Student-athletes compete at highest level

William Han and Suraj Khakee, Staff & Contributing Writers

Outside the classroom, some of the school’s student athletes are particularly dedicated to their sports and have taken their immense passion, talent, and hardwork to compete at the highest level. For these student athletes, competing in national and international tournaments requires not only a knack for time management, but also a diligent mindset and an ambition to achieve.

“I started playing basketball when I was six,” Ella Anthony (10) said, “but I only started playing really competitively in fifth grade. The first thing I noticed was that there were a lot of people there, and that I’d have to work really hard to reach my goals.”

Some of these goals involve getting recruited to a Division I college and becoming recognized as a top 20 player in the nation, Anthony said. She knows that her “intense competitiveness” can support the five a.m. wakeups and late night training sessions that have gotten her to this point, she said.

“The hardest thing I had to do was force myself to train hard each and every day,” Eddie Jin (10) said, a former top 200 swimmer in the nation in the 50m Freestyle, who just two years ago decided to try the path of a triathlete. “The triathlon presents a challenge unlike anything I’ve done. When I started out the sport, I was one of the worst in my field despite my strong background in both running and swimming.”

After that first race however, Jin used the summer to train between 25 and 30 hours a week and ran on the Varsity Cross Country and Outdoor Track teams in school during the fall and spring. He swam and biked in the winter as another way to stay in shape for the summer.

His training paid off, as he qualified for Nationals at the Monroe Cup, finished as high as 29th nationally, and has his sights set on the U.S. team for the North American Championships in the future, Jin said.

However, such intense training doesn’t come without sacrifice, as many athlete have found it hard to balance their workload and their challenging practice schedules.

“I had a hard time adjusting to the workload and school with squash at first in ninth grade. I would have two practices a day. I would have school practice and, then I would get home and immediately go to my other practice,” Aman Sanger (12) said.

Kayla Thomas (12) “puts in three to four hours daily,” and that time commitment has helped her earn third at the Canadian Hundley race and made her dreams of winning Nationals not-so far-fetched.

“I love it so much that I wake every morning before school to work out and also have practice after school. It’s a huge time commitment and I have had to learn how to become really good with my time management,” Thomas said.

Through learning time management, these athletes have learned that “competition can bring out the best in [themselves], even in other areas like school,” Aidan Aisiks (10), a soccer player who has competed in national tournaments since he was 12, said. “I’ve learned that I have to combine all my responsibilities and set out a schedule for when I have to have something done by, whether it be a training session or homework,” Aisiks said.

Jason Oh (12) is an internationally competitive fencer who has earned third at the World Cup and traveled from Salt Lake City all the way to Europe to chase his dreams of being a college fencer and “get some NCAA rings on [his] fingers.”

“I always tell myself to have positive vibes and successful thoughts. I live by the mottos ‘no days off’ and ‘trust the process.’ By being on this student athlete grind, I want to redefine greatness,” Oh said.

Nora Burke (12) also fences outside school and aspires to succeed at the collegiate level. She hopes that her experience from international tournaments, such as the Junior Olympics, has prepared her, she said.

Alexis Bolner (12), who has won national competitions and represented Team USA for synchronized skating, has loved the sport since she was five years old.

“Now I skate almost 20 hours a week, and I still love it. That’s why I’ve stuck with it, and it’s what keeps me motivated,” Bolner said.

“What helps me is my support system. I have really great friends and a really great coach. I work really hard but also have a lot of people who I know have my back,” Burke said, “and I’m thankful for that.”