Kits 2 Commits: Sports commitments for the Class of 2022
May 12, 2022
Jett Watson will be one of five—the others being Sheldon Kinzer, Ladell Allen, Angelo Arnold, and Jaydon Griffith—ETHS seniors playing football at Roosevelt University in the fall.
“When I first started off playing, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t do very much my freshman year, my first year playing football, and then as I progressed throughout my four years, I realized it was something that I really wanted to do. I found a deep love for the sport, and I made a family,” describes Watson. “I wanted to keep that family. And so I dreamt about playing in college.”
Interestingly, Watson came into ETHS having played soccer in middle school. Upon making the transition to football, his soccer coach suggested that he try out being a wide receiver because of his speed. In the end, the position stuck, and it is what Watson will be playing when he embarks at Roosevelt.
As a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as opposed to the NCAA, Watson will have more of an opportunity to compete on a national level during his time at Roosevelt. That being said, what division, organization or conference Watson would be a part of had little effect on his college decision, so long as he was playing football.
“I heard about anyone DI, DII, DIII—it didn’t really matter to me…I just wanted to play football. I love the sport so much. And once my final senior year ended, it kind of left a hole in my heart. I really love this sport, and I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to play in college. But I put in the work, talked to a few people, made a few connections, and now I’m going to be able to play.”
While it may be true that the family he had on the football team was the strongest community he found while at Evanston, Watson will miss ETHS.
“I am going to miss this place,” Watson affirms. “Really, at ETHS, everybody’s a community. Everybody’s really a family…When you go off to college, you’re more separated—you’re in your own dorm to do your own work, and you’re more focused on getting your stuff done because overall college is a harder [experience].”
Though he will be going in undecided, Watson has thought about becoming an athletic trainer after college. Nevertheless, he plans on exploring his options during his time as a student.
After four years of high school baseball, senior Alex Vasquez is poised to continue his baseball career, committing to Denison University in Ohio. In addition to Division III Denison, Vasquez had a few other DIII offers, but, in the end, he felt Denison was the right fit for him.
Before taking that next step, however, Vasquez is in the process of finishing a rewarding high school baseball career. While he played both golf and baseball at ETHS, his fondest memories come from his time on the baseball field and with the team.
“High school baseball is something that is very special,” Vasquez says. “Playing baseball with all of the kids you go to school with is some of the most fun you will have.”
His favorite baseball memory is of a trip with his baseball team to Vero Beach during his freshman year.
“It is usually an every year tradition, but because of COVID, we have not been able to go since.” Vasquez elaborates.
As Vasquez looks forward to making special memories at college, he reflects on what made his time in the Evanston baseball program so special.
“The thing I will miss most about Evanston is the community that we have here. A supportive community in the school and the people around it. When I play a game it really feels like I have the whole town supporting me, which is a great feeling.” Vasquez says.
One of the most supportive people of his baseball career thus far has been his coach Christopher D’Amato.
“Ever since I stepped foot in the program, he has made me feel like family. Not only that, but he is always there to help me out in any way I need. Anything from helping with school work, coming to school at 6 a.m. to help me work something out in my game, or even just talking about life. He has been a very influential man in my life these past four years.”
When planning what’s next, Vasquez currently doesn’t have a confirmed major, though he is interested in a job in the world of athletics or a career in business.
While he will miss his time at ETHS, Vasquez is looking forward to college and finding what’s next for him.
“I think what excites me most about college is just having a fresh start,” Vasquez says. “All new people, all-new program. It will be fun to meet new people and have to make my way through the program and show what I got.”
Between navigating ever-changing relationships and being asked to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life, high school can be a challenging time for students. But, for Kenyon College committed lacrosse player Lily Mason, having a tight-knit group of teammates she could always rely on made the process that much easier to manage.
“I started playing lacrosse in third grade, and have continued to play lacrosse throughout high school, not only because of my love for the sport, but also the relationships I’ve been able to create with so many people, and the supportive community of female athletes,” Mason elaborates.
Throughout her time at ETHS, Mason has watched the team grow and develop—overcoming challenges and losses along the way.
“Just since my freshman year at ETHS, our team has improved tremendously,” Mason notes. “Finishing our 2021 season in second place in the Central Suburban Conference was an incredible accomplishment for our team. With our current undefeated record this season, we are eager to continue to compete and push each other every day at practice.”
Moving into the college recruitment process, Mason sought out a school that would challenge her both academically and athletically, and that school, of course, was Kenyon College.
“Kenyon has just been awarded the 2022 NCAC Women’s Lacrosse championship, after an undefeated conference record,” Mason elaborates. “I am beyond excited to be continuing my academic and athletic career with such a competitive team, that I know will challenge me every day.”
Despite all Mason has to look forward to in the coming years of her life, she also has a lot to miss about Evanston.
“ETHS is a special community with so many inspiring role models that have helped me grow athletically and academically, that I am certainly going to miss next year,” Mason concludes.
During her four years at ETHS, Maggie Farragher juggled two sports at once, playing both varsity basketball and lacrosse her senior year. In college though, Farragher will be zoning in on lacrosse as she is committed to the University of delaware.
As of now, Farragher’s major is undecided, but she is interested in pursuing a career in Business.
