All posts by Kate Snyder

Heartwarming Memories Mark Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

By Matt Liebowitz

Emotions ran high, and tears mixed with levity and laughter as the entire campus community, alumni included, gathered under the tent to pay homage to competitors of the past and induct a select group into Williston’s Athletic Hall of Fame on May 12, 2017.

Athletics Director Mark Conroy summarizes a successful Wildcat year.

Athletic Director Mark Conroy, in a brief introduction, shined a spotlight on a handful of current student athletes, including Gabby Mercier (diving), Nick Hill (cross-country), Devin DeVerry (skiing), David Fitch (swimming), and Hunter Adams (wrestling), whose accomplishments have set them apart in their Williston careers.

The first inductee in this year’s Hall of Fame group, given an introduction by Nick Hill, ’17 was Coach Alan Shaler. Shaler founded the cross-country program in 1963, and coached through 1999. Similarly, he had a 40-year track-coaching career. The Annual Shaler Invitational cross-country race is named in his honor.

Cross-country legend Al Shaler delivers a witty acceptance speech as he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“I feel very humbled and a little strange,” Shaler said in his acceptance speech. “When I was the age of the students I coached and taught, I wasn’t like them. I was regarded as a good student and a musician, but not much else. But I always thought that anyone who went out for interscholastic sports got even tired or hurt.”

Shaler praised the grit and determination necessary to excel in cross-country, a sport, unlike football or basketball, nobody “plays.”

His lighthearted speech was an endearing, often hilarious representation of the humor and ease he said he always tried to bring to practices and meets.

“The word games and play suggest big grins, a million laughs,” Shaler said. “If someone is running a cross-country race and is grinning and waving his arms around like Big Papi on a homerun trot, something is very wrong.”

Shaler told the audience he “learned early that the good cross-country coach is who can inject a little levity amidst the pain.”

To that end, he recalled his habit of making “all kind of inane comments and witty remarks” as his runners warmed up.

“I think they kids liked this,” he said. “They did this often, often at my expense.”

Following the induction of renowned football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, Saul Blain ’17 inducted David “Whitey” Felsen ’62.

In his senior year, Felsen, a soccer, basketball, and baseball player at Williston, shared the Denman award, given to the best all-around athlete. After Williston, Felsen went on to attend Haverford College, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1966, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he got his Master’s degree in 1971.

Felsen taught, coached varsity basketball, and worked as an administrator at Germantown Friends School for 16 years, and recently was involved in creating a youth basketball center near his home in North Philadelphia.

“Returning to Williston Northampton and my hometown evokes a flood of memories,” Felsen told the crowd.

He then recounted the story, at times both heartbreaking and humorous, of his childhood. His father died unexpectedly when Felsen was 10; the headmaster of Williston at the time, Phillips Stevens, visited Felsen’s mother – the family lived on Park Street – and offered him a full scholarship.

He remembered dribbling a basketball in his Park Street basement, and another incident during which he was practicing his baseball swing in the living room and accidentally smashed his mother’s favorite flower vase.

“My passion for sport was boundless, and, I have to tell you, a little bit crazy, a little bit nuts,” he said.

Felsen praised the teacher-coaches who guided him through his time at school.

As a boy growing up without a father,” he said, “their care and encouragement meant more than I can express.”

Read Felsen’s full remarks here.

The 1981 varsity football team was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame

Also inducted in the Hall of Fame were Stephen White ’77, Abigal Ouimet Katuska ’99, Colleen Hession Thom ’02, and the undefeated 1981 Varsity Football team.

Boys Varsity Golf Team is Nearly Unstoppable

Boys varsity golf coach Michael Fay enjoys a moment on the green during a game against Northfield Mount Hermon School.

By Matt Liebowitz

In the 13 years Coach Michael Fay has been leading the Williston boys varsity golf team, he has not had a team as ready, as confident, and mentally poised to contend for the championship at the upcoming 24-school Kingswood Invitational Tournament as this year’s squad.

“I think our chances are the best since I’ve started coaching varsity golf,” said Fay. The team has consistently placed in the top eight in the past 10 years at the tournament, scheduled for May 25 at Oak Ridge Golf Club in Agawam, Mass. Continue reading

Connor Cavanagh ’20 Heads to Junior Olympics for Gymnastics

Connor Cavanagh ’20

Connor Cavanagh ’20 started gymnastics lessons when he was just two years old, and began competing at age five. It’s no wonder, then, that after more than 12 years of hard work, he’s off this week to Kissimmee, Florida, to compete in the Junior Olympics Nationals.

