Looking Back on South Pas High School … and Ahead

Oliver Chang is shown during his days as a track star for South Pasadena High School. He’s soon to be a sophomore at Pomona Pitzer. Photos courtesy of SPHS

Today the Review begins a new feature — “Alumni Spotlight,” in which we will periodically catch up with South Pasadena High School athletes who have graduated and let them reflect, in their own words, on their SPHS days.

Leading off the new series is Oliver Chang, a 2018 grad who starred in track for the Tigers and is about to begin his sophomore year at Pomona Pitzer, where he’s majoring in computer science.

“He’s really a great kid, really into computers,” said SPHS Athletic Director Anthony Chan, who taught the honors geometry class in which Chang got straight A’s.

“He’s was as hard a worker as you can find, and he showed that on the field as well,’’ said Chan.

Chang was a two-time 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter Rio Hondo League champion for the Tigers, in 2017 and 2018, and a cross-country league champ in 2017.

Q: When did you graduate from SPHS? What have you been studying, and what are some future plans?

A: I graduated from SPHS in 2018. I attended Marengo Elementary since third grade and South Pasadena Middle School. I have been studying computer science and math in college. As for future plans, I hope I can land a data science or software engineer job. Graduate school is also in the mix. 

Q: What are some of your most memorable experiences in South Pasadena athletics? 

A: My most memorable experiences were doing team traditions. Activities like singing on the bus coming home from a meet, doing exploration runs or running to Tommy’s Burger. 

Q: How did South Pasadena High prepare you for college classes / athletics?

A: SPHS prepared me for college by having an appropriate level of rigor in my classes. Additionally, my high-school teachers being open to give help before and after school made it much easier to approach my college professors during office hours. SPHS prepared me for athletics by reminding me that progress is not linear. During my four years, I definitely had some slumps that seemed never-ending, but I’m glad SPHS has a positive community that fostered me to stick with cross country and track. 

Q: When did you start competing in cross country? 

A: When I was in eighth grade at SPMS. 

Q: What are some of the adversities you faced and overcame in high-school athletics?

A: My biggest adversity was being an insecure person and associating my self-worth with how fast I could run. I remember during 10th grade, Kieran Press-Reynolds becoming faster than me filled me with anger and frustration. This drove me to reevaluate why I did running in the first place. Focusing on my real goals (e.g., self-improvement and team goals). Thankfully, becoming great friends with Kieran helped me a lot, and I stopped comparing myself with others. 

Q: If you had a few short things to say to incoming freshmen, what would they be?

A: Don’t fill your head with unnecessary, negative thoughts. Be down to earth and enjoy your classmates’ company but have a healthy amount of self-reflection. This goes for athletics and academics. Your athletic performance, or college, or life after high school, does not determine your value as a person. Also, if you need academic help, be sure to seek teachers outside of class. More likely than not, they will be glad to help. And the act of going to your teachers with specific questions will help tremendously in the future with college classes. High school is only four years. In the grand scheme of things that’s a tiny window, so make the most of it. You’ve got a story to write. When it’s all said and done, make sure that it’s one worth telling.

Q: Did you have a favorite teacher in high school?

A: I’d say any teacher that offered help outside of class time was a good teacher … shout out to the math/CS department. 

Q: Anything else you’d want to share?

A: Join cross country!