By Hugh Zhang (V)
Following successful seasons across the board last winter, Pingry boys’ athletics have raised the bar even higher this year. Outstanding accomplishments from all teams continue to demonstrate Big Blue’s athletic excellence, and Pingry is poised to finish strong this season. Here is a look at some of the most memorable highlights so far.
Coming into the season, Matt Fallon boasted several records on his résumé. Only a junior, Matt is already one of the best swimmers in the country, and this winter he added a few more achievements to his list. Against North Hunterdon, Fallon broke the national independent short course records for the 200 meter IM and 100 meter breaststroke. He also claimed the meet record for the 100 yard breaststroke at Lawrenceville. Regarding these successes, Fallon commented, “The hard work during practice definitely paid off, and I couldn’t have done it without the team.”
Armed with one of Pingry’s best lineups in recent memory, the powerhouse boys’ swimming team, led by seniors Reid McBoyle (VI) and Will Stearns (VI), swept both the Skyland Conference and Prep Championships, and won its 13th consecutive state title, breaking the state record for the most state titles won back to back in a 98-72 win over Bishop Eustace. Upon winning the state title, captain Reid McBoyle remarked “After seeing the other captains in years past win the state title, it’s been an important ritual for us to come here, do well and win. And this year if feels really good because we finally broke that record. It’s awesome that we got to go through the program and become the first team to beat that record.”
The boys’ winter track team is also having a terrific season; as Captain Henry Wood (V) remarks, “we are consistently dropping PRs each race.” The team put up impressive results at the Prep Championships, with James Draper (VI) coming in fifth for shotput and Wood winning the 1600 meter run. Wood also broke the 1000 meter school record at the New Balance games and placed second in the 800 meter at the Skyland Conference Championships.
Pingry has dominated the ice as well, with the boys’ ice hockey team heading into the state tournament as number one seed. Juniors Eric Bush and Jared Kordonsky both hit the 100 point mark this season, and the team has secured multiple victories, including a recent win against The Hun School. Overall, it has undeniably been a “solid season,” according to hockey captain James Cummings (VI).
By Christine Guo (IV)
After their excellent season last year, the girls’ varsity squash team has high hopes for the upcoming season. Led by Captains Renée Chan (VI) and Jessica Hutt (VI), they hope to further improve on their record from the previous year. Coach Francis Odeh, who is new to Pingry, hopes to “bring excitement, hard work, and improvement to the team” as their preseason begins, and is already amazed by the determination and enthusiasm of his players.
Despite the graduation of their number two player, Alisa Chokshi ‘19, the captains are optimistic about their team’s lineup. “Our main goal is to beat our toughest competitors, which are Hackley, Poly Prep, and Lawrenceville,” said Chan. In addition to hard work, the captains prioritize the importance of team bonding since many new freshmen are joining the team. “We want to build on our team culture and cultivate positivity,” said Hutt, who hopes to have a successful season.
By Brian Li (IV)
Looking to build off last year’s success, the boys’ varsity squash team is ready for another busy and focused season. The team, led by Chris Zachary ‘19 and Jeffrey Xiao ‘19, finished with a record of 15-2 and capped off a dominant season as Division II National Champions.
The coaching staff has seen a major overhaul from last season with the departure of Mrs. Tina Rix-Stout and the addition of two new coaches, Mr. Francis Odeh, Assistant Director of Squash, and Mr. Chad Smith, Director of Squash. Mr. Odeh will bring more than 30 years of squash expertise, including a #1 national ranking, and will mainly run the girls’ varsity team. With past coaching experience at The Lawrenceville School and a successful junior career, Mr. Smith will oversee and direct the auxiliary squash program and “build the brand,” according to Coach Ramsay Vehslage. Coach Vehslage will remain as the Head Coach of the boys’ varsity team while Coach Olivia Tandon continues her role as the primary JV squash coach.
When asked about the goals for this season, Coach Vehslage stated, “Get seeded in Division I … In order to get there, we need to focus on winning five-game matches and in order to do that, we need to focus on fitness.” Mr. Vehslage also remarked that, “We have a lot of guys who are very passionate about the sport and are willing to put in the work individually so that they can contribute to the success of the whole team.” With captains Collin Wen (VI), Alex Chiang (VI), Waleed Nisar (VI), and Charlie Malone (VI), the boys’ varsity squash season is bound to have a triumphant season.
By Ben Gottesman (V)
The very underclassmen heavy wrestling team is excited to see what achievements lie ahead in the next few years. Captain Mason Stahl (VI) says about this year’s team: “We have a very young team this year; over half the players are freshmen. Our goal is to have every player improve and to create a strong footing so that Pingry wrestling will continue to grow and evolve in the future.” Along with the infusion of freshmen this year, there is a whole new three-team coaching staff being implemented, including the head coach. “We want them to be a part of the wrestling family, and hopefully this new insight will accelerate our program even more,” says Stahl. With a whole new team and culture, the next few years could be very successful for Pingry wrestling. The season officially begins for the team on December 11 against The Peddie School. We wish the team the best of luck!
By Brooke Pan (V)
The girls’ basketball team is looking strong this winter, with high hopes to build on their performance from last year. Captains Jennifer Ryan (VI), Aly Feeley (VI), and Olivia Volpe (V) will be leading this year’s team as they approach the upcoming season with a new and improved mentality.
“It was kind of hard last season because we lost a lot of our best players,” Volpe recalled. “Because of that, we went into last season with low expectations and … we lost a lot of morale.” Working from the lessons they learned from last year, the girls’ basketball team has made it their mission to “work harder on [their] team chemistry.”
Feeley is confident in the team’s ability to achieve this goal. “We all have a strong work ethic and a desire to get better every day, which is critical to the success and improvement of a team.” She adds, “this team has a really special environment and culture that differentiates it from other sports teams on campus … I can’t wait to see how the season goes!”
By Ben Gottesman (IV)
After a spectacular showing in both the county and state tournaments last year, the senior-heavy boys’ basketball team is looking to make an even deeper run into this season’s tournaments. Coach Jason Murdock said, “Knowing that we have six returning seniors from last year’s team, experience is key and we always want to win our conference, advance in our county tournament, and show well in the state tournament.” The team has been preparing offseason, Coach Murdock explains. “[The guys] have been in the gym working with Coach Scott, so they are very motivated.” It is clear that team culture is very crucial to the success of the program, Coach Murdock explains. Incoming freshmen should expect, “a team that cares about each other