Athletic Recognition Ceremony celebrates eight seniors

Aiste Zalepuga, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Eight student athletes, who will continue their sport on the college level, were celebrated in the Upper School commons during the Athletic Recognition Ceremony.

Director of College Counseling Mr. Rick Ellis said these student athletes do not only excel in their sport, but in academics as well.

“I think what a lot of people don’t remember is all the effort and work that gets put into this and all the hours of practice when no one sees you in the morning and the afternoon. The college process is a scary process. Coaches come and go,” he said.

But Ellis said the student athletes were very patient throughout the process and have achieved well-deserved, high results.

“We’re proud to see how they blossom at the next level, and we’ll gear up for the next class after that. But these were eight, good student athletes, and that’s probably what we’re most proud of,” Ellis said.

“These are all academically top-notch kids, and I think they’re going to be great.”

Football coach Mr. Tod Creneti agreed.

“These athletes have made sacrifices; they commit to something greater than themselves — to a team, which ultimately takes them to places they as an individual may have never [gone],” Creneti said.

“We recognize the time and energy that they put in. They will represent us in places that we cannot otherwise have gone ourselves.”

The following eight athletes were spotlighted:

Lauren Johnson

Volleyball: “High school volleyball has been such a big part of my time in high school. Some of my favorite memories come from the team and the games we’ve played. That’s why I knew I wanted to play in college; to have the same kind of relationships with teammates, and of course, the game.”

Why Rhodes College: “One of the main reasons I chose Rhodes was because I think I’ll have similar experiences as the ones I have had at Saint Stephen’s, like volleyball and the community.”

Brett Messieh

Soccer: “I left home halfway through tenth grade for IMG, did IMG in 11th grade and continued with Clearwater Chargers Academy in 12th. High school soccer wise, I played [on the school team in] tenth grade, and we made the final four [my] 11th grade [year]. In 12th grade, [I] was captain. I was also captain at my old school in tenth grade but left. I’ve been on the all-area team since ninth grade.”

Case Western Reserve: “I’m going to Case where I’ll be starting all four years though and hope to break some school records and win some trophies there.”

Katie Pollan

Tennis: “I was really highly ranked when I was 16. I was ranked top 20 in Florida, and then I got mono. I was out for about four or five months. Then I got myself back up to top 20 in 18s. This January, I got fifth place out of the 32 in Florida for sectionals.”

Williams College: “I’m very excited to play because my team has won NCAA for the past four years in a row, and my coach is awesome. But we’re losing a lot of our good players, seniors, this year, so I feel like there’s going to be a lot of pressure on me to do well.

I’m looking forward to being a part of a team. Usually, tennis is a really individual sport. When you’re at tournaments, you get to hang out with your friends, but there’s still an edge because you know you’re going to play each other. So, you can joke and have fun, but one you get on the court, it’s all business.”

Michael Roberts

Baseball: “I played on the Saint Stephen’s team a little bit my seventh grade year and started on varsity freshman year and [continued] through senior year. Over the summer, I played at IMG and trained with the summer league there.”

Elon University: “I did a lot of research on schools that I thought I would be interested in and that would be a good fit. I went up and visited Elon in February and fell in love with the campus, and it just seemed like a perfect fit for me, for both athletics and academics.

I look forward to having the opportunity to continue my passion, which is baseball, the camaraderie of being on the team with a bunch of college athletes, like myself, and being involved in a competitive atmosphere of Division 1 baseball.”

Chad Tolentino

Baseball: “My baseball career has been a great experience from me. I went from a freshman that barely played to the captain of the team junior and senior year. The coaching staff has been amazing all four years, and I am lucky to have coaches that never gave up on me. I can’t wait to be a part of a really competitive team. Starting out can be hard because you need to prove yourself all over again, but I think that is a good thing because it motivates you even more to work hard every day.”

Trinity University: “I chose Trinity University because the atmosphere and school as a whole seemed like a perfect fit for me. Not only did they have a baseball team that is extremely competitive and a top team in the region, but the academics at the school are outstanding. The small community is what I am used to, seeing that I am a Forever Falcon at Saint Stephen’s, and I can’t wait to be a part of such a well-rounded school.”

Oliver Vaidis

Golf: “I played in Europe. I played in a European professional tournament, Czech Open 2011, and that was one of the highlights of my career. It was a fun event and the best level of golf in Europe and second best in the world. That really set my motivation to play college golf.”

Mercer: “I really liked the coach and the assistant coach, and it’s a really nice campus. I’ll get to play some cool events with other teams that are really good.”

Shannon Morrish

Soccer: “My soccer career has been filled with hard work, dedication and sacrifice. While many people are out having fun during vacations, I am training for hours on end on the soccer field or in the weight room. I have loved every minute of playing for the school and for IMG. My coaches and mentors have all helped me so much, and I am forever grateful for all of their time they put in me and for always believing in me.”

Vanderbilt University: “I am most looking forward to the competition that I will be faced with next year. I will finally be put up against girls who are faster and stronger and may even have more experience than I do now, yet I feel that this is the most exciting thing. I love working hard, and I am determined that I will be able to go into Vanderbilt because I felt that they had the best academic and athletic programs combined. I also love the coaches and the team, so I am very excited to be a Commodore.”

Adam Vining

Football: “My football career could be classified as a roller coaster ride, if you will. I had never played football until the team came about. I started in seventh grade, quickly moved up to varsity in eighth grade after a growth spurt. I decided I wanted to play quarterback freshman year. I had never played before, but I instantly won the backup roll behind our senior starter. [During] one game, our quarterback tore a ligament in his knee. I was thrust into the spotlight as the starting varsity quarterback as a freshman with only two months [of] practice. I was inconsistent. Sophomore year I was the starter throughout, but we primarily ran. I was used often to run the ball, tallying multiple rushing touchdowns.

After this, our senior playmakers graduated, so I was forced to move to wide receiver to be the new offensive threat. I ended leading the state in catches and being top five and many other meaningful receiving categories. I broke every single career and season receiving record in the process. This was despite no formal training at the position.

This allowed me to be recruited by many colleges, mostly from the Ivy League and NESCAC. Unfortunately, my senior campaign was a struggle due to losing my quarterback and many other key players. I also tore a ligament in my knee in the first game, which I played through for six games, until I couldn’t be effective anymore. My last game I tried to play despite a recent surgery and scored despite being able to run at half of my true speed.”

Williams College: “Even with this not ideal season, I was a top recruit for Williams and chose them over some other bigger schools because I fell in love with the campus and the general atmosphere. The football was at a level where I could balance my college life and academics, all while truly enjoying the game of football. I also had instant chemistry with the team and coaches [during] my visit. The academic prestige didn’t hurt either.

I am looking forward to getting out and proving myself on a bigger stage. Saint Stephen’s football doesn’t get much respect, and I’d like to bring a little more prestige to the program by succeeding at a higher level. Also, I look forward to forging new bonds with my teammates that only football can produce. Many of my best friends in high school were a product of the bond from football. I think this will be the same in college.”

 

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