Class of 2013 Moves On
As the final echoes of buzzers, whistles, and competitive banter ascend onto the athletic careers of Vermont Academy's class of 2013, the imprint of individual and team legacies will begin to resonate behind the paths of student-athletes now focused on taking their respective talents beyond the familiar confines of greater Long Walk. For its second installment, Wildcat Insider showcases the 2013 Wildcat Class moving on to compete at various levels of the NCAA arena. As VA bids farewell to this special collection of student-athletes, whose impact has been multiple and memorable, Wildcat Insider highlights where class members are headed and how several of them feel their unique experiences in the black & orange have prepared them for next level success in their future intercollegiate programs.
Janer Reyes - Howard University
Stephan Tapp - University of Richmond
Mathieu Loiselle - Wagner College
Anthony Davis - Virginia Tech
Garrett Kogel - Marist College: "I was introduced to rowing the same year it started at VA. Without the hard work and focus that crew has given me, I would not be in the physical shape or have the endurance I have today. I will be forever grateful for everything Mr. Collins and the rowing program has done for me over the past four years to help me be able to row at a Division I college."
Bobby Ronacher - WPI: "VA first introduced me to the sport of rowing and, after only one year of it, turned me into a college-caliber varsity athlete. VA Rowing taught me not only about pushing to new limits, but also how staying sharp as one leads everybody to success."
Carson Burke - Lasalle University
Kennan Fisher - Marist College
Marina Porl - Mt Ida College
Robyn Wilkie - Concordia or Castleton State College
Mikaela Paluszek - University of Maine: "VA helped make me the skier I am today with the coaching and the student-athlete support that I received. For me, I wanted to make the Junior World Team for Biathlon and the teachers and coaches both helped me reach that goal. I don't think that I would have received the support for the training and schooling that I do in the same way anywhere else."
Craig Calhoun - Middlebury College
Boys' Ice Hockey
Eric Alexander - Connecticut College or Trinity College
AJ Latulippe - Southern New Hampshire University
Drew Oxley - Assumption College
Kurt Rodrigues - Salem State University
Girls' Ice Hockey
Jo Hanna Rifai - Lawrence University
Daquein McNeil - University of Minnesota: "I grew up from a kid into a young man here. Going to play in the Big 10 for Coach [Richard] Pitino would have never been possible without the basketball program at VA. My plan is to put on the Wildcat logo from day one when I touch down in Minneapolis."
Billy Petzold - Trinity College: "Vermont Academy put me in an environment where I was pushed to my limit everyday. This helped me grow as a person and a player and I now feel more ready to succeed at the next level."
Richard Williams - Manhattan College: "VA has become my home away from home, while challenging me to set a high standard for everything I do. On the floor and off the floor, I've matured into a student-athlete ready to have an instant impact when I get to college."
Georgi Funtarov - University of California, Davis: "Vermont Academy has given me the chance to chase my dreams. It gave me the opportunity to study in a great academic school and also compete against some of the best high school basketball teams in the country. It has taught me everything I need to know in order to be successful at the next level, on the court and off the court."
Ashley Potofsky - Allegheny College: "Vermont Academy has helped make me be the best athlete I can be, on-and-off the field. VA has taught me that I am a student first, and an athlete second, and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it."
Joe Mizhir - Washington & Jefferson College
Pat Lynch - Merrimack College
AJ Latulippe - Southern New Hampshire University: "My time at VA has given me the drive to pursue baseball at the college level. I owe it to all my coaches here at VA who have given me the motivation and confidence to play high level sports."
Salty Pennington-Fitzgerald - Middlebury College
Ari Beauregard - Nichols College: "Vermont Academy has prepared me for college softball in many ways on-and-off the field. VA has taught me time management, how to become a selfless player, and how to set desirable goals inspiring determination to achieve success."
