Former Lions continue to roar in college

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Former Lions continue to roar in college

Jack Miller

Jack Miller

Jack Miller

Mark Fernandez, Staff Writer

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Sophia Friedman ‘17, Jack Miller ‘17, Chidi Nwankpa ’18, Kayla Thomas ‘18,  and Aman Sanger ‘18 are among the school’s most talented and hardworking athletes who have gone on to play at the collegiate level.

“We practice every day except for Saturday,” Friedman said.

Friedman is a sophomore at Amherst College and runs the 400 meter and 800 meter for the track team. Running these events was a significant change for Friedman as she ran the 100 meter and 200 meter in high school and thought she would continue to do so in college, she said. The coaches at Amherst noticed that Friedman had “gas in the tank” after running her 200, and so they switched her to the 400 because they felt she could handle it, she said. “It was nerve wracking,” Friedman said.

Even in different events, Friedman has worked hard and came in first at a home meet during her freshman year. She even finished eighth in the NESCAC league, which consists of ten teams including schools like Wesleyan, Tufts, and Williams, earning a point for her team.

“I have had this long sprint training from the beginning to the end of the year. I am excited to see how that affects my running,” Friedman said.

Friedman’s mental toughness that helped her successfully switch events was developed at Horace Mann. Her coaches, especially former Girls Varsity Track Coach Matthew Russo, pushed her at every practice, she said.

“Coach [Russo] would say ‘just one more’ when I was heaving and wheezing; it made me believe in myself more,” Friedman said. 

On the baseball field in the NESCAC league, Miller walked on to the Middlebury Baseball Team his freshman year. Miller started out as an outfielder and worked his way up to being the set up man (the pitcher who tries to hold the score for the closer) on the pitching staff by the end of the year, he said.

“I had to work my way up from the bottom,” Miller said. He went 2-0 his freshman year and had the team’s lowest Earned Run Average (ERA) at 1.59.

The difference between high school and college was that he has lifted and conditioned more, Miller said. Miller has a lot more free time because he usually only has classes from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and then heads to gym straight after to lift or have practice.

Miller is excited for the upcoming year as he aims to be the closer, the number two or three starter on the team. “My mindset is working hard and becoming better everyday” Miller said. This has been Miller’s goal throughout college and he recommends the mindset to any aspiring athlete, he said.

300 miles away from Middlebury, Nwankpa runs the 100m and 200m at Lafayette College. His recruitment process dealt with emailing and calling coaches, and then he narrowed down his choices from there, he said.

“I chose Lafayette not only because it’s close to home, but also because their neuroscience program is good, and I really vibed well with the team during my visit,” Nwankpa said. “My routine is waking up, going for breakfast, class, lunch, class again, practice, and finally doing work in the library.” Nwankpa said. “I feel HM prepared me for balancing my time among academics, athletics, and maintaining a social life,” he said. 

In terms of practice, Nwankpa has improved not just in his running form and speed, but also in the weight room. Nwankpa has learned new lifts in college and has seen his max lifts significantly rise. “My advice to student athletes would be to be unafraid of setting high goals and aspirations, and to remember the sky isn’t the limit,” Nwankpa said.

On the west coast at Stanford University, Kayla Thomas ‘18 is embarking on her journey as a freshman on the crew team. In the classroom, the transition from high school to college was smooth because of Horace Mann’s preparation, and the bigger change was on the sports side, Thomas said.

“It was such an incredible shift from high school as everybody is so dedicated and amazing at what they do.” Thomas said. “Every single girl on the crew team wants it as much as you do if not more, if you blink you might fall behind.” Thomas said.

Thomas gets up at 5:30 a.m. to go to practice and does not get back until 9 a.m. She then has her classes, meals, some freetime, and then heads back to practice at 3:30 p.m. She practices until 6:15 p.m. and then spends the rest of the night working and hanging out with friends. Even though her schedule is much more packed than her fellow classmates, Thomas does not mind: “I love my schedule, and I love being an athlete.”

Aman Sanger ‘18, who competes on the squash team at MIT, also has a rigorous schedule. The transition was smooth from high school to college for Sanger because MIT has a similar schedule to Horace Mann, he said. “It really helped manage my time here.” he said. Sanger debated between playing squash for MIT and Columbia, but chose MIT because of the academic offerings. “I wanted to major in computer science for college which helped me choose MIT.” Sanger said. Another factor in Sanger’s choice was the coach. MIT recently hired former number one ranked squash player Thierry Lincou to coach the team. “I knew that with him there, I would improve,” Sanger said.

Sanger plays less squash than he did in high school, but the intensity is much greater, he said. “In high school, I had both school and club squash instead of just doing the school team now,” Sanger said. This winter, Sanger hopes to see his hard work from this season pay off as he is participating in the British Junior Open which contains the top players of each age group from around the world, he said.