By Alice Roche Cody
GSB Basketball standout Ella Fajardo '21 received the prestigious Annual Scholar-Athlete Award from the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). As an NJSIAA member school, GSB had the opportunity to nominate one graduating senior as its Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Across the state, NJSIAA provided more than $187,000 in scholarship funding to the 375 students honored this year.
"These students are always an impressive group, and that's even more the case in 2021, given the challenges they've all navigated since the spring of their junior years," says NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire. "To be recognized, they've had to put in quite a bit of hard work, while learning to be resilient under circumstances no one has dealt with before."
A co-captain point guard, Ella helped lead GSB to an 11th place state-ranking last season. Undefeated in regular season play, the Knights lost to Rutgers Prep in the final Skyland Conference Tournament game. For conference play, GSB earned a winning 10-2 record and logged formidable wins over Franklin, Sinai Christian, and Mt. St. Mary.
"This award is an unbelievable achievement," said Head Basketball Coach Mark Gnapp. "Ella is an extremely hard worker, a true leader, and a special kid. She deserves this honor. She is the one who comes an hour before practice and stays an hour after practice to help the younger players. She is extremely coachable and does whatever it takes to win. Our program will miss her."
Next season, Ella will play for Fairleigh Dickenson. A member of the National Women's Gilas Pilipinas team, Ella also played on the squad that clinched a historic bronze medal in the FIBA Under-18 3x3 World Cup in Mongolia last year.
Athletic Director Will Taylor also had nothing but praise for GSB's scholar-athlete: "This is an awesome recognition and the highest award the state gives out. It is incredible that Ella earned this, and I’m so proud of her."
Established in 1918, NJSIAA is a voluntary, non-profit organization comprised of 436 accredited public and non-public high schools. A member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the NJSIAA conducts tournaments and crowns champions in 33 sports.