THE INSIDER'S TAKES ON FOOTBALL CANCELLATION
Upon the recent administrative decision to eliminate varsity football as a fall sports offering effective for the upcoming 2013-2014 school year, Wildcat Insider, the new, official voice of Vermont Academy Athletics online, had the chance to catch up with multiple key individuals involved with the decision and impacted by its announcement. Vermont Academy Head of School Sean Brennan, who released the letter officially breaking the decision to the VA school community earlier this month, expressed his personal difficulty in supporting the program's end coinciding with his continued commitment to the greater well-being of the school.
“From a personal standpoint, having been around the game of football for 35 years, this was as painful a decision as I’ve had to make,” Brennan said. “I’ve been a constant and consistent advocate for football forever, but, again, this was simply the right decision for the school.
“Over the four years that I have been at VA, we’ve invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into making the football program competitive and successful,” Brennan continued. “Despite those efforts, it reached a point of simply no longer being a sustainable program.”
Citing lack of student interest and continued difficulty recruiting numbers for football as the primary factors behind the program’s end, VA Director of Athletics Mike Atkins, also the school’s head football coach for the past four years, expressed that student interest in football was no longer at a level feasible to support a healthy program moving forward.
“All of [Vermont Academy’s] sports teams are based primarily upon student interest, and we just were not seeing the interest on campus in participation in football,” Atkins said. “This has been an issue at VA for close to ten years. Historically, football has been one of the cornerstones of the VA athletic department, thus making the decision even more difficult.”
Atkins went on to identify the emerging difficulty for small New England boarding schools to generate the depth of numbers necessary to support competitive, safe football programs and described the challenges VA has faced in meeting enrollment quotas Evergreen League representatives have proposed as being consistent with healthy programs at recent annual meetings.
“There are several other smaller prep schools, both in and out of [the Evergreen] league, that are struggling with the same numbers problems,” Atkins said. “Football league members meet in December to discuss this very topic, and the consensus was that a team needed 30 players to be a strong and viable team. VA has not had 30 total players for many years.”
Brennan expressed that initial feedback from extended members of the Vermont Academy community has consisted of supportive sentiments of regretful understanding of the priority to place the overall welfare of the school over the rich tradition of Wildcat football.
“The response from the greater Vermont Academy family, which primarily consists of alumni, has been very supportive of the decision,” Brennan said. “The typical response has been one of initial disappointment, but understanding of the current climate, appreciation for the willingness to look out for the greater well-being of the school, and fond anecdotal stories of football experiences at VA.”
Bob Harrington, currently a senior mathematics instructor at VA with over 40 years of service to the school in various teaching, coaching, and administrative capacities, was a paramount figure in Wildcat football during the pinnacle of its success from the late 1960s to early 1980s. Serving as the program’s head coach for its undefeated 1972 season (VA also captured Evergreen League titles in 1990 and 2004) and guiding more than a decade of on-field success before transitioning to the school’s director of athletics from 1980-1985, Harrington described the positive experiences he had in building meaningful relationships with his players while experience success against other formidable New England programs of the era.
“When I arrived at VA, it was an all-boys school with the majority of the school involved in athletic teams in the afternoon,” Harrington said. “Thus, we had 30-plus athletes involved at the varsity level, with a significant number of post-graduate students, which allowed us to be very competitive against the likes of Deerfield, Mt. Hermon, Williston-Northampton, Cushing, Choate, Tabor, etc.
“I enjoyed working with these athletes as I helped them in their search for the right fits after VA,” Harrington continued. “In addition, I got to work with them in the classroom, as an adviser, and as a dormitory parent. We got to know each other very well and I have lasting relationships [with several former players] to this day.”
Harrington continued to offer insight into how he believes the ever-changing educational culture at VA has contributed to the gradual decline of the school’s football program, while expressing his ultimate concern for the safety and well-being of student-athletes in relation to their participation in any school-related activity.
“In the last fifteen or so years, VA has continued to expand its offerings in the arts, both visual and performing, as we have been working to become a more diverse community with significant international-student numbers and more-and-more activities available to students,” Harrington said. “In the process, I have watched the numbers slowly decrease in the football program and, looking at our present population, I feel that our efforts at diversity have brought us to a point where we can no longer expect to consistently support the program.”
