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Athlete of the Week: John I. Leonard's Melissa Amariles

Matt Lincoln with John I. Leonard weightlifter Melissa Amariles.

Academics come first, sports come second. That's the motto for the John I. Leonard weightlifting team. But they treat academics like a competition, and they're great at it. The Lancers are led by the CBS12 Athlete of the Week, Melissa Amariles.

"Mostly for colleges, I was always told to join extracurriculars," says Amariles, from her weight room at John I Leonard. "I thought it would be fun to join a sport."

Amariles is not your typical high school athlete - she spends her time being active in National Honor Society, playing the piano, and studying a lot.

But as a John I Leonard weightlifter, she has added a new facet to her life - being around other girls who help her get stronger.. and smarter.

"What's your GPA?" I asked the weightlifters.

"3.87."

"3.88."

"4.0," were some of the responses.

The team is proud of its four straight conference titles, but they'll boast more about their back-to-back state academic championships. Right now the team has dreams of a three-peat, with a GPA of 3.82.

"When you're applying for these schools," says Coach Cris Bythwood. "They'll see you were part of something great, and you'll stand out. An athlete who is a student first."

On a team of standouts, Melissa certainly does - with a weighted GPA of 4.67. She also has an important job in the weightroom as one of the few lightweights at 101 pounds.

"She was the main piece that helped us win districts over and over and over again," says Bythwood.

"She's a great person, she's focused, she's driven," adds teammate Alecsis Garcia.

"She's really amazing," says another teammate, Ashley Clarke. "She's someone you talk to, when you need to talk about anything."

"I've grown as a person (because of weightlifting)," says Amariles. "Not just physically, but mentally."

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