Farragher fielded offers from a few colleges, but she is sure of her choice in Delaware.
“After visiting for the first time, I was very attracted to the campus, as I loved the size and setup of the university. I was informed of the many opportunities at the school and wide varieties of courses that I could pursue, which helped me make my final decision when committing,” Farrager explains further. “I am confident that it will make me stronger and help me grow not only as an athlete, but also as a person. I can’t wait for all the amazing people I will meet and experiences that will come at the University of Delaware.”
Farragher will be sad to leave Evanston though, especially all the people that have guided her through these four years.
“All the supporters, coaches, and teammates have made my experience with school and sports so special and memorable,” Farragher remarks.
When asked about what advice she has for younger players, Farragher really hopes, “Future Evanston girls lacrosse players enjoy their time playing in high school. I feel that a lot of people take high school sports for granted, but they are such special experiences and, oftentimes, are the last times you will play the sport. Try to always make the best of whatever sport you are playing and appreciate the people you are playing with and being coached by. You will create connections that you will keep forever and learn lessons that will help you later in life.”
In closing, Farragher says, “I just want to thank everyone at Evanston and the amazing sports programs that have allowed me to pursue my dream and introduced me to such amazing coaches and friends along the way. It has been such an amazing four years, and I am sad to leave.”
Rikki Gray will walk out of ETHS having achieved what most high school athletes can only dream of: a state championship. Last year at the IHSA track and field championships, Gray, together with fellow senior teammates Jackie Okereke, Dawson Wright and Jasmine Wright combined forces to take the state title in the 800-meter relay with a time of 1 minute and 40.47 seconds. Interestingly, Gray holds the distinction of being one of two members of the foursome who will go on to run track in college, which she will do at Chicago State University.
“Running at a college level has always been a goal of mine. I have put so much work and effort into the sport, I don’t see a reason to stop now,” reflects Gray.
As a Division I institution less than 25 miles from ETHS, Chicago State had been on Gray’s radar for a long time as it provided the perfect combination of attributes she was looking for. As a student next year, Gray plans on pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice, which she will do on a full-tuition scholarship.
“It was the only school that gave me a full ride, it’s close to home like I wanted, and the school does a lot of partner work with [the Chicago Police Department], which is good for what I want to major in,” explains Gray.
With the horizon that is college drawing nearer each and every day, it’s been easy for seniors to reminisce about their time at Evanston recently. For Gray, the social aspect of athletics as well as the identity-affirming educational opportunities she has been involved in stand out as things that she will remember particularly fondly.
“I will miss all the events that ETHS has hosted. I will miss going to sports events, pep rallies and the Black student summits,” Gray states.
But when it comes to track in particular, the nostalgia all draws back to that moment last year.
“My number one highlight of track at ETHS is being so close with all of my teammates. Winning state with people I have grown to love and consider my family is the best feeling in the world.”
For the first nine years of his life, Sebastian Leon played soccer in the streets of Peru. Next fall, he’s going to be playing at the collegiate level at the University of Rochester.
Evanston’s top goal-scorer knew from a young age that he could play competitively some day.
“I basically just grew up playing on the streets there. I moved here when I was about nine and then I joined a club team. I’ve always loved it, always wanted to keep doing it,” Leon says.
Leon played a key part in Evanston’s last run that ended in the sectional finals of the state tournament. That was special for Leon, particularly because of the way the Kits’ season ended in 2021, when there were no state playoffs because of COVID.
“Last year, there were no playoffs. We were supposed to play in the fall, but [the IHSA] moved it to the spring. So it was like a month and a half long season, but we did pretty well,” Leon elaborates. “We beat New Trier in the last game of the season, who was the number one ranked team for most of the season. Coming in as a freshman, you look at playoff games like, ‘I want to do that.’ So, finally, doing that my last year and having a strong run was great.”
Leon will be majoring in business and was considering UIC and Depaul in addition to Rochester.
“There were a couple other schools I was deciding on. But when I went to visit [Rochester], I had a really good time with both the coaches. They really liked me and they said they want me at their program. I really liked the campus and that just sealed my decision. It was the best academic and athletic fit.”
Soccer has paved the way to many of Leon’s friendships, and he will miss the memories created with the ETHS team.
“Just bonding with my teammates, having fun and getting to see them every day. Those are some pretty unforgettable experiences.”
After playing lacrosse for four years, in eighth grade, senior Grace Johnson decided to join her teammates in a new sport: field hockey. Now, four years into playing with ETHS, Johnson has watched the program grow and expand, as she will continue her athletic ambitions at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this fall.
“I started playing field hockey, because all the girls on my lacrosse team were playing field hockey. I was kind of scared to start because that was a little bit late to be picking up a new sport at that point, and, so, I got one of my friends and we were like, ‘yeah, we’ll both start and we’ll both be bad together,’” Johnson explains. “And then I got to high school, and I realized that this was something that I could actually be really good at if I worked hard and tried to take the advantage of the opportunities that I had.”
Later, when starting the recruitment process, Johnson considered her academic interests above all else—even field hockey.
