovered by the University of California, Berkeley while he was quarterbacking Butte, so Adams knows the exposure will be there if he puts in the work.

Adams was joined in the celebration by his father Andy, mother Lori, and sister Molly.

“This celebration is pretty cool,” Adams said. “I wanted to be close to home, but not too close. Sequoias seems like the perfect fit.”


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