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Starlings Art & Literary Contest


The Starlings philosophy is a holistic one: competition is good but sports should also be fun. We encourage our athletes to develop all their talents. For this reason, we proudly promote our annual Art & Literary Contest.

The Starlings Art & Literary Contest debuted at the 2000 National Championship and has proven to be a highlight of each season since.  Once a year, all girls in a Starlings program are invited to submit artistic and literary works on specific themes and in categories that include essays, poetry, painting, drawing, sculpture and photography.  The winners are honored each year at the Starlings National Championship.

2024 Theme: Dream Gold

In honor of the 2024 Summer Olympics, consider the triumphs that athletes experience on their path to achieving Olympic glory. "Dream Gold" symbolizes not only the pursuit of victory but the resiliency required to overcome obstacles along the way. What does it mean to chase your dreams and strive for greatness? Let your creativity shine as you share your unique perspective of “Dream Gold”.

Cash prizes & Adidas gift cards will be awarded

2023 Theme: Opportunity

For the 2023 Art and Literary Contest, Starlings athletes from across the country interpreted the theme of OPPORTUNITY through original art and literary pieces.

Award winners and other submissions can be seen below!

Grand Prize - Literary

Zoey Ocampo-Sobkoviak, Age 18
Starlings Watsonville

By Zoey Ocampo

What is an opportunity?
If not a chance
To transcend our expectations of ourselves

An opportunity is never timed perfectly
It comes when it pleases
And leaves just the same

Take hold of it, do not waste it
But remember to be patient

When one door closes
Another one opens

Any cliche you can think of
Or inspirational quote on a wall
Is grounded in truth

An opportunity is a chance
Never a guarantee
But if we hold our vision in our minds
And determination in our hearts
One chance may be all it takes
To realize our dreams

We should never limit ourselves for fear of failure
Because some small voice within ourselves
And select few voices outside ourselves
Tell us we do not belong
We are not good enough
We should not try

What are we if we do not take the chance
To transcend the expectations others have of us?

What are we if we do not take the chance
To prove to ourselves what we knew all along?

That we are strong
We are capable
We belong
We are

I have been given an opportunity
An opportunity to play a sport and be more than what others expect of me
I have been given an opportunity to find a community
Of young women whose drive and motivation
Push me to my highest potential

I have been given an opportunity to join a family
That forgives me when I fall
And brushes the dust off of my shoulders
I have found support
In this game
I have learned how to be there for my teammates
And lead in crucial moments

What an amazing gift

I do not mean to put volleyball on an untouchable pedestal
Because to love this sport is to question it
And to question the institutions around it
I cannot ignore the realities of so many young women who love this game
Who have been told they were
Not good enough
Who have been told they are
Who have been excluded

We must do better
We must be better
We must take the opportunity
To make this sport a place for young women to believe in themselves
And succeed

To do what they love
And be celebrated
To work hard
To try
To fail
To laugh
To cry
And most of all
To create their own opportunities

Each of us has an opportunity
To find our team
To play this game
To transcend the impossibilities of the everyday
To leave our doubts and insecurities behind
And for just a few moments

Grand Prize - ART

Ellyce Begay, Age 18
Starlings Shonto

Ellyce Begay - Shonto Starlings - Grand Prize in the "Art" Category

Ellyce Begay - Age 18 - Shonto Starlings - Grand Prize in the "Art" Category

2023 Winners by Age Group

Oluwatosin Sunday, 17, Starlings COLA (LIT)
Kaitlyn Caldwell, 16, Starlings Eastlake (LIT)
Minhtu Nguyen, 14, Starlings Eastlake (LIT)
Leela Ranganathan, 11, Starlings Rancho Bernardo (LIT)

Marie Dominique Jose, 17, Starlings Salton Sea (ART)
Kaylee Nakagawa, 15, Starlings COLA (ART)
Madeline Meredith, 13, Starlings Eastlake (ART)
Gwynellian Kaneshiro, 11, Starlings Antelope Valley (LIT)

Joi Takeshima, 17, Starlings COLA (LIT)
Daisy Cornejo, 16, Starlings Watsonville (LIT)
Rori Divijak, 14, Starlings West (ART)
Caylao Baron, 11, Starlings Mission Trails (ART)




Three 12-year-old Ukrainian refugees joined Starlings Antelope Valley for the opportunity to play at the Starlings National Championships

The three Ukrainian refugee athletes each submitted an essay about their experience coming from Ukraine to the United States, and what the opportunity means for them. You can read their essays by clicking the documents below...

2022 THEME

Togetherness... Unity... Teamwork...

These concepts help us thrive on and off the volleyball court! See how Starlings across the country explored the theme of togetherness for the 2022 Starlings Art & Literary Contest.


