Westchester Comets football players score top GPA among LAUSD teams

By Gary Walker

Westchester’s varsity players leave a lasting academic legacy

A three-year plan for excellence has come to fruition for Westchester Enriched Science Magnets Head Football Coach Wyatt Henderson.

His team may have gone 5-and-7 this season, but it also posted the No. 1 grade point average among all Los Angeles City Section schools in 2017 — a combined GPA of 3.6, or mostly As — and received a gold plaque from LAUSD to honor that achievement.

“Here in Westchester, we pride ourselves on being the home of scholars and champions. This award is a testament to the strong work ethic of our students that Coach Henderson and his coaching staff have instilled in them,” WESM Principal Janet Mack said.

The award reflects an astounding scholastic turnaround, considering the state of affairs that Henderson inherited when he was hired three years ago.

“When I first came to Westchester in 2015, I had 42 kids signed up to play football. And of those 42 players, 26 were academically ineligible to play,” recalled Henderson, a former NFL defensive back who played for the Chargers in the 1980s.

Having so few eligible players shocked Henderson and his coaching staff. He took the extraordinary step of cancelling spring practice —a time of weight training and when new players for the fall season are often evaluated — and implemented a strict studying program.

“Our coaching staff decided to have study hall four days a week in order to get their grades back up to where they should be. I wanted to make sure that everyone was eligible before the final grading period,” Henderson explained.

Once students realized they couldn’t play for Henderson if they didn’t show improvement in the classroom, their grades began inching up.

And in December, Assistant Athletic Director Tim Lenderman notified Henderson about the award.

“I was surprised,” he admitted. “I noticed that our GPA had risen, but I didn’t know how good it was.”

Nicolas Weie, a senior offensive and defensive lineman, said his GPA was just over 2.0 when Henderson implemented the four-time a week study halls. Two years later, he’s at 3.1.

Like his coach, Weie was taken aback when he heard about the award.

“We never really thought that this would happen at Westchester,” he said.

Henderson envisions his team’s academic accomplishments spurring some friendly competition among the school’s sports teams.

“I hope it does. It’s up to the coaches to instill that drive in them. We’d love to put Westchester back on the map in football and academically,” he said.

“I think that would create some very healthy competition,” added Mack.

Weie, who lives in Westchester, said the team’s academic proficiency can be used as a tool to recruit local families, many of whom have shunned the high school for schools outside of Westchester for over
a decade.

“I think [the administration] should use it,” he said. “I feel proud of what we did and how everyone was willing to put in the work.”

Henderson said the seniors have gifted underclassmen with a special legacy on which to build.

“For us, this is like a city championship,” he said. “I look forward to getting these kids eventually to their championship game on the field.”