“It was always school first and field hockey second. They have exactly what I want to study, [and] I want to study architecture, which is kind of hard to come by. It’s a very good school academically, and I think they’re going to give me the opportunities that I want,” Johnson elaborates. “And, then, obviously, the field hockey team was super nice when I met them, and I really like the idea of, if I’m going far away from home, to have a support system of people there that I can be on a team with and be close with.”
But, despite the difficulties of leaving Evanston behind, Johnson also has a lot to anticipate in the coming years of her life.
“In some ways, it’s the little things like hanging out at the hotel when we have an away game, and going out to eat together after practice [that I’m looking forward to],” Johnson concludes. “Going to college is really scary, and going in a couple of weeks early for preseason, and knowing everyone on your team that quickly is very appealing. I’m just kind of looking forward to that community, that you get to do things that I don’t get to do with my other friends.”
After not playing his entire junior year due to a leg injury, Ben Barney’s football future beyond high school was in serious jeopardy. With no chance to showcase his talent for colleges, Barney knew his senior season was going to have to be one for the ages.
“I couldn’t really do anything, because I didn’t have anything to show. My senior year, it was like, ‘This is it. I have one shot to show everybody that I can do what I can do,’” Barney says.
Barney delivered in a major way, averaging 40.1 yards per punt, as well as making a whopping 29 of his 31 extra points while making four of six field goals on the season. That was more than enough to get him a strong interest from Case Western.
Similar to all current college-bound athletes, the 2021 “COVID season” made it much harder for high school players to get looks from schools. Combined with the fact that Barney was injured, schools did not have a single piece of film from him.
“I went to a lot of camps over the summer and played in front of a list of coaches, because they didn’t have any film of me playing. So it was hard for anyone to really make a move and say that they want me. When I went down to Case Western and was in Cleveland, it really seemed like Chicago, which just felt right. They really liked how I did that day, and I was clicking down there with them, so they continued that pursuit through my senior year,” Barney explained.
“They had me send over transcripts, ACT scores, etc. Once they took a look at those, they were like, ‘Alright keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get in.’”
Barney loved the academic and athletic fit of Case Western, and he will be majoring in accounting when he starts there in the fall.
Moving to Evanston the summer before her freshman year, Morrigan Bushroe knew that she was in for a slew of life changes throughout her time in high school. As a lifelong swimmer, one thing she especially didn’t anticipate doing at ETHS was taking on another sport. However, when Bushroe embarks on her journey at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., this fall, she will do so as a member of their women’s water polo team.
“I started playing water polo when I was freshman,” remarks Bushroe. “Mimi Herrick on the ETHS girls swim team was telling me about [water] polo, and I was iffy about it, but I tried my freshman year and really just loved the team.”
So if it weren’t for Herrick, a former varsity swimmer, varsity water polo player, Evanstonian editor and rising junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, it is possible that Bushroe never would have even started playing water polo at all. But once she did, it was the team aspect of the sport that really fostered her attachment to it.
“I’d always [done] swimming, but it’s really just like swimming for yourself,” Bushroe explains. “Just being in a team environment, I think, was a really nice change for me. And then I played Eastside over the summer after my freshman year, and I loved it too…I just heard [about] it through the grapevine, decided to try it out, and it stuck.
Through Eastside, Evanston’s local club water polo team, Bushroe has had opportunities to play all over the country; she’s been to Florida, North Carolina, Texas—you name it. In fact, it was on one of these trips where she met Ryan Castle, the Carthage women’s water polo head coach, and formed a bond that she credits with helping her make her college decision.
“We had team dinners each night [of the trip] and him, and I would sit down and have dinner and talk about different adventures we’d go on. He’s such a genuine person,” says Bushroe of Castle. “[After] him helping us throughout that whole trip, I [realized] I really just liked his coaching style and how he bonds with the girls on the team, and so he was definitely a very big influence.”
Aside from playing water polo, Bushroe will also pursue a degree in Sports Medicine on route to becoming a physical therapist when she is at Carthage.
After a rapid ascension through the high school track and field ranks, Matt Cless will be enrolled at Auburn University in the fall for his track and field commitment. Unparalleled to most Division I athletes, Cless’ first exposure with his sport was his junior year. Freshman and sophomore year, Cless was a member of the ETHS basketball team. Right before his junior year basketball tryouts, Cless decided to end his basketball career and give track a try.
“I could jump. That’s the one thing I really liked about basketball: dunking,” Cless describes his transition from basketball to track. “I was like, ‘Oh, I can jump. I’m going to go try to high jump.”
From there, Cless began to excel in his new sport.
“I liked [high jump] after the first few practices, and I was like, ‘Alright, I want to be good at this. I know I can be good at this. I feel I can be good at this,’” Cless shares. “My goal was to jump to [Division I] heights, and that really motivated me to get even better.”
By the end of his first season, where he would ultimately finish third in the state in the high jump, Cless was already receiving attention for high jump at a collegiate level. He still recalls the moment when he first realized he could pursue track and field beyond high school.
“It’s not [a] hard [height to jump] at all now, but when I jumped 6’6” at St. Rita last year, it was the middle of May, and that’s when I really first realized that I can be something and that I’m good at this. That’s when a bunch of coaches wanted to have phone calls, and that was the moment where it really hit me … [that I’ve] kind of made it in the sport.”
