Braden Yates of Upper St. Clair calculates many things in life. The mathematics wizard, however, does not consciously angle his way through a lacrosse match.
“A lot of thought goes into the game,” Yates said, “but in the moment, I’m not thinking ‘oh, I’m going to shoot like this’ or do that. I’m not thinking math in a game. I need to know where to position, yes. A lot of it is mental. That is one of my strengths.”
Upper St. Clair lacrosse coach Brian Yates, who also happens to be his father, agrees.
“Braden has a great IQ for the game,” the coach said.
Yates has excelled in district, regional and state Math Leagues. He compiled a 4.84 GPA and he was named a National Merit Scholarship Winner.
The process to be selected as one of the 2,500 brightest students in America commenced when Yates recorded a 1490 score out of a possible 1520 on the PSAT test as a sophomore. Two more components narrowed the potential field of the highest-ranking students.
One was further testing. Yates scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT with another 800 for physics. He also scored 36 out of 36 on the ACT.
“It’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “It took a lot of studying. That part of hard work comes necessarily, but the attentiveness and dedication to school work is important too. I put a lot of effort and preparation into those areas, but I do like to be challenged mentally.
“It would be nice to skate buy and do things easily, but if I am going to spend eight hours in school, I’d rather do something that is stimulating than passing time doing easy stuff.”
Writing is no small task for any National Merit winner. In addition to an essay for entrance to all colleges, finalists had to pen one as the second requirement in the scholarship process.
“The jump from semifinalist to finalist is very small. More than 90% become finalists. What it came down to is the quality of the essay,” Yates said of his being named a National Merit scholar.
Yates picked Shop@USC as his topic. The pioneering, student-run business delivers educational programming that enables students with special needs to design and manufacture products while learning how to develop a business plan that includes all aspects such as pricing, marketing, sales and inventory of products.
While the organization produced items, such as stickers, utilized by USC lacrosse, Yates did not join the group to advance his team. He only discovered the group because his freshman lunch period with his cousins was changed and he found himself looking for somewhere to sit as a sophomore. Yates said noticed a female student eating all alone. When he approached her, he said he learned she had a speaking disability that necessitated letter boards in which to communicate.
“I enjoyed eating with her. Now she had someone to sit with and I was happy, too. Through her, I discovered Shop@USC,” Yates said. “I really wanted to help other students.
“Shop@USC is not forefront as my descriptor, but it’s been the most rewarding. So I knew I needed to write about my experiences and what I had learned for my essay,” Yates said. “It influenced me to be a much better person than any competition.”
For 13 years, Yates competed in lacrosse.
Though he noted his father’s influence – Brian Yates competed on the collegiate level at the University of Maryland – Braden Yates said he was interested in the game because of its pace.
“It’s a fun and it’s fast, which is always nice, but it’s also a contact sport,” Yates said. “You are able to hit a guy, something you don’t get to do on a day-to-day basis.”
As a junior, Yates registered nine ground balls, scored three goals and had two assists for the Panthers, who advanced to the WPIAL playoffs. He said one of his most thrilling moments occurred when he scored a game-winning goal as time expired against rival Peters Township.
“As a player, Braden was very coachable but the thing I enjoyed most about him was that he always gave a great effort and focus,” said Brian Yates. “Braden was persistent, tenacious and tough.”
Yates displayed those characteristics in competitive ,athematics. He captained his school math league and led the Pennsylvania team to top 8 finishes the past three years. He also earned a spot in the Princeton University Mathematics Competition.
“What intrigues me about math is there is so much depth in everything,” Yates said. “There is simplicity in solving problems because once you solve them, you’ve done what you needed to do. I really enjoy looking and diving into the concepts that are there. You can see patterns emerge especially where you never expected them to occur.”
Yates will attend Carnegie Mellon University and major in mathematics.
“CMU was enticing,” he said. “Being a Pittsburgh resident, it had an edge because I had gotten to visit and I enjoyed the atmosphere there. There are also a lot of research opportunities and I like to engage in that.”
Brian Yates said he is excited to see what his son’s future holds.
“Braden has always been a committed student and dedicated athlete,” he said. “What he has been able to accomplish has to do with effort and time. He’s spent much of that pursuit in education. He valued that. He prioritized that and had a good outcome.
“As a father, I am tremendously proud of him. He has his mom’s brains, but Braden also has a big heart.”