Male Athlete of the Year: Best Spikes Life and Competition


Pavle Ristic, Editor-in-Chief

   A warm and sunny April day, Senior AJ Best is relaxing in his backyard. As he reminisces on his best and favorite memories of his high school career, he brings up one from near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we happened to run into each other at the UC High track early on a Monday. As I made my way down the steps of the stadium around 8 a.m. in the morning, I saw him already mid workout. The first time we had seen each other since school got out, we were glad to be able to work out together, getting back to our athletic endeavors. That story sums up the person AJ is, always doing what is required to stay that step ahead.

   He has played varsity soccer since his sophomore year, was on the top UC Beach Volleyball Team after a hiatus since his freshman year, and made the Golf Team after only playing for six months; what can’t Best do?

   Soccer, his primary sport, he picked up at the age of four. Playing club throughout his career, Best made an instant impact on the pitch at UC. Quickly getting the call up to varsity, Best has been an integral part of the UC Soccer Team’s lineup for the past few years. Senior Teammate Colin Banta said, “He is the first guy coach puts in the lineup. AJ is someone who we can always count on to play his best at all times.” Racking up seven goals and four assists from a deep defensive midfield position over the last two years further demonstrates Best’s versatile athletic ability.

   “I started playing beach volleyball because it was something fun to do with my friends,” said Best. He was able to turn his enjoyment into success for UC, leading the team with his partner Junior Marty Todorov to a CIF championship appearance. Todorov said, “AJ had never played volleyball in his life until he played beach his freshman year, and that was him just showing up and playing. After two years, he made his return, not just for the fun of it but for his competitive spirit. We were able to put together a really great run.”

   And finally golf, which again arose from an activity to pass the time. “Over COVID we were looking for more things to do together outside. We had played enough soccer, football, and basketball, so we figured, why not give golf a try,” said teammate and friend Senior Grady Kennedy. “We were all out there having a good time, but AJ was really killing it from the start. Everyone could tell how talented he was right from that first time he swung the stick.” In his lone season of golf this year, Best shot six over at a city-wide golf tournament, something unheard of for a rookie golfer.

   As a multi-varsity sport athlete and an incredible student, the future that Best has instilled for himself is unimaginable. Being such a student athlete left no other choice but to name him as this year’s

Male Athlete of the Year    

    for the Commander.

   Having been friends with AJ for so long, I have had numerous opportunities to witness his incredible athletic  predisposition, but what has amazed me the most is his ability to carry over his natural prowess into the classroom. Committed to attend UCLA and major in Physiological Sciences this fall, AJ kept a GPA of 4.85, earning third place in his graduating class.

   Spending the day talking to AJ, we were able to look back on some of his best moments and discuss what he has yet to achieve in his life. I have never been fond of spoilers, so I’ll keep parts of our conversation to myself, but I will say that if you were smart, you’d keep a close eye on Best and his future.