For high school athletes, the recruiting process can be long, arduous and at times excruciating. For Kalena Paredes, the path to play softball at New York University (NYU) barely hit a speed bump. The Christopher High senior utility player signed her official letter of intent Wednesday on campus in front of family, friends, coaches and teammates.
“I’m sure I’m going to get emotional,” Paredes said in a phone interview with the Dispatch Monday. “When I was inviting all my friends, family and coaches, just remembering the people who helped me get to this point, it got emotional.”
The 5-foot-3 Paredes won over the NYU coaches with her enthusiasm, talent and work ethic. Paredes has played multiple positions for Christopher High and her club team, the San Jose Lady Sharks. In high school, Paredes has done an excellent job of playing left field, which presents plenty of challenges due to the weather conditions and positioning of the field at Christopher High.
“She pretty much had left field locked up for the last couple of years,” Cougars coach Julian Santiago said in an email to the Dispatch. “She did a very good job in left at Christopher, which is not an easy thing to do, with the wind and size of the field. She was also one of the centerpieces of the lineup. She could hit for average and power. One of the most memorable shots was in Watsonville last year. One of the longest (home runs) I’ve ever seen (her hit).”
Paredes said one of her proudest moments at Christopher High came in a 4-3, 8-inning loss to Pioneer High in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Central Coast Section Division II playoffs. Batting against Holly Azevedo—who is now playing at UCLA—Paredes laid down a suicide squeeze that brought in a run to force the game into extra innings.
“No one thought we would be as close as we were,” Paredes said. “And we almost won the game.”
Even though Paredes has a smoothness to her game, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Paredes laughed at herself as she recalled her first couple of years once she took up the sport at age 7.
“Let’s just say I wasn’t the most coordinated in the early years,” she said. “I was still competitive, enthusiastic and I loved being out there, but I wasn’t the best player. But from a young age, I learned how to deal with failure. I knew I had to keep moving forward and working hard.”
Paredes credits her parents, Paulo and Denise, and her uncle, Rico, for introducing her to the game and being supportive in the process.
“I think my uncle bought me my first glove,” she said.
Paredes has used that nurturing environment to grow into a player who works diligently on and off the field. Paredes carries a weighted 4.12 GPA, which is in the top 10 percent of all students in the class of 2018 at Christopher. Her recruiting process was nothing short of a straight shot. It started when Paredes sent an email out to NYU expressing her interest in the school in May 2016.
From there, NYU coach Now-Allah James watched Paredes at a weeklong tournament and one-day camp in New Jersey later that summer, and the two talked in person near the end of the tournament/camp.
“I went up to him and he said he remembered me (from the email and video I sent him),” Paredes said.
A couple of weeks later, the two set up a date in which Paredes would take an official visit to NYU, which occurred in February 2017. Paredes might be a Gilroy native, but she left her heart in New York City.
“After I took a tour of the city and the campus, he said he hoped I would pick NYU,” Paredes said. “I said yes right there and then. I didn’t need to think about it. I knew this was where I wanted to go to school and play softball.”
Paredes never imagined Wednesday’s scenario: at a table, with loved ones surrounding her, ready to sign a letter of intent. It was only when college coaches started expressing interest in her two years ago when Paredes started to visualize this happening.
“That’s when I actually started to believe I could get recruited to play college softball,” she said.
Paredes has proven to be mentally tough, not letting certain situations bother her to the point where it would affect her performance. She stays undeterred and focused, knowing her hard work and dedication to the game will get her closer to her goals.