Next year, Cless will major in Professional Flight, allowing him to pursue a career in aviation. Cless shares that he’s wanted to be a pilot for as long as he could remember.
“I’ve never had any second thoughts career-wise.”
One thing is certain, whether it’s jumping or flying, Cless will rise to great heights at Auburn University.
Having grown up in New Jersey, Haverford College lacrosse commit Sophia Cosma developed her skills from an early age—putting her in the best position to succeed at ETHS.
“On the East Coast, lacrosse is super popular, so I got started because a bunch of girls my age were starting to play around second grade, and my mom signed me up,” Cosma explains. “I just had a really good time with a lot of good teammates, [and] I had some really great coaches through my time in the program. They kept telling me to pursue it further, and then, when I moved here, I continued playing club, and now I’ve decided I want to keep doing that in college. It’s been a really big part of my life, and I’ve always had a great time playing.”
However, when Cosma began the college recruiting process, she knew she had to pick a school that would be a good fit both athletically and academically.
“I wanted to play in college for a while, because I couldn’t really see myself not playing lacrosse, and it’s becoming a bigger sport in different places. So whenever you’re going in for a sport, they always say, ‘Go to school that you’d go to if you weren’t playing a sport,’” Cosma elaborates. “For me, my academics and school environment were super important to me, and I knew there’d be a good balance with academics and athletics going [to Haverford].”
Between playing in a renowned lacrosse program, majoring in economics and returning to the East Coast, Cosma has a lot to look forward to over these next four years of her life. Yet, she’ll also have a lot to miss from her time at ETHS.
“The highlight has been being a part of a supportive team culture, and I feel we have more fun than a lot of other teams do,” Cosma concludes. “The coaches are easy to talk to; you don’t feel afraid to go up to them about a concern that you have. If you have a concern, you can talk to them about it, and everyone’s there to support you.”
Mark “MJ” Cannon attributes his favorite part of high school football to the ETHS coaching staff.
“The ETHS coaching staff made it a fun learning environment that made you want to come to practice, and as well they always showed their support and believed in me to give me the autonomy to make game-changing decisions,” he says.
Cannon expresses how he appreciates the collaborative nature of football, “A highlight of my sport is although your individual role plays a great part in how the team performs, players can showcase their skills and talent without being selfish. For example; in my role as a DB I am able to do my job to help the team, yet also able to demonstrate my skill by “picking” the ball off in a one-hand catch.”
Cannon has loved the team atmosphere and bonding from playing football, so much that he wants to continue the sport in college by playing for Illinois State University. When making his college choice he wanted to look for a team and environment that would provide him with the same support and community ETHS had, he found that at Illinois State.
“The football recruiting staff showed me how committed they were to be playing in their program. They were very genuine and transparent. The school offers many great majors, and it’s close to home,” says Cannon.
When senior Maddilyn Clark became one of the first students to take the reins of Evanston’s field hockey program, she did so following in the footsteps of her mom—a collegiate field hockey player herself. Now, committed to the University of New Hampshire’s Division I team, Clark has soared past expectations and become one of the school’s biggest success stories
“I started playing field hockey because my mom played in college, and when Evanston started a program, my mom found it, and, so, I started playing with the Evanston program here,” Clark elaborates. “And then, I continued playing through high school because I really enjoyed playing field hockey and the team and everything like that.”
Despite the difficulties of playing in a developing program, Clark and her teammates have continued to overcome losses and excel at the sport. In fact, during her four years at ETHS, the Kits have grown from finishing last in the state Clark’s freshman year to eighth this past season.
“My favorite part has been, especially since it’s a newer program, with our new coach and everything, seeing everything get so much more competitive and so much more fun,” Clark elaborates. “The determination and support I’ve gotten from everybody else around me, like my teammates [and] my coaches, [has allowed me to be successful]. I don’t think I’d be here if I hated the environment that I’ve been supported by.”
When determining the school Clark wanted to spend the next four years of her life, she knew she had to pick a school that would offer her that same supportive environment. However, with an intent to major in bioengineering next year, academics were also at the top of Clark’s priority list.
“It was a long process for sure. I was very picky about making sure I made the right decision. I wanted a good academic school that fit what I wanted to do in the future, even beyond college. And, so, I thought New Hampshire fit that,” Clark explains her decision. “I really enjoyed the coaches, and I got to meet with the girls. They all have the same hard-working mindset and that team mentality that it’s not about the individual.”
Senior Nahla Dominguez was just three when she started playing soccer for a team in Rogers Park. Now, nearly 15 years later, with a commitment to Chicago State and four years on ETHS’ varsity team under her belt, Dominguez’s early start clearly prepared her to excel at all aspects of the sport through high school and beyond.
“My mom was born in Mexico, and soccer is just a really, really big sport there, so I started playing on a team in Rogers Park,” Dominguez elaborates. “It was a very Hispanic league, and, so, I think being in an environment where the kids looked like me and the coaches spoke my language made me want to keep going.”
Throughout her time at ETHS, Dominguez has won MVP for Evanston, scored a last minute free kick against New Trier and even played for the U17 Mexican National Team. However, these accomplishments haven’t come without dedication and challenges along the way.