Kaylee Nakagawa, 14, Starlings COLA

Nyla Hales, 17, Starlings Fayetteville Dream

Destinee Harriott, 18, Starlings Dream (LIT)
Payton Balas, 16, Ridgecrest Starlings (LIT)
Harper Lillestol, 14, Starlings COLA (ART)
Ellie Divijak, 11, Starlings West (LIT)

Kierstin Copenharve, 17, Starlings Omaha (LIT)
Ragen Bilagody, 16, Shonto Starlings (LIT)
Kaylah Mothudi, 14, Starlings COLA (ART)
Izah San Juan, 11, Watsonville Starlings (ART)

Jocelyn Cahwee, 17, Starlings Lawrence (ART)
Julianna Limas, 15, Starlings Lynwood (ART)
Kaelyn Hickey, Starlings Eastlake (ART)
Madison Divijak, 11, Starlings West (ART)

This artwork contains over 100 feathers colored by women and girls in my community, symbolizing unity and what can happen if we all rises together. I used paper and chalk, while letting each women and girl use whatever materials they wanted. The art piec

2021 Art Grand Prize Winner
Desiree Galamgam, Age 16, Nestor

2021 Literary Grand Prize Winner
Katrina Sandoval, Age 15, Watsonville

Gold Winners

Kalila Kahin (High Desert)

Isabela Paucar (Escondido)

Kayleen Melgoza (Central Valley)

Sofia Giacomangeli (Navajo)

Silver Winners

SILVER - Emily Carbajal (SCLA)

SILVER - Marie Jose (Salton Sea)

Zoie Dupree (South Central LA)

Dinah Yelverton (Queen City)

Bronze Winners

Jessica Macatangay (COLA)

Nyla Hales (Fayetteville Dream)

Kaylee Nakagawa (COLA)

Rori Divijak (West Tucson)

2020 GRAND PRIZE Winner

Age 17, Starlings Columbia

2020 Art & Literary Contest Finalists

The 2020 Art & Literary Contest went VIRTUAL due to COVID-19 and the cancellation of Starlings Nationals, so we would like to highlight our Finalists and Top Finishers for all to see!

Age 16, High Desert

"In this picture, I drew my teammates as superheroes. I did this because this is how I see them. I think they’re amazing and I am very grateful for them. I drew them each with a power of their own to show what they give to the team. Each person brings something important to the team that we need in order to work. I’m grateful for everything my team has been through and all of the great moments we’ve shared. Even though our season was cut short due to Covid, the bonds we’ve made will last forever."

- Kalila

Age 15, Nestor

Age 15, COLA

Kaylah, 12, COLA


Gratitude to me is giving back
Why keep getting, when you can give
God gave us a wonderful life to flourish
Saying thank you isn’t hard,
But still, we refuse to say it
We should be so grateful that we get to live
God gave us a beautiful set of parents
My mom always supports me
My dad always plays with me
My friends love me for who I am
I can’t even imagine how hard life would be
If I didn’t have all these beautiful souls
Strive and make me the person I am today
I hug my mom and dad every day and say
I love you
I listen to my friends and support them
I am committed to giving back to others
And saying Thank You more often
This is what Gratitude is to me

- Kiersten, 11, COLA

Olivia, 16, Nestor

Roxy, 14, Ridgecrest

Kailey, 13, Palmdale

Janelle, 16, COLA

Sam, 16, Watsonville

Kaylee, 12, COLA

Samantha, 15, Tijuana

Madison, 16, Ridgecrest

Jacqueline, 13, COLA (and below)

Alexis, 16, Brevard County

Anaya, 14, COLA


GOLD - Rylee Natoney (Shonto)
SILVER - Bridget Buettner (Mission Bay)
BRONZE - Beila Urban (San Gabriel)

T-GOLD - Mikayla Santaella (Unknown Club)
T-GOLD - Alexa Headley (Brevard County)
SILVER - Jocelyn Claypool (Clairemont)
BRONZE - Lauren Pelot (Mission Bay)

GRAND ART PRIZE - Ily Attinger (Clairemont)
GOLD - Lindsey Fuerte (San Gabriel)
SILVER - Natalie Prohaska (Cedar Rapids)
BRONZE - Isabella Hunt (Mission Bay)

GRAND LITERARY PRIZE - Halei Santiago (San Gabriel)
GOLD - Emme DeSimoni (Oak Hills)
SILVER - Megan White (Clairemont)
BRONZE - Kayelani Maiava (Shonto)

2018 Winners

  • Shi'Shon Bitsoie, Shonto Starlings
  • Bridget Buettner, Mission Bay Starlings
  • Katelin Ho, San Gabriel Starlings
  • Victoria Hwang, San Gabriel Starlings
  • Maya Loper, Eastlake Starlings
  • Elizabeth Murray, Navajo San Diego Starlings
  • Katelynn Ngo, San Gabriel Starlings
  • Megan Small, Ridgecrest Starlings
  • Kaylie Stromsodt, Starlings Oak Hills
  • Lily Tran, Mission Bay Starlings