Setting aside 20 hours a week to practice gymnastics at a gym in Agawam run by former Olympic gold medalist Tim Daggett, Connor also finds time to participate in other sports.

“In addition to his noteworthy success in gymnastics,” cemmented Athletics Director Mark Conroy, “in his spare time, Connor also plays on the football and baseball teams here…pretty remarkable!”

A versatile athlete, Connor’s focus at the moment is on improving as a gymnast. “The most challenging part of gymnastics for me is how precise and explicit the sport is,” he said. “Nothing in gymnastics is given, I have to work hard for even the smallest improvements. Gymnastics is very tedious when it comes to form and technique, and any slight hesitation or form break will cost you in a meet.”

Form is everything. Connor pauses at the top of the high bar.

So far, Connor’s focus on perfection and hard work has paid off. He’ll be among the nation’s elite young gymnasts in Florida this week, competing in all events: the rings, vault, parallel bars, high bar, floor exercise, and pommel horse. Connor’s strengths are on the rings, the parallel bars, and the floor exercises, according to Lynn Cavanagh, his mother.

A level 10 gymnast—the highest level of expertise for young competitors—Connor spends more than 1,000 hours a year training, and takes nothing for granted. “Staying humble is what I use to keep me going during practice and at meets. Even if you know you are at the top it is important to continue grinding as if you are at the bottom.”

Connor’s family couldn’t be any prouder of him, Lynn said. His family travels with him to his meets, both home and away. Williston wishes you luck in Florida, Connor!

Command Center: Jordan Strum’s Pitching Power

By Matt Liebowitz

Jordan Strum’s fastball makes a mark—on the opposing lineup, who one after another leave the box dejected, bat in hand; on the catcher’s glove, which it hits with a satisfying and resonant smack; and on her coaches and teammates, who show the confidence of playing behind such a force on the mound.

Jordan’s fastball, most of all, makes a mark on Jordan. Her arsenal of pitches, which also includes a change-up, drop curve, screwball, and “riseball,” is, in a way, Jordan’s armor on the softball field.

“I’ve never been really good with [handling] attention,” said Jordan, a junior at Williston, who as an example, said public speaking is something she “doesn’t do.” On the mound for varsity softball, however, Jordan, 16, is a ball of energy and confidence.

“I’m always zoned in when I’m [pitching]; I’m not thinking about anything else,” said Jordan, whose fastball reaches into the upper 50s. “It’s the same for hitting. When [my] team’s cheering for me I can’t hear them, I’m so focused on them and ball and the pitcher.”

The focus has paid off; last year, with Jordan on the mound, the Wildcats won the Class A League  Championship against longtime rival Westminster. Jordan shared co-MVP with Delaney Belinskas, ’16.

Jordan credited her coaches, Davey, Rodgers, Marsland, for their support and instilling in her a strong sense of confidence. She’s grateful to have eight girls out there with her who have her back. That camaraderie, Jordan said, has translated to her life off the field as well, and made her more poised and self-assured.

“I don’t like when people tell me what I can or can’t do,” said Jordan about the power she feels while pitching. “I like to take control of my own life.”

It’s crucial to note here just exactly how powerful and persistent a pitcher Jordan is. We know her team rallies behind her, but how often they do is almost unbelievable. For a sport so indebted to statistics, here’s one that stands out: In her time on the Williston softball team, Jordan—until last Saturday, April 15—had pitched every single inning of every single game. That’s two years and counting where Jordan has been the only Williston pitcher on the mound, ever.

The girl who broke her streak? Her younger sister, freshman Jersey, who threw two innings during Williston’s commanding shutout over Berkshire School.

Jordan loves her sister, but did not love watching the action from shortstop.

“It was the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve ever watched a pitch happen,” Jordan said. “I didn’t like it. I like being able to control what happens.”

Jordan’s skill, and her ability to so deftly control a game from the pitcher’s mound, took root early on in her original hometown of Raytown, MO, a Kansas City suburb. It was there, as a five-year-old, she began playing tee-ball, then moved up to coach pitch and then regular softball. Jordan had no interest in pitching. But when the coach, who also happened to be her mom, Jocelyn, put out the call, nobody responded.

“She asked multiple times, and nobody ever volunteered,” Jordan recalled. “My mom being the coach—I got stuck, and I just fell in love with it.”

Her mom, maiden name Johnson, is a 1991 Williston graduate. Known on campus as “Sis Jocelyn,” she played softball and hockey. Jordan’s parents recently moved to Somersworth, NH, and attend many of her games.

