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June 7, 2011

Best of Blair Sports

by Claire Sleigh, Print Managing Sports Editor, Ombudsman and Design Team
Best Female Athlete
Senior Eve Brown pitched a shutout. Blair dominated both defensively and offensively in the team's 5-0 victory on Tuesday. Tolu Omokehinde
Senior Eve Brown pitched a shutout. Blair dominated both defensively and offensively in the team's 5-0 victory on Tuesday.

Senior Eve Brown has been a pitcher on Blair’s varsity softball team since her freshman year. Brown has pitched the majority of the games for the past two years and achieved a record of 12-1 for this past season, striking out 82 batters in 72 innings. Her only loss was against Chesapeake in the state semifinals.

According to Hoelman, Brown is a quick and dedicated learner who puts in a lot of time and effort to perfecting her pitch. The work she puts in outside of Blair practices and year-round travel softball – with personal coaches for example – has paid off and made Brown a force to be reckoned with on the field, says Hoelman.

Perhaps it is all this extra work that Brown puts in that makes her so confident in her pitching abilities – regardless, Hoelman truly sees her confidence on the mound as an asset to the team and believes that the confidence inspires her leadership capabilities. "The team knows that when she is pitching they are going to get her best performance," he said.

Best Male Athlete

Senior Caleb Furlow uses his speed and technical prowess to be a force on the football field, where every step counts. His speed has allowed him to make important catches for Blair during his four-year career. "A yard in front or a yard behind makes a big difference," coach Jeffery Seals said. Furlow ran indoor and outdoor track during the football off-season to keep in shape, and his work paid off this past season with his nine touchdowns, four interceptions and over 1,000 all-purpose yards. Furlow played a variety of both offensive and defensive positions on this year’s football team, as a result of Blair not having enough players to make a full switch between defensive and offensive squads.
Senior co-captain Caleb Furlow stiff-arms a Whitman defender to avoid a tackle. Ben Buchholz
Senior co-captain Caleb Furlow stiff-arms a Whitman defender to avoid a tackle.

According to Seals, Furlow is a quiet leader on the team – Furlow saves the yelling and cheers to the other captains and chooses to lead by example. "He has a great attitude and a great commitment to the sport he plays," Seals said. Furlow will continue to play football in college where he will be attending Virginia Military Institute on a full ride.

Best Female Teams

Blair produced two record-breaking sports teams this spring: both our softball and gymnastics teams deserve recognition for their accomplishments. This year, gymnastics defeated every single one of the teams in their division and won States to top it all off. To many Blazers, it may seem surprising that gymnastics is one of the top teams that Blair has fielded this year, but they have dominated competition. Unlike other teams in the county, Blair’s squad doesn’t merely rely on a couple of "tens" (experienced and consistently good gymnasts), but on the whole team. Senior captain Claire Hoffman stressed that Blair’s goal this season was being "solid." Everyone on the team contributed to the win by racking up points, and this strategy paid off in their championship win.
Senior co-captain Taylor Smith exhibited confidence and poise in all of her events. Lorena Kowalewski
Senior co-captain Taylor Smith exhibited confidence and poise in all of her events.

Softball put together a strong, athletic and across-the-board talented softball team this year that took Blair further into the playoff season than they have ever been. Blair defeated long time rival Sherwood (17-2) to secure their position as regional champs and went on to perform well at States, despite their 8-0 loss to Chesapeake. At the start of the season, the team set the goals of going undefeated and winning States. And while neither of these goals were realized, Coach Louis Hoelman believes that it is good for the team to set high goals. Even though they missed the mark, the team’s belief in their abilities helped them take the division with a record breaking win.

Best Male Team

The boys’ volleyball team destroyed competition this year – they beat every team in their division and won the County Championships (and therefore States). Their starters team never dropped a set, and consistently gave Blair a large lead from the start of the game. Blair lost only one match during the season – rival Richard Montgomery (RM) bested them when Blair was missing five players. However, Blair encountered RM again during the final round of the playoffs, where they beat them in three sets by a score of 25-16, 25-16 and 25-18. This win allowed them to capture the county title, and therefore States because no other counties in Maryland offer boys’ volleyball.

Senior Michael Zhang and sophomore Tony Liang prevent a Churchill kill. Molly Ellison
Senior Michael Zhang and sophomore Tony Liang prevent a Churchill kill.

Before they could make it to the finals round of the playoffs, Blair faced Wootton during the semifinals in the closest and hardest-fought game of the season. The second set was particularly close and went beyond the normal score of 25 because the winner had to win by two points. The final score of the set was 29-27. Even though Blair beat Wootton in straight sets, this was the closest match of the season and was an opportunity for the Blazers to show off their skills. Blair has some of the best individual players in the league, and it is partly these players who prop up the team. Junior Andy Zhang is considered by many to be one of the strongest hitters in the county – senior Michael Zhang believes that Andy’s skills were instrumental to Blair’s success, especially against teams with a less penetrable defense.

Best Moment

Mere minutes left on the clock, and Blair basketball was losing to Einstein, a team that they usually beat. The game had not been going well for the Blazers, who had lost their lead over Einstein after a series of errors and bobbled plays. With the clock ticking down the seconds and a two-point deficit on their minds, the Blazers pressed the offense with the goal of getting the ball to senior Joshua Kickenson. However, Kickenson had been having a bit of an off-game: he was heavily guarded and his shots just weren’t making it in. Twice the ball was rebounded, and the final time it ended up in the hands of junior Tucker Canary. Canary took the shot from the behind the three point line and at the sound of the buzzer, the game was closed with a 39-38 victory for Blair.

Since this shot, Canary has been hailed by teammates and fans as a solid player under pressure. Canary himself described the moment as a quick flash. "I just threw it up there," he said.

According to Head Coach Mark DeStefano this play secured Canary’s position as a leader on the team and gave the team momentum. DeStefano described the feeling of making a game-winning basket at the buzzer as a sugar high – while it improved confidence and energy short term, the effects during the playoffs more than a month later were minimal. However, it did allow Blair to secure their fifth consecutive win against Einstein, and their third consecutive win of the season. Even though DeStefano didn’t think it was a particularly pretty game, this shot brought renown to the team.



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