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Cold weather brings blazing sports

2009 winter sports season preview

December 4, 2009
With more windy days and gusts of cold weather comes Blair's winter sports season, and the Blazer teams are invigorated to jump-start their season success. Athletes look to bring speedy agility, powerful strength and hardcore endurance to the courts, mats, pool and track. With such talent and drive, Blair's teams are sure to make their mark on competitors county-wide. But what can Blazer fans do besides hope for the best? They can support their fellow athletes by cheering with enthusiasm from the bleachers, sidelines and stands. So get ready to bundle up and go to the game, because it looks like the upcoming season will bring some intense sports action.

Varsity girls' basketball
by Mandy Xu

Last season, the girls' varsity basketball team managed an even 12-12 record. With nine players returning to the team this year, three of whom are seniors, coach Erin Conley is expecting major improvement. "It's good, because we can build on what we learned last season," she said. "We have more of a foundation."

This season, the team will hone their talents and practice essential techniques. "We will continue to work on skill development and fundamental improvement," Conley says. With harder practice, Conley predicts the team will make it past the one round of season playoffs they experienced last year. "We'll have a really good season. Come the playoffs, we'll be able to compete," she said.

Senior Inky Patterson, sophomore Johanna Lopez and junior Janet Henkai demonstrated notable skill both last season and during recent tryouts. Conley believes the Lady Blazers will be valuable throughout the upcoming season. "These three are good players to look out for," she said.

Varsity boys' basketball
by Gardi Royce

Following a 7-16 record in the 2008-09 season, varsity boys' basketball hopes to build around a fundamentally sound team and make a run into the playoffs. After loosing in the opening round of the playoffs to Richard Montgomery last year, the Blazers hope to center around a strong nucleus of players who have a burning passion for the game. Though many people may not consider the team to be a serious playoff contender, junior Lucas Babinec believes the team members have faith in themselves. "We feel like we can play with the top echelon of teams and expect to have a deep playoff run," he said.

After loosing key seniors Mike McClain and Leon Sampson, the Blazers are looking to Cameron Reed and Dennis Mesidor to carry the team. These players, along with the rest of the team, will be expected to work collaboratively to achieve their goals. Senior forward Ben Hukill believes the team is getting along well. "We've got a small team, but everyone is on the team for a reason and we are really making sure everyone feels welcome and even if people don't play as much, they are still part of the team."

Varsity wrestling
by Anya Gosine

Though the wrestling team ended last season with a losing 4-9 record, the Blazer athletes are heading into this season with confidence. Sole senior Johni Meeks, who placed sixth in the county championships last year, will lead the team this season. Most of Blair's wrestlers are underclassmen, but coach Jake Scott views the age dynamic as an opportunity to build up new strength. "Having youth is good," he said. Scott believes the team has great potential as long as all the wrestlers say in shape. "We have to focus on keeping everyone healthy," he said. Specifically, Meeks predicted that the team's upper-weight group should do well this year.

Among their competition this season, Scott pointed out that Springbrook will be a worthy contender because one of Blair's former coaches now works with the team. Overall, Meeks noted that competing against northern schools with stronger wrestling reputations will be a challenge. "The upper county schools have better established teams," he explained.

Overall, Scott is optimistic and has high expectations for all the wrestlers. "All of our guys are like MVPs," he said.

Varisty co-ed swim and dive
by Blake Morgan-Gamber and Ava Wallace

The swim team is optimistic about a successful upcoming season from both their boys' and girls' teams. The underwater squad expects stiff competition but believes new dry-land practices will send them in the right direction.

Junior captain Laura McGehee believed this year's girls' squad will outshine teams that competed in the past and will help improve the girls' overall record from last year. "I think the girls are going to do a lot better this year," she said. "We have a lot of freshmen talent." In particular, McGehee pointed out freshman Emily Lathrop as efficiently filling the role of graduated seniors no longer able to compete. "She'll take over what Melanie Snail did last year," McGehee said.

Moving down from Division I to Division II (Blair's division), Sherwood appears to be the boys' team's greatest competition this season, McGehee said. With the leadership of junior captain Eric Ruggieri and junior Dennis Li in the 100 meter breast stroke, McGehee did not foresee any of this winter's competitors as anything the Blazers can't handle. "Our boys are one of the best teams at Blair," she added.

A new approach to practices has been implemented for the swimmers this season. As a new co-coach to the team, James Demma is conducting dry-land practices, McGehee explained. The school team can only practice twice a week, but McGehee believes that these practices will be beneficial to swimmers who do not swim outside of school. "[Two days] is not a lot of time for people who's that's their only practices during the week," she said.

McGehee added that she and her fellow captains (seniors Nate Hukil, Jeff Lin, Allison Arai and Jenna Williams, and junior Eric Ruggieri) would like to see a stronger fan base at home meets, which are held at the Montgomery College Aquatic Center in Takoma Park. In the past, Laura said, "we've had a lot of problems with not having good attendance at meets. We really need people to come out and support us."

Ice hockey
by Eli Okun

With a powerful lineup of senior players and a sound crop of new freshmen and sophomores, Blair's ice hockey team (2-2) is already well on its way to a strong showing after a disappointing 2-9-1 finish last year. Making the playoffs is the main goal, and coach Kevin McCabe feels that the target is within Blair's reach.

Led by seniors Jens Josephs and Max Pollacco on offense, senior Logan Schwebel on defense and junior Peirce Marston in goal, the team is hoping to capitalize on its skating talent and determination. McCabe thinks that,if the Blazers work together and avoid attempts at individual glory, Blair can be a major force on the rink this season. "Grouped together, as a whole, we can keep coming at you like a little pest that won't get away," he said.

According to McCabe, that group mentality is a major component of Blair's strategy and a prevailing mindset on the ice. "Today, one kid could be the star; tomorrow, it could be a completely different kid," McCabe said. "And that ability is passed around the locker room."

Strategically, the team is hoping to improve in a few specific areas. "We're focusing a lot on our back-checking and breaking out the puck during power plays," said junior Ben Kaufman. McCabe also noted a desire to strengthen Blair's defensive end.

Looking forward, Blair faces tough games against powerhouses Winston Churchill on Dec. 4 and Thomas S. Wootton on Dec. 16. To combat these opponents, the Blazers hope to regain the offensive power of freshman Rudy Carson, who was removed from Blair's Dec. 2 game due to an injured shoulder. Overall, the team is optimistic about Blair's chances for success this season. "This is our best year in a while," Kaufman said.