“I just think hard work is [what got me here], but especially [the] support from my teammates, my coaches, and especially my mom—that’s my biggest, biggest support. She’s always been there for me; she pushes me to be where I am,” Domiguez notes. “But, above all of that, I think the love for the game can outweigh anything hard on the field.”
Yet, when Dominguez began the college recruitment process, she wasn’t even sure that she would be able to play at the collegiate level. It wasn’t until Domiguez met with the head coach, Mario Felix, that Dominguez knew Chicago State was exactly where she would be for the next four years of her life.
“I was really on the fence about playing [in college]. COVID hit and that was a really crucial time to get recruited, [and] nothing really kicked off,” Dominguez explains. “I was feeling really overwhelmed, but, luckily, Mario Felix saw me play during my high school season. I met with him, and he was all about, ‘I’m here to give Latino kids a chance. I believe that everyone should get a chance to play, not just the white kids or the people who can pay to play.’”
Today, just months away from playing for Chicago, Dominguez has a lot to look forward to, even outside of soccer, with plans to study political science—a major with which she shares a personal connection.
“I see political science because I want to do something that has to do with activism and civil rights and just being a voice to the people,” Dominguez elaborates. “Last year, when all the political stuff was going on, I was just thinking, ‘Man, it really sucks for the people just like me that have my face, or my family members, and undocumented people who don’t have a say, who can’t vote in this election, and will just have to keep quiet.’”
“I just really want to be a voice for my people.”
Ben Gutowski spent his summers playing baseball for the Evanston Orange Cats—ETHS’s feeder program—from the time he was ten all the way up until the beginning of his freshman year. Now a pitcher and starting outfielder on the varsity team, Gutowski will continue his athletic and academic career at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., come this fall.
“I mean, I always knew I wanted to play baseball in college, and then Coach Krepline at Lawrence told me I should come take a look and I went. I really liked the campus, I really liked all the guys on the team, and I liked just kind of the feel of everything up there. I liked it a lot, and then I decided to commit late December, so that was super cool and I’m happy about it,” says Gutowski.
Upon moving into college this fall, Gutowski will find himself surrounded by a whole new set of people, leaving the support that many in Evanston have offered. Knowing this, there is an immense feeling of gratitude Gutowski has towards the people who have helped get him to the point.
“Coach Consiglio, Coach D’Amato, Coach Knudsen—they’ve all known me for a really, really long time, and they all are super involved not just on the baseball field but [off of it]. They want to make sure I’m doing [well in] everything I need to do as a young man and a young person as well,” explains Gutowski. “They’ve all been really positive influences in their own ways, and I’m definitely super grateful for all three of them.”
And don’t get him started on his teammates.
“I love the team. I loved the team last year, I love the team this year,” Gutowski affirms. “Just seeing them as much as you see them and doing stuff with them—like not just baseball…It’s an experience. I wouldn’t trade for the world.”
Although today may be his last day at Evanston, Gutowksi still has a few weeks left with the baseball program, and he has a lot to look forward to. In fact, this Saturday, May 14, the team will celebrate senior day as the Kits square-off against Deerfield. Only after playing five games next week (weather permitting) do playoffs begin. Then, Gutowski will look to finally realize the dream that all Evanston baseball players have dreamed for as long as they can remember.
A state championship.
When two-time state diving finalist Aryeh Lesch first visited the Dartmouth campus last July, he knew the school and swim program was just right for him. The only question was whether or not he’d get accepted.
“I visited back in July and met with a coach and the team, and I really liked it,” Lesch says. “But then I didn’t end up actually getting recruited, so I kind of gave up on the idea of pursuing coaches and being recruited. And I thought I would apply, see what worked out and then talk to coaches afterwards.”
Fortunately, Lesch was accepted, and now has his eyes set on a program that is rebuilding from the ground up, after boy’s swimming was cut from Dartmouth’s athletics during the early stages of COVID-19.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to compete on a team that has some potential in the next couple of years. The program was cut over COVID and then brought back. I mean, it’s going to be exciting to be in that rebuilding program.”
Lesch finished seventh in the IHSA state finals as a sophomore, something that he says was the biggest confidence booster for him—especially being an underclassman at the time. This year, he won Evanston’s sectional and took sixth at state. Aside from his individual diving achievements, Lesch took on a strong leadership position this year as the most senior and accomplished diver on the ETHS team.
“This season was just really great,” Lesch says. “Having a bunch of younger divers who I can coach a little bit and just watching them improve was really cool to see. Just being a senior on the team was a really different and fun experience.”
Apart from a four-year diving experience at ETHS, Lesch is also a varsity gymnast and a strong student who is planning on majoring in either economics or history. As a multi-sport athlete, he can’t help but reflect on his career as his high school days come to an end.
“I just had my gymnastics senior night,” Lesch says. “During that and the swim and dive season, it’s a really sentimental time. The individual sports teams at ETHS are great smaller communities within the school. It’s a great opportunity for self improvement. And that’s definitely what I got out of Evanston athletics.”
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign committed track athlete Madison Hardamon didn’t always run for Evanston. At the beginning of her senior year, Hardamon transferred from Lincoln Park High School, and, although the transition had its difficulties, Hardoman gained more support than she thought possible.
