The uneasy period is rapidly approaching for high school seniors, who are preparing to send out college applications in a process that will inevitably lead to one of the biggest decisions in their lives.
That pressure gets compounded for athletes — at least the ones who haven’t made early verbal commitments — aspiring to continue their careers for four more years. That leads to a variety of factors that get weighed and evaluated.
WESTPORT — Hannah DeBalsi had modest hopes when she arrived as a freshman for her first practice with the Staples High School cross country team: earn a varsity spot that would also serve as a springboard to expanding her social circles and meeting new people.
DeBalsi immediately had an inner circle of friends. FCIAC, state and New England championships took just weeks more. One year later she was a national champion, winning the outdoor two-mile as a sophomore.
DARIEN — It was the indoor track equivalent of the dream team: during the winters of 2013-14, four girls worked in harmony to achieve perfection. Anna Sulger was in the leadoff spot for the Darien 4×200 relay, followed by, in order, Catherine Lacy, Maddie Schneider and Dillon Schoen.
They were undefeated, winning FCIAC, Class, State Open and New England championships.
“Honestly, I don’t know how we did it,” said Sulger as she recalled the seasons with great clarity. “It was all amazing. My sophomore year we kind of knew, and junior year everyone was out to get us.”
For well over two decades now, once winter has morphed into spring, Darien has been known as Lacrosse Town, U.S.A., or some similar derivation. Children are given toy sticks not long after losing baby teeth, the youth programs are a model for success and both the boys and girls high school teams from this small tony town are no longer just state, but now regional and national powers as well.
But as Chris Manfredonia, the high school’s athletic director, recently noted, Lacrosse Town is too limited in scope.
TRUMBULL — With her friends in Trumbull enjoying their annual July 4th activities, Katie Foley was 728 miles away, in a much more spartan environment.
While Foley’s friends were laying out in the sun, Foley was working under it, putting in seven-hour days. Her sweat-stained clothes felt much different than her track uniform upon crossing the finish line.
So did the level of satisfaction.
GREENWICH — The positive outlook and radiant smile have remained constants, packaged now with a maturity uncommon in high school seniors.
Then again, not many teenagers — or anyone, for that matter — have had to endure the battle waged by Nicole Graham against an insidious disease that left her parents in the unfathomable position of having to confront their daughter’s mortality.
My annual year-end columns are assured of one thing: if I re-read them days later, I will inevitably realize leaving someone or something off the list.
The athletes, coaches and games that stood out the most resonate in my mind, so this compilation is done without the aid or poring over old stories and strictly off the top of my head.