Beyond the headlines: athletes make an impact- Unsung heroes get the recognition they deserve as positive competitors

by Amanda Malool and Trevor Skanes
Athletes’ contributions to their teams’ accomplishments may not always show in statistics and headlines. The Fanscotian looked for athletes who have an upbeat impact but don’t usually get the recognition they deserve. These athletes contribute their positive attitudes and strong work ethic to their teams’ success.

Senior Allison Speck is a defender on the lacrosse team. She sees her role as more than defend ing the goal, but also “challenging [her] teammates during practice.”
“Defenders usually don’t have stats,” said head coach Robert Rafferty. “But Allison is smart, hardworking and a leader by example. She’s always positive.”
When asked how she stays positive even when losing, Speck said, “I never allow myself to think we are going to lose, because on various occasions we have made a comeback when losing.”
Junior Sam Brause is a “defensemen who won’t get a lot of stats, but will be a key part of our team as [Sam and fellow junior Tyler Haack] lead the defense,” said boys lacrosse coach Nick Miceli.
“In practice you can’t cheat yourself by not working hard. I work hard and try to outrun everyone else so I can improve since conditioning is a big part in becoming a better athlete,” said Brause.
Track and Field
Junior Samantha Renfree throws the javelin and aims to reach a distance 125 feet.
“Sam really broke out last year. Unfortunately, javelin throwing is in a different location and many people don’t get to see her. She has scored points for the team and has a lot of star power,” said head coach Jeffrey Koegel, who expects Renfree to step into senior Erin Pierce’s leadership role next year.
“The skills I need to improve on are getting stronger and working on my transition steps in my approach,” said Renfree.
Junior Billy Castore competes in shot put and has a positive impact on the team by being a leader and setting an example for the younger athletes. “When I first started to go to meets, I always relied on the older and more experienced throwers to pick up my slack. Now it’s my turn to raise the bar,” said Castore.
One of his goals this season is to throw farther than 59 feet.
“Billy’s got a lot of potential and is really starting to emerge. The boys have been down a bit, but they’re really improving,” said Koegel.
Sophomore Kelly Yeager plays for the varsity softball team as a catcher and a left-fielder and believes her speed is a unique skill she brings to the team.
“At first, we weren’t sure if we would find a role for her, but we were able to apply her in every situation we needed her to be in. She’s a natural athlete and has great energy,” said head coach Jess Hulnik.
“She’s a diamond in the rough,” added assistant coach Aimee Sanchez.
“A way I try to impact the team positively is simply by being there. I am constantly cheering on my teammates and try my best to encourage them to keep their heads up,” said Yeager.
Junior Christopher Ciccarino  is the varsity baseball team’s number-two pitcher and backup infielder. Like all pitchers, he hopes to keep the other team off the scoreboard as much as possible. His optimistic approach comes into play when the team is struggling.
“There is a lot of pressure on guys, but if you can get teammates to smile and laugh, it can make a big difference on the morale of the team,” said Ciccarino.
“His demeanor never changes, whether we’re winning or losing. That’s when he gives us the best chance to win because he never lets anything get to him,” said head coach Tom Baylock.
Freshman Jeff Rodgers plays varsity tennis and has a high state ranking. He has won 22 matches this season. Since he is a younger player, his skills  are expected to improve to make him a dominant player.
“Ever since Jeff’s arrival, the whole team has gained more spirit. Also, we have had a better winning mentality,” said sophomore teammate Josh Lopez.
“I’m a player who focuses on getting better every time I play, in both practices and matches,” said Rodgers.
Freshman Connor Smith has big goals for this season, including playing in as many matches as possible and winning some titles, including counties.
“Connor’s biggest strength is his short game…He can save par from anywhere around the green,” said coach Ryan Goracy.
“It is a true honor to be on a team with a group of guys like them,” said Smith of his teammates. “They have all been nothing but kind to me throughout the beginning of the year. Attitude is something that I try to keep positive all the time, and when I can do that, I play my best.”