With the help of a pitching coach, Jordan’s strength and skill grew. She was soon playing on a travel team, the Kansas City Zephyrs. Her reliability and resilience as a pitcher has its roots here, where, Jordan said, she’d pitch three games in a row without tiring. As opposed to baseball, which takes a toll on the rotator cuff, throwing a softball underhand is a much more natural motion and requires significantly less recovery time.

Jordan began focusing on her mental acuity as well. “I used to let the smallest things get to me,” she said. “I was very emotional.” From age 10 to 13, she said her “main focus was not letting my emotions show.” A lesson she took from the years of inner, emotional practice: “Look confident anyway and it’ll intimidate the batters,” she said.

If her confidence on the mound came from a fake-it-‘til-you-make-it approach, it’s an attitude that’s seeped into Jordan’s everyday life. She might not feel comfortable as the center of attention, but her pitching prowess has put here there, and she is handling it with determination and resolve.

“I bring to the mound the mindset that I’m only thinking of the next pitch,” she said. “I don’t start thinking about the next inning. I control what I can now.”

JT Chamberlain Fulfills Longtime Dream, Signs to Assumption College Hockey

JT and parents, Judy and John Chamberlain

By Matt Liebowitz

JT Chamberlain’s dream has come true. And like any sought-after goal, his took a long time, a lot of early mornings, persistence, and patient, proud parents.

On Wednesday, April 12, JT formally committed to play hockey next year for the Greyhounds of Assumption College in Worcester, MA. JT, a Williston Northampton senior and forward for the Wildcats, has been anticipating this since around the time he could lace up his own skates.

“It’s awesome,” said JT, 19, who plans to study sports management. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was five years old.”

As a young member of the North Suburban Wings and the Greater Boston Vipers, both youth teams near his home in Amesbury, MA, JT said he knew even then that he always wanted to play college hockey. His dad, John, was on board. In fact, he was behind the bench.

JT Chamberlain signing his letter of intent

John coached JT from the time he was five until he went to private school, first at Pingree School near Boston, and then at Williston as a junior.

With coaches Derek Cunha and Kyle Hanford at the helm, Williston helped develop JT’s skills on the ice. But what the school also gave JT, his parents said, went beyond the rink.

“He’s grown up, he’s much more mature,” said JT’s mom, Judy, an assistant preschool teacher in Amesbury. “Apart from the bond with the students, especially the kids on his team, [Williston] has prepared him for the next step.”

John, who has worked for the Federal Air Marshal Service since 1991, echoed his wife’s sentiments, citing JT’s resolve even when times have been tough.

“This school’s developed him into a man,” John said, adding that coaches Cunha and Hanford helped guide him athletically and “keep him on the straight and narrow.”

When JT hits the ice for Assumption in the winter, he’ll have the added benefit not just of maturity, strength, speed, and stick skills, but a little rivalry to stoke the competitive flame. His current teammate, Nick Schofield, will be suiting up for Stonehill College. The two teams face off three times next season.

With a smile on his face and Schofield within earshot, JT took the opportunity to throw the proverbial first punch.

“I’m going to nail him,” he said.

A Lifetime on Skates Leads Nick Schofield to a Skyhawk Slot

Nick Schofield ’17

Nick Schofield, who on April 12 signed a letter of intent to play hockey at Stonehill College next fall, recalls a proud moment in the rink. It lasted only 10 seconds, but it made the difference in the game. Playing Millbrook School at Williston’s Lossone Rink this winter, the teams were tied, and 17 seconds remained on the overtime clock. Before the face-off, Nick told his defenseman he would take possession of the puck back and pass it to him. “’We are going to get it and win this game,’” he told his teammate. “The puck dropped and I won the draw back and we executed,” Nick said. “I scored the winning goal with seven seconds left, and it is a moment I will never forget.”

Unforgettable plays like that one can add up to a great mental slideshow of a lifetime spent on skates. Nick certainly has had enough of them. He started skating at age three and started hockey a year later. His older sister Caitlin and brother Kelley exposed their little brother to a variety of sports, and Nick picked each one up with ease, according to his mother, Bridget Schofield.

Nick and his parents, Bridget and David Schofield

For Nick, what kept him interested in playing was the feeling he got when he scored a goal. “The joy it brings me to this day is the reason why I love the game,” he adds. “The only thing I love more than scoring goals is helping my teammates score them, because I know how happy I get when I score, I love being able to see my teammates faces when they do.”

And what coach wouldn’t love that? Boys varsity hockey coach Derek Cunha has seen Nick transform from a sophomore to a senior. “Nick has been an impact forward for us for all three years combining skill, size, and a strong hockey sense,” he said. “He should head into Stonehill with the opportunity to be a top prospect as a freshman. I suspect that similar to his time at Williston, he will earn quality playing time right from the start and, as he quickly adapts to the college level, he will see similar success as he has had here.”