“I was nervous transferring into a new school my senior year, but my teammates really made me feel like a part of the family, and I was able to find comfort and support in them,” Hardoman elaborates. “I’m going to miss the amount of resources and support I’ve had during my short time here. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I was here for all four years; the energy here is unmatchable.”
At her season opener with ETHS, Hardamon dropped a second off her 400-meter indoor PR, and the previous year, she even placed at state. However, those successes didn’t come without hard work and challenges along the way.
“I’ve had knee problems, shin problems, back problems, [and more]. It is physically a problem, but the mental problems you have when you want to run but can’t trumps any physical pain I’ve felt,” Hardamon explains. “I trained during quarantine to stay where I needed to be. It set a lot of people back, but I didn’t allow it to set me back.”
Going into the next four years of her life, Hardamon plans to major in quantitative economics and feels nothing but excited about the journey that awaits her at University of Illinois.
“My decision to run at Illinois was a combination of many things. I looked at social atmosphere, education, job placement and financial aid,” Hardoman concludes. “After looking at all of these things, I decided that Illinois was the best place for me.”
One of 13 seniors on the girls soccer team, Tate Lucas will be headed to Denison University next fall to continue her soccer career. Notably, she will also be joining fellow Wildkit Sarah Sollinger in representing the Big Red, whom she has played with not only on Evanston’s varsity team but on club teams as well.
“I got to meet the coaches at Denison [last summer] and they gave me a tour of the athletic facility and just like the rundown of what Denison’s about,” says Lucas. “They said that they like a balance…a social balance, academic balance and athletic balance [and] a balance was exactly what I needed.”
As of May 4, girls soccer has accumulated a 12-1-1 record with a loss to Naperville North, 4-0 and a tie against Whitney Young, 3-3. As a matter of fact, the Wildkits are even ranked seventh in the state right now, according to MaxPreps. As a member of such a competitive team, Lucas has had to work hard for every minute of playing time that she has received.
“When you’re on the Evanston team, there are so many good players, and you have to prove yourself by playing your hardest,” explains Lucas. “If you work hard, then you’ll play, and then, when you play, you have to play hard.”
Despite the challenges she has faced, Lucas credits her coaches, and particularly head coach Stacy Salgado, as helping foster her a stronger sense of determination and grit.
“Stacy is really good at pushing me, [at] pushing everybody to their fullest potential. And then [Franz] Calixte is the assistant coach. He gets excited for you and believes in [the team], which makes our confidence go up.”
With just a few weeks left of her senior season, Lucas is already quite sure of her favorite moment: beating Libertyville, a team that finished third in the state last season. Regardless of their established prowess, on Wed. Apr. 13, The Wildkits narrowly edged out a win against the Wildcats, 3-2.
“I was really motivated to beat them, because I wanted to humble them in a way,” Lucas spells out. “That was probably the biggest highlight because it was [such] a big win.
On top of continuing her athletic pursuits, Lucas also plans on majoring in communications while at Denison.
Aaron Martin committed to Brown University early in his senior year, during a high school season in which he aided the Kits’ dominant performance. A standout athlete on the ETHS and Flying Fish swim teams and a dedicated student, Martin brings discipline to the pool and the classroom.
“I just like the discipline of [swim],” he says, “And it’s fun, in a way, that, if you go to every single practice, and you work hard, and you get eight hours of sleep, and you eat right, you will get faster at the end of the season. It really shows that if you put work in you will get something out of it.”
This last year, the co-captain dropped 0.24 seconds from his 100-yard freestyle time and 1.30 seconds from his 200-yard freestyle to take first place in both events at this year’s CSL Conference Meet. He started the 200-yard freestyle relay, anchored the 400 yard free relay and led both to second place as an instrumental part of the team.
From the very beginning, Martin seemed destined to swim. His mother, Katrina, swam for Northwestern University, and he took on the sport at a young age.
“Honestly, I have been swimming so long, I don’t remember my first real experience,” he writes in an email. “I just remember whenever I went to the beach with friends or family, I would play in the water for hours, long after everybody had gotten bored.”
His passion for the sport hasn’t faded, and on a team with bonds as strong as ETHS’, Martin has a lot to miss from his high school career. However, he also has much to look forward to. Brown offers Ivy League academics and Division l athletics—a formidable match.
“I think my excitement and fear are both based around my schedule,” writes Martin. “Swimming is a demanding sport, and Brown is a demanding school. I enjoy having a busy and structured schedule to keep me focused, and while I have had some fears about the workload, overall I think I will have a lot of resources to help me succeed, same as at ETHS.”
Before pursuing a field hockey career that would eventually carry over into her upcoming years at Colgate University, Allison Lemmon was a competitive gymnast and dancer. A back injury and dimming enthusiasm for the sport led to joining a club field hockey team in eighth grade, and, from there, she went on to become a four-year varsity starter at ETHS and finish as the program’s all-time leading scorer.
College sports weren’t always something on her radar, at least until meeting with her coach in sophomore year. Her passion for the sport and immense skill made it clear that she could continue to a higher level of play.
Though much of the college recruiting process this year occurred online due to COVID, Lemmon had the chance to visit the Colgate campus before deciding on the university. The college offers both the rigorous academics and the field hockey experience Lemmon was looking for.
