“I was imagining ‘I believe that we will win,’” the Bishop's basketball and football player recalls with a smile. He also has practiced the Roller Coaster move, literally perfecting it in the family shower stall as the spray comes down.
The 17-year-old senior, a burly 6’1”, 215-pound defensive end on the Knights’ football team that reached the CIF Div. 4 championship game in the fall, isn’t afraid to tell a story on himself. He says that classmates make fun of him for his size 15 shoes, and he has ended up on many students’ Instagrams cavorting on the gym floor in leading the student body cheer section.
“Some of my dances are really something,” he says. “I feel really comfortable in a gym or on a floor, cheering or playing.” He’s grinning as classmates and staff pass by during an interview held in front of the gym, sharing compliments about the fun-loving but hard-working senior.
Sheth, whose first name means “guide” in Hindi, may do goofball things as one of the student leaders of The Dungeon, the cheering section for the Knights. But he also takes care of business on the academic side. He is presently taking four Advanced Placement courses and an Advanced Honors class besides serving on student government and participating in Mock Trial, which is pretty time-consuming.
He had to apply for his detective position as Terry Thomas, one of six witness roles in the faux courtroom experience, which culminates in an annual interscholastic competition against Mock Trial teams from other area schools at the end of February.
“I get to the scene of the crime after it happened,” he explains. “I’m not a big actor, but you have to stay in character. It’s a two- to two-and-a-half-hour affair. I’m trying to stay stoic, which is not my normal nature. I’m learning to throw in a lot of ‘Yes, sirs,’ ‘No, sirs’ (to accurately portray the character).
“I’ve shadowed several lawyers,” he says. “I did it last summer. It wasn’t to prepare for Mock Trial. I was looking into career options. I made the contacts with different lawyers from connections through my parents and friends.”
There are 16 members of the Mock Trial team at Bishop’s. Their teacher is Richard del Rio. This year’s theme for the competition is police brutality, which is a no-brainer in view of the ongoing publicity surrounding police shootings in recent years. Sheth wasn’t a shoo-in for the class this fall. He was on the waiting list, and he says he had to “move some things around on my schedule” to be in Mr. Del Rio’s class.
At the beginning of the school year, each member of the class is given a booklet containing the testimony of all the witnesses. A participant has to know his or her material inside and out – which Sheth says he does – so that each can accurately carry out a role while staying in character. “You could ask me anything, and I could tell you what I know,” he says of Thomas, his Mock Trial persona.
His parents have provided Sahil and his two brothers, Krish, 12, and Kabir, 10, a unique upbringing filled with highlights. His father Manish and mother Shashita are doctors who serve as psychologists, so Sahil is considering a career in medicine. He’d like to continue playing football at a college in the East next year, but “I’m a little small” to play defensive end and tight end in bigger college football programs, so he is contacting schools that have smaller programs.
Sheth’s parents grew up and were married in their native India. Sahil was born in South Dakota, where both parents did their residencies. The family moved to California when he was in the fifth grade.
Discussions at the dinner table can be interesting.
“I feel like I come home and get psychologized,” he says, not in a negative way. “I feel like if I have a problem, they get to the root of the problem and solve it.” He says his parents aren't bookish wonks – they actually use their knowledge for benefit within the family.
Mom and dad weren’t keen on their oldest son playing football. “I hadn’t played, and in the ninth grade I made a video” to convince his parents to let him play for Bishop’s. It worked.
Concerning his initial exposure to Bishop’s Dungeon cheering section, Sheth says when he went to his initial Bishop’s-La Jolla, he wasn’t planning to attend Bishop’s. “I have written about this in several college applications,” he says. “The crowd was going crazy. I was attending Muirlands Middle School (which feeds into La Jolla High). I fell in love with the crowd, the noise.” It was his first experience with The Dungeon.
“I came to Bishop’s in the ninth grade,” he relates. “I saw I could be part of The Dungeon. I practiced cheers in the shower from the ninth grade on.”
Only seniors can lead The Dungeon cheers, though all classes can participate. The leadership informally talks among themselves during each game on who will lead a cheer at what point. “I’m one of the louder ones,” he laughs. His size-15 feet, which are difficult to find shoes for, supersize his Dungeon role.
Besides catching passes and hunting down quarterbacks for the Knights’ winning football team – Sheth was third on the team in tackles this past season – he starts as an aggressive forward on Coach Nick Levine’s basketball team. In previous years, Sheth also played lacrosse and volleyball.
Assistant athletic director Andy Koczon says Sheth embodies what Bishop’s tries to represent educationally. “This young man took the opportunities and made the most of them,” says Koczon, who knows many of the school’s students and athletes on a personal level. “He plays with heart and soul and is a terrific kid.”
But there’s fun mixed in. “My friends make fun of my celebration dances,” says Sheth. “I start dancing at girls volleyball and girls basketball games. I end up on people’s SnapChats. They post videos of my dances.”
Levine says his hard-working frontcourt man is “awesome.” The coach has a little fun, quoting Sheth’s nickname given to him by the staff after a highlight of his pass catch in a 23-7 win over University City this season: “The Real Deal Sahil.” He takes it all in as healthful fun.