Hockey players congratulate Nick on his signing to Stonehill College.

Nick said he’s hoping to use his skills as much as possible as a Stonehill Skyhawk. The school is part of the NCAA Division II Northeast-10 Conference, one of the top Division II conferences in the nation. As he sees it, his strength is having a high “Hockey IQ.” “This means I am able to see the ice well and make plays when people are not expecting them,” he said. “Also, I like to think my passing ability is a strong point. Finally, being a center you have to know how to win face-offs, and I have worked very hard at making that a strong point in my game.

Cunha agrees. “Nick has adapted well to playing with different style of players in all three years at Williston,” he said. “He has a strong hockey sense of where to be on the ice and is able to make those around him better.”

David Schofield, Nick’s father, is excited for Nick’s future, and proud of his son’s hockey prowess. But he’s also thrilled that Nick greatly improved academically at Williston. “He’s always been a good athlete,” he said. “But the academics are important to him. He’s worked hard at it. He’s matured at Williston.”

If shining the light on others’ accomplishments is a sign of maturity, Nick has it in spades. After reflecting on his hockey career at Williston, Nick wanted to make sure he thanked his teammate, senior Jo Jo Carbone. “We have been line mates for our three years at Williston, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

Ian Ostberg Receives Dr. Frank L. Boyden Award

Ian Ostberg with the Dr. Frank L. Boyden Award

Williston Northampton School senior football captain Ian Ostberg received the Dr. Frank L. Boyden Award at the annual National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame scholar-athlete dinner held at the University of Massachusetts on April 9.

Over 500 in attendance saw the Florence, Mass., native become the 18th Williston recipient of this prestigious award, given to the top prep school football scholar-athlete in western Massachusetts, and the sixth Williston recipient in a row. The Boyden Award has been presented since 1962.

As a football player, Ian had a tremendous career at Williston. As a sophomore, he started at safety on a Super Bowl team. As a junior, he took over the reins at quarterback and had a tremendous two-year stint rewriting the school record book both in season and career totals. In 17 starts during his career, he threw for a remarkable, record-setting 4,310 yards and 45 touchdown passes. Continue reading

Water Polo Brings Out Abbie Coscia’s Inner Warrior

Abbie Coscia ’19

By Matthew Liebowitz

The first time Abbie Coscia’s mom saw her daughter play water polo, she was horrified.

“She screamed, ‘That girl’s drowning my daughter,’” recalled Abbie.

Her grandfather, who Abbie cited as one of her “biggest supporters,” saw things differently, even from the first time she jumped in the pool as a seventh grader.

Well, maybe not right away. Water polo is, notoriously, a brutally hands-on sport.

“When I was a little seventh grader, he might have been worried,” Abbie said. It didn’t take long for her grandfather, who also played, and now regularly sends her tips and texts after games, to realize Abbie’s prowess in the pool would outdo any fears he had for her safety. Continue reading

Winter Sports Awards and Academic All Americans

The winter sports season is fading in the rearview mirror, and with spring storms leaving traces of snow around campus, it’s hard to believe winter sports are becoming a dim memory. But Athletic Director Mark Conroy wanted the Williston community to remember some exemplary sports achievements during the winter term and expanded the list of recognition-worthy students he offered in March.

JV Swimming
Most Valuable Player Award — Alan Martin ’20
Most Improved — Rachel Burke ’19
Sportsmanship — Toshiki Ayabe ’18

Girls varsity hockey players during its pink in the rink game
Girls varsity hockey players during a “pink in the rink” game

Girls Varsity Hockey
Most Valuable Player Award — Danielle Marquez ’18, Marielle McHale ’18
Most Improved — Madison Cardaci ’20
Sportsmanship — Alexis Ryan ’17 Continue reading

Fight and Flight: Mercier’s Record-Shattering Diving Success

By Matt Liebowitz

Gabby Mercier '17 and teammate Natalie Aquadro '17
Gabriella Mercier ’17 and teammate Natalie Aquadro ’17

Gabby Mercier made an indelible mark on Williston’s diving program this year. She broke the school record for the six-dive and the 11-dive events; she broke the pool record for the 11-dive event; she broke her own NEPSAC Division II 11-dive record; and she set the 11-dive New England Open record, landing the highest score of all time in NEPSAC history.

If the stats seem overwhelming, how about a more succinct encapsulation of Gabby’s four years of outstanding accomplishments from Williston’s Athletic Director, Mark Conroy: “She’s arguably the greatest diver in the school’s history.” Continue reading