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Elizabeth Bercaw

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Photo courtesy Compost Culture
Sophomores Gianna Karkafi, Elizabeth Bercaw and Maddy Gregg are helping to bring a compost collection program to San Marino.

A group of San Marino students hope to propagate a successful startup service project from neighboring South Pasadena and offer composting service to San Marino residents.
The volunteers have joined onto Compost Culture, a projected started last year by two South Pasadena High School students to offer compost collection service to their city’s residents and businesses. Fresh off the success of winning the competition sponsored by the organization that funded them, the two SPHS students plan to branch out into their neighboring communities.
San Marino was first on the list.
“I was reading about it on their website and I thought it was really cool what they were doing,” explained Gianna Karkafi, a sophomore and cabinet member of the Green Club at San

Elizabeth Bercaw

Elizabeth Bercaw had little idea where she would end up when the then-incoming San Marino High School freshman told her parents last summer she was looking to take a break from softball, a sport she had played since kindergarten.
Told by her parents that she needed to find another athletic pursuit to fill the gap in her schedule, Bercaw — known to many as “Marvel” due to her short hair, which resembles that of a female superhero — chose a completely different lane: water polo.
In one of those rare cases where following the crowd is actually a good thing, Bercaw took the advice of some friends and enrolled in the 2019 summer water polo class of coach Mark Barr.
As fate would have it, the Lady Titans were without a goalkeeper, having lost Jasmine Lau to graduation. And though she had no experience in the sport at all and knew nothing about the crucial role of the goalie, “Marvel” moved right into the nets.
“Elizabeth has really become a factor for us this year,” said Barr. “It has been a challenging transition, but she has worked hard to learn the game.”
Though San Marino’s varsity ended its season last Thursday without a Rio Hondo League victory, Barr pointed to the squad’s two games against South Pasadena as a sign of Bercaw’s improvement. In January, the Tigers lit up the scoreboard for 21 goals, but Bercaw held South Pasadena to just 10 during their final meeting of the season.
“Elizabeth has learned to be aggressive in the goal,” Barr told The Tribune. “The difference in goals allowed from our first game against South Pasadena to our last one tells a lot of the story.”
Bercaw is enjoying her new toy.
“Water polo is different from the other sports I’ve played because it’s very fast moving,” she said. “Everyone on the team is really nice and supportive, which means a lot when you’re a freshman. Water polo itself is such a fun sport and I love it because it allows me to be aggressive.”
Not that she was any shrinking violet during her softball career, from which she’ll take a sabbatical this spring at SMHS.
She played in the San Marino National Little League from tee ball through softball Majors, being selected for three all-star teams, including the 9- and 10-year-olds’ squad that won the state championship in 2014. Batting left-handed and outfitted with excellent speed, Bercaw began learning how to slap hit in the 5th grade, a skill that enabled her to excel as she transitioned from Little League to travel ball. She started with the 12U Firecrackers and during 8th grade played with the 16U Batbusters team, leading the squad in most offensive categories.
She also suited up on coach Scott Edmonds’ Huntington Middle School team and received the offensive most valuable player award during 7th and 8th grades.
Bercaw is the daughter of Ginger and Bill Bercaw, clinical psychologists in Pasadena. Her brother, Jamie, is an HMS 7th-grader who plays on the Crown City baseball 13U travel squad and also enjoys basketball, football and track. Her father coached each of her Little League softball teams, including all-stars, but don’t expect to see him calling the shots at any future water polo games.
“It’s not lost on me that with her switch to water polo, Elizabeth picked a sport I know absolutely nothing about,” Bill Bercaw said with a hearty laugh.
Elizabeth may have found a new home.
“Through water polo I have learned that with a great coach and amazing teammates, it’s possible to play a role that your team needs even if you don’t have experience,” said Elizabeth Bercaw.
She is following her adventurous spirit to another new endeavor this spring, as a member of San Marino High School’s track team. That’s a more familiar pursuit, as Bercaw ran cross-country for HMS all three years there, earning all-210 League first-team honors as a 6th-grader.
Another demonstration of her versatility can be found on stage, where she recently completed a turn in San Marino High School’s production of “Peter Pan.”