NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Two New Brunswick High School scholar-athletes, volleyball star Litzy Martinez-Ruiz and wrestling standout Zion Blanco, have been recognized by the Greater Middlesex Conference for their success in the gym and the classroom.

Although the coronavirus pandemic forced officials to cancel the Jay Dakelman memorial scholar-athlete awards banquet held annually at the Pines Manor in Edison to recognize the best and brightest scholar-athletes, the league honored Martinez-Ruiz, Blanco and the 63 other recipients from the other schools in Middlesex County through a virtual ceremony.

Former Fordham University women's basketball player Danielle Padovano of South Brunswick and former Princeton University wrestler Jonathan Schleifer of East Brunswick delivered keynote addresses in a video honoring the scholar-athletes.

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Incoming GMC president Mike Pede spoke about his empathy for the athletes who will miss out on proms and other events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although his comments were seemingly made before Gov. Phil Murphy announced a few days ago that he would allow socially-distant in-person graduation ceremonies starting in July, Pede nonetheless spoke to how this health crisis has been especially difficult for spring athletes.

“Due to the global pandemic we are facing, many of your special events as seniors have been canceled – proms, graduations and the scholar-athlete banquet,” Pede said. “This has not been an easy time for you, especially if you are a spring athlete. You have lost your entire season and you can never get that back. I empathize with you as my daughter is a senior at East Brunswick Tech and has been named one of the school’s scholar-athletes. She, too, has missed out on prom and graduation. Together, we will get through this. In the fall, most of you will be attending college and possibly furthering your athletic careers. I wish you the best of luck in the future and hope you reach your career and athletic goals.”

Here are the biographies used during the virtual ceremony:

LITZY MARTINEZ- RUIZ

Litzy Martinez-Ruiz is a dynamic, curious young woman with an unparalleled work ethic. She has effortlessly balanced her academic, extra-curricular, personal responsibilities, and dedication to her school and community at large without missing a beat. Litzy has maintained a 4.13 GPA, which has earned her the distinction of Principal’s Honor Roll throughout her entire high school career. Her academic caliber resulted in her induction into the National Honor Society her sophomore year. Not only a superb student, Litzy has also spent countless hours in the gymnasium honing her volleyball capacity. Having invested a significant amount of sweat equity, she was named the Most Valuable Player of the team her sophomore and junior year while being formally recognized as the team captain her junior year as well. Understanding the significance her community has played in overall growth, Litzy has given up much of her time to service the needs of her community. From school fundraisers, Special Olympics, to her duty as a cadet for the Middlesex Borough Rescue Squad, you can find Litzy wherever help is needed. Litzy is headed to the New Jersey Institute of technology this fall pursuing a degree in architecture.

ZION BLANCO

Upon first entering New Brunswick High School and registering for sports, Zion quickly met the academic coach. The first thing he remembers him saying was a quote by Earl Campbell, “You’re not just athletes, but student-athletes. You need to get an education,” Since then Zion lived by these words. In the classroom he is always active; asking questions or conducting his own research to find answers. Through these actions Zion was able to attain his current GPA of 4.07 as well as rank in the top 3% of his senior class. In regards to the athlete portion of Zion’s identity, he was constantly training on and off the mat. This earned him the position of Captain for the past two years. In addition, he placed in the top 6 of the GMC as well as finishing in the top four of the district tournaments for the past 3 years. Outside of the classroom Zion has volunteered at the Rutgers concession stand as well as being a safety ambassador for his local elementary schools. With all of these skills attained Zion will continue his education at the University of Maryland where he will gain the skills to become a medical scientist.