Two volleyball athletes honored at annual John Riding Memorial Challenge
When San Luis Obispo High School senior Jayde Westphal was awarded a $1,000 grant Saturday, it set off a flood of emotion.
“Four girls were crying with me,” Westphal said Tuesday. “My mom was crying. It was just really emotional because I have been through a lot, and my team is super close with me so they know that.”
The ceremony was held at the third annual John Riding Memorial Hard Driven Volleyball Challenge in Fresno, a 20-team tournament that honors John Riding, a volleyball coach at Hoover High School who died suddenly during an adult league volleyball game from an apparent heart attack. Each participating team nominated a player for the grant in his name, and the Riding family chooses two players each year who epitomize his spirit.
“The award is based on a kid’s character,” John Riding’s widow Leicia Riding told The Fresno Bee. “How they serve others...when my kids and I sit down at the table and we read through applications, that’s the kind of young ladies we are looking for.”
SLO High head volleyball coach Marci Beddall knew John Riding from his days at Buchanon and coached Riding’s daughter, Ashlyn. His death shocked the community, Beddall said.
“Jayde reminds us of John,” said Beddall, who nominated Ashlyn for the grant. “She is just so full of life and so fun. A free spirit.”
Westphal, a middle blocker for SLO High, maintains a 4.4 GPA, is a three-sport athlete and received The Mayor’s Award by the SLO City Council for completing more than 80 hours of community service. But her road to success hasn’t been easy.
“I have dealt with anxiety and depression for five years now, especially with college coming,” Westphal said. “My dad hasn’t been there for me... and we have been dealing with money issues. Any scholarship money I can get is great because I need it right now.”
Westphal is in the process of making a decision between UC Santa Cruz, University of Colorado Boulder and Cal Poly. What she studies when she makes her school choice isn’t up for debate.
“I want to go into mental health awareness,” Westphal said. “Throughout my experience with mental health, my friends have always been there for me, and it’s something I am really interested in. It’s pretty refreshing to have such a good group (teammates) to help you get through things.”