With administrators and faculty more inclined to analyze logistical and internal factors involved with the elimination of VA football, current students and former players were understandably more focused on the disappointment caused by the recent news. Senior Mehmet Eroglu ’13, a four-year program member and three-time varsity letter recipient from Bellows Falls, Vermont, expressed his positive feelings about the impact the program had on him throughout his student-athlete experience at Vermont Academy.
“VA Football helped me develop as a person,” Eroglu said. “It taught me many values, especially discipline and confidence. It helped me mature as a person and got me through high school, while creating bonds with teammates and coaches that will last forever.”
Emphasizing his initial surprise when learning football would no longer be part of the Wildcat sports curriculum, Eroglu described the difficulties of competing as a player with such low numbers.
“When I heard that football had been cancelled, I was shocked and obviously disappointed because of what the program had meant to me personally,” Eroglu said. “With that said, I do understand the hardships of maintaining a competitive sport with such few numbers. In the last game of this year’s season, we only had 14 players suit up and take the field. Such low numbers would affect the entire game and prevent us from ever reaching our full potential.”
Lawrence, Massachusetts-native Janer Reyes ’13, a post-graduate member on this year’s team, echoed Eroglu’s disappointment in the program being dropped while expressing similar understanding of how low numbers raised overwhelming concerns for its sustainability moving forward.
“Cutting the football program is like cutting off part of a family that has been built over decades, extending past current players and coaches to former members who were impacted by the experience,” Reyes said. “However, being part of the team this year, I can understand that, after seeing our struggles with low numbers, the school would look into cutting the program.”
While embracing emotional feedback and reaction from former football players and coaches, Brennan and Atkins remain optimistic about the overall state of VA athletics and fully committed to supporting healthy student-athlete enrollment in all programs in the years ahead. With Brennan citing “robust enrollments in a multitude of other sports in the fall and other seasons” and pledging to do “everything moving forward to continue to build those programs,” Atkins outlined a simple, efficient blueprint for maintaining and enhancing Wildcat athletic offerings in the near and long-term future while acknowledging the inevitable mix of challenges ahead.
“Our plan is to start to identify and focus on sports which have sustainable numbers,” Atkins said. “As VA continues to evolve and prepare itself as a leading private boarding school in New England, tough decisions will continually need to be made as the school looks to a strong future.”
2013 SPRING SEASON PREVIEW
Varsity Crew, offered in the fall and spring, continues to thrive at Vermont Academy. The team is currently affiliated with the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association and will schedule races with peer schools such as Brewster, Deerfield, Worcester Academy, The Bancroft School, The Dublin School, South Kent, Berkshire and Dexter, and will also attend larger regional regattas such as the Saratoga Invitational and possibly the Northeast USRA Regional Regatta. Over twenty student/athletes came out for the team and that will allow for two boys’ fours and two girls’ fours on the water this spring.
Several crew team members spent a week in Gainesville, Georgia preparing for the upcoming spring season. Seniors Garrett Kogel, Bobby Ronacher, Keenan Fisher, Carson Burke and sophomore Abby Hart made the seventeen-hour trip to the site of the 1996 Olympics. Unfortunately, expectations for warm weather were not to be realized. Each morning workout began with temps in the 30's and the warmest afternoon high seen was 58 degrees. Temperatures, however, did not reduce the productivity of the two-a-day workouts. Hopefully, this early season training will result in some early season boat speed.
The varsity baseball team is returning the majority of their players from last year’s team, including both of their senior captains A.J. Latulippe and Salty Pennington-Fitzgerald. During the last week of March break, the majority of the team traveled down to Myrtle Beach, SC to enjoy a week at the state-of-the-art Ripken Complex. This is the third year the team has traveled south for the last week of break and it’s an excellent ways to kick start the season. While down at the Ripken Complex the team practiced twice a day for the first three days and then played three scrimmages against some very tough competition which included Paramus Catholic and Friend’s Central School from outside Philadelphia. The team is also returning the majority of the infield form last year including sophomores George Atkins and Cam Wright and junior Stephen Tworig. The outfield will have even more speed than last year with one returning player sophomore Dom Senerchia and two new players juniors Brian Allen and Bandera Swastono. The Wildcats are looking to have a great season and have already come together as a team in just the short time they have been together. Getting to play on the best-maintained field in the league allows the players to play with pride and enthusiasm for the game every day at practice. The team is competing for a league championship and hopes to be in the top four teams at the end of regular season for the first ever post season playoffs at the end of the spring.