“The team was really nice,” she says about her first encounter with Colgate. “It fit academically because I wanted an academically challenging school. Then it also fit field hockey wise. It just kind of clicked and made sense.”
A four-time Illinois High School Field Hockey Association All-Academic Team selection, Lemmon’s motivation at school is just as strong as her playing. She plans to major in Neuroscience or another Pre-Med related field.
“I’m playing a sport in the fall, so it’ll be nice, because we get there early for preseason,” Lemmon says. “We’ll be two weeks before everyone else, so we’ll get to bond as a team and get to know everyone else and to get used to campus before everything starts.”
Wide receiver Kamau Ransom knew he belonged at University of Indianapolis because of one value the institution prioritized that he didn’t see anywhere else: community. For student athletes, the recruiting process can feel like one long, stressful transaction, but Ransom describes the unique and supportive recruitment approach of University of Indianapolis.
“With college sports, a lot of the coaches [treat recruitment] like a business thing [as opposed to] a family thing or a togetherness thing,” Ransom explains. “[The coaching staff at] University of Indianapolis were transparent—they talked to my family, they talked to my sisters. They asked how I was doing, [and] they barely talked about football. It [felt] more like a family.”
Ransom remembers how representatives from University of Indianapolis would visit his house nearly every week during the recruiting process. The school’s tenacity and integrity during recruitment is emblematic of Ransom’s discipline and persistence on the field. Freshman year, Ransom was placed on the freshman football team, and his primary positions were defensive end and outside linebacker. One of the varsity coaches at the time, Ryan Healy, expressed that he wanted Ransom to play as a wide receiver on varsity the next year. According to Ransom, this was the defining moment that inspired him to strive for success in football.
“I stayed at the fields, and I got quicker [and] I got better at my routes. I just fell in love with my craft, and I sharpened it every day,” Ransom shares. “I was probably at the field by myself, lights off, just like [in the] cold for like three, four or five hours a day, probably six days a week just working by myself.”
Ransom intends to major in journalism and pursue a career as a sports journalist.
“I want to give my opinion all the time, whether it’s a podcast or paper or a show. I’m doing [journalism], because I need people to hear what I’m saying.”
One thing is sure about Ransom: when he sets his eye on something, he doesn’t stop until he gets it. Whether it’s under the field lights or the fluorescent lights of a newspaper room, you can expect Ransom to shine.
If there’s one word to describe Shalyn Pryor, it’s speedy. Both on the soccer field and off, Pryor wastes no time in pursuing what she wants, and college was no exception. By the end of Pryor’s first visit to Jackson State University in August, she was already committed for soccer, but her hustle didn’t end there. In December 2021, Pryor graduated from ETHS and began preparing for her first semester at Jackson State University in January.
“Me coming early [when the soccer team] has the spring season, where you just train and then you have some friendly games, [has] helped me specifically because managing [Division I] and college level academics was definitely going to be a struggle for me,” Pryor explains. “I’ve always kind of struggled academically—my strong suit is my sport, not my school—so coming [to college] now when we’re not traveling every week … [has helped me] get used to the workload a lot easier while also getting the training down and getting used to playing at this level.”
Pryor shares that she struggled to adjust to college life initially, but after about a month, she felt much more acclimated, and soccer played a large role in helping her feel connected to the campus.
“I haven’t had to go through the process of making new friends since I moved to Evanston in fifth grade. It was such a realization [that] I don’t know everyone. Having the team, they’re like built-in friends, so having that helped a lot.”
Since the time she was four, soccer has served as a vehicle for Pryor to establish meaningful friendships.
“Some of my closest friends are teammates that I’m not even teammates with anymore,” Pryor shares.
Although she has already experienced a taste of her life at college, Pryor will return to Evanston for the formal high school graduation ceremony where she will get to walk the stage with everyone else and commemorate her high school experience, and of course, you can’t forget about prom.
“Having to leave [the people you grew up with] early is kind of sad,” Pryor notes. “So that’s why I’m really excited that I’m still going to prom and graduation, so I can still have a last hurrah.”
Sarah Sollinger has been playing soccer since she was four years old, and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The soon-to-be ETHS graduate is heading to Denison University this fall, where she will continue playing with multiple other Evanston recruits, including classmate Tate Lucas.
“I knew I wanted to play in college, and Denison just kind of checked off all my boxes,” says ETHS co-captain Sollinger. “Everybody I met there was just so nice. It had such a good energy and I was like, ‘That’s where I need to be for the next four years.’”
There’s much to look forward to at a Division lll school, and Sollinger is ready to take on the challenges that a different level of education and athletics has to offer. She says that ETHS’ athletics programs adequately prepared her to balance her academics in college.
“[ETHS soccer has] taught me to balance my time and get things done when I know I have practice,” Sollinger explains, referring to the juggling act that is managing the equivalent of a part-time job while maintaining good grades and a healthy social life. “I’ve learned a lot of important skills.”
The Kits, including Sollinger, ended the 2020-2021 season with a loss in State Sectionals and are currently holding strong during their regular season. Sollinger credits the team’s victory with their incredible chemistry, as they “pretty much have a really similar group of people to last year. We’re more comfortable. We’re less on edge. We know what to expect.”
