Trio of Caltech Scholar-Athletes Awarded Prestigious Honor

Published : Friday, August 19, 2016 | 11:14 AM

Senior water polo player Chris Bradley has scored 285 goals over his first three years and earned two Academic All-America honors. Credit: Courtesy of Michael Wong

Two current Caltech students and a 2016 graduate recently received Academic All-America Program honors, which recognize scholar-athletes who excel both in the classroom and on the playing field.

Senior Nasser Al-Rayes (basketball) became a first-time honoree this year, while senior Christopher Bradley (water polo) and 2016 graduate Aditya Bhagavathi (cross country, track and field) received honors for the second consecutive year. Such recognition has previously been rare for Caltech: only one other student on campus—track-and-field alumnus Jeremy Leibs (BS, ’06)—has received an All-America distinction since it was first awarded in the 1950s.

Al-Rayes helped lead the men’s basketball team to a program-record seven Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) wins during the 2015–16 season, breaking the previous record of six wins held by the 1953–54 conference title-winning team. Playing forward, Al-Rayes re-set his own single-season and single-game records for blocks while leading the team in scoring, rebounding, and free-throw shooting.

Al-Rayes says he is gratified by the recognition, noting that “completing assignments on par with other Caltech students while performing athletically on par with other college athletes is not easy.” Still, he adds, he is especially pleased to be able to show that “athletic success and academic success aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Bradley, recognized in part for his achievements on the men’s water polo team, followed up his 2014 program-record 134-goal campaign with a junior season in which he scored another 89 goals. “I enjoy the challenge that being a student-athlete at Caltech provides,” he says. “Although it has been a struggle at times, it has been completely worth it.”

Bhagavathi capped his career with a second-place finish in the SCIAC Cross Country Multi-Dual Championships and fourth place in the SCIAC Championships. Bhagavathi, who was also the program’s first two-time qualifier for the NCAA Championships, led the Beavers to their first-ever regional ranking. He was a SCIAC champion in the track and field 5,000-meter run.

Bhagavathi, now a business consultant, reflected on his time at Caltech as being especially formative, adding that athletics and academic competition “helped shape me as an individual. I carry with me the drive and determination that I cultivated through my athletic participation.”

The Academic All-America honor, bestowed by the College Sports Information Directors of America, recognizes selected elite college athletes who also maintain a GPA of 3.3 or higher.

More on this story and an interview with the student-athletes can be found on the Caltech Athletics website.