The varsity girls lacrosse team is looking forward to a great season with some strong returning players and several new athletes. Head Coach Jenny Calver, entering her second year at the helm of the Wildcats’ squad, has laid out high expectations for the players, and everyone is enjoying meeting the challenges. The defense will be led by returners, senior Robyn Wilke, junior Molly Brennan, and junior Casey Walsh in the net. With senior Sam Gillingham, junior Carly Radovich, and sophomore Eddie Miller, the Wildcats have plenty of height in the midfield. With their experience playing box lacrosse in Canada, sophomore Teneal Perry and freshman Kori McComber should provide some good stick handling and scoring for VA. The Wildcats’ future looks bright with a strong mix of returning players and many young prospects. They look forward to carrying their successes in the 2012 season forward into a winning season this spring.
The 2013 edition of the VA boys’ varsity lacrosse features solid leadership from returners along with many new faces. Team numbers are up and the mix of veterans and rookies should make for an interesting season.
Returning seniors Sage Vogt on offense and Joey Mizhir on defense will be called upon to provide guidance and leadership for the team. New Senior Pat Lynch will provide experience and skill on defense as well. Other new players making an immediate impact are junior Orin Horn at attack and goalie sophomore Will Sanger. Sophomore Marcus Mitchell at attack, sophomores Will Stone and Jack Payne, along with freshman Tommy Hood in the midfield, and junior Drew Bowen on defense will provide additional horsepower. The team also has a number of returning athletes playing lacrosse including juniors Pat Bartolomucci and Mathieu Loiselle, with sophomore Miles Hearon in the midfield, and seniors Janer Reyes and Mehmet Eroglu on defense. Returning sophomore Cam Hubbard at midfield/attack and junior Erik Nielsen at defense /midfield will be called upon to play multiple roles. Rounding out the roster are: junior Charles Zimmerman, PG Steffan Ghantous, and a good group if young. After a successful spring training trip to Florida, the team is ready to play a challenging 16-game schedule that should be fun to watch.
Looks like a rebuilding year for boys’ varsity tennis. After an extremely successful 2012 season, it’s an almost a brand-new team with the loss of four of last year’s top six players. Coach Ben Krahn acknowledges that the team is young, and fairly inexperienced on the court, but “ready to roll.” Krahn says, “I'm excited to see what this new crop of players brings to the season. We've had a few days of beautiful weather and have gotten some good practicing in.”
After two weeks of tryouts in all kinds of conditions, the girls’ varsity tennis team of eight girls now is preparing for their first match in mid-April. Four of the girls are returning players: seniors Valery Hao, Sonia Yang, Monique Yingling and sophomore Elkanah Linder, and the team welcomes four new members: senior Vanessa Kang, and juniors Evelyn Zhang, Gaby Shao and Leslie Botey. They have all proven in tryouts that they have winning attitudes and everyone is enjoying the new surface on the courts! Coach Frey and the team are looking forward to a successful season.
After saying goodbye to a strong core of seniors in 2012, the 2013 Vermont Academy golf team has eagerly awaited the arrival of spring and although a few late snow storm created some unforeseen setbacks, the squad is geared up and ready to go for another great season of golf at Hooper Golf Club. This year's team will look for the combination of new faces and graduates from last years JV squad to lead the way. PG captain Jack Torrey looks to lead the squad of hungry competitors which includes seniors Eamon O'Keefe and JT Humphreys, junior JV graduates Yumo Cheng and Fengyu Xu, sophomore CJ Lafleur, and freshman Ian Li. Wish them the best of luck as they prepare to take on some very talented Lakes Region opponents this spring!