While she’s excited for the new experiences, Sollinger will miss the camaraderie of high school, and the energy of “your everyday fourth period math class.” She attests that what she is most reluctant to leave are her connections with people in Evanston, and the established friendships on ETHS’ team.
“I think that we’re really good this year,” Sollinger says. “And we can do really well. But I also think it’s just fun when we do it.”
Will Travis’ childhood dream was to play at a high level in soccer. From joining his first team at age 7, rising through the Team Evanston and Eleven United club programs, and being a two-year varsity defenseman, that aspiration has become a reality, as Travis is headed off to Princeton University in the fall.
Travis’ recruiting process, similar to all college-bound athletes, was completely different from what it would’ve looked like pre-pandemic.
“I started out emailing and doing a mass email out to a bunch of different schools to see which schools are interested in me, and which schools I’d really be interested in. I really wanted to prioritize academics, and if I was able to play soccer there, that’d be ideal. COVID altered the recruiting process for me because usually, a coach would come to a tournament or something, but that obviously wasn’t available right at the time. So I went to a lot of IDP camps over the summer, and I went to their [Princeton’s] camp and they liked me and I really liked them. My brother also goes there. It was kind of an obvious choice for me.”
Throughout his time at ETHS, Travis has grown as an individual player but also built a strong foundation with his teammates– one that helped the Kits reach the sectional finals this season in the IHSA playoffs.
“The importance of relying on your team and realizing it’s not a one-player sport is huge. Everyone has different skills. I’m certainly not the best finisher on my team or anything– we all bring something different to the team and recognize how that can all work together.”
Although Travis’ season ended in the fall, understanding that his entire high school experience is coming to a close has hit him.
“It’s a feeling of nostalgia and just a little bit of sadness because I’ve grown up here my whole life. I’ve known a lot of these people around me since elementary school. It’s been like my whole life. I’m looking forward to this completely new chapter, but I’ll definitely just miss all the people and my teammates.
After a four-year stint on ETHS’ Varsity soccer team, senior Brealyn Viamille is heading to Florida International University this fall to continue her academic and athletic careers. The switch-footed striker is excited to join FIU’s roster after FIU head coach Jonathan Garbar recently refreshed the program.
“When making my list for colleges, I knew I wanted to be in Florida because of the family I have down there,” writes Viamille over email. “I knew I wanted to be near a city, and I wanted to be on a team that was heavily diverse. I did not have FIU on my list because of their record, but their newly-hired coach clearly wanted to make a change in the program.”
In October, Viamille visited a camp where she was able to showcase her playing ability and talk to Garbar about her future in FIU. She writes that he “was very honest and validated my reasons for wanting to play in college. I ended up committing that same week.”
Along with the soccer program, Viamille has several other things to look forward to in Florida, where she plans to major in sports medicine. She states that meeting new people is a venture she anticipates being especially fun, though she will miss the tight-knit atmosphere of ETHS’ team.
“The thing I will miss most about high school is my friends,” Viamille reflects. “Here, you always at the end of the day have a team you can go back to. I am also really excited about living on my own. I think competing and proving myself for a starting spot on the team will definitely be a challenge.”
Viamille’s first experience with soccer was watching her father play in a men’s league as a child, and the sport has always been a part of her life. Her passion for the sport shows in her incredible dedication and skill.
“Coming off of the field knowing you had a good game and being able to see the people you love in the stands supporting you is such an indescribable feeling for me,” Viamille writes. “It reminds me why I play.”
When senior Jenna Wild went to her friend’s swim lesson in third grade, she didn’t expect that nearly ten years later she would be one of ETHS’ strongest swimmers and committed to play at Brandeis University—but that’s exactly what happened.
“I started swimming when I was in third grade; a friend had a swim lesson and she just brought me to it. It was at the YWCA, and I really liked it there specifically, so I just kept swimming,” Wild explains. “And then I decided to swim through high school, and I’ve just been doing it for so long that I couldn’t really imagine myself not swimming in college.”
However, Wild’s time at ETHS hasn’t been without its challenges. COVID-19 threw everything off for the team, and, in turn, she wasn’t performing to her full potential this past season.
“It was a little bit hard over COVID and everything when we weren’t able to practice,” Wild elaborates. “All our times were a bit slower than we wanted them, so it’s hard to keep going through that, when we’d been so used to not having to swim, having to get back into it was definitely a challenge.”
Yet, despite all these difficulties, Wild still managed to make it to Sectionals for the third time in her high school career. Now, going into the next four years of her life, Wild has a lot to look forward to with plans to major in biochemistry and a supportive team waiting for her.
“In October, I went for a recruiting visit, and I got to stay overnight. I [saw] how close the team was, and it just seemed like a really nice team environment,” Wild reflects. “And that’s what I was more looking for, rather than like a super fast team, because I’m okay with where I’m at right now, in regards to my times. So, I wanted to surround myself with a nice team.”
But, there was one thing that especially spiked Wild’s interest: the coach.
“I’m looking forward to having a female coach. I’ve never had a female head coach as just the coach, ever. So I think that’ll be fun,” Wild concludes, “and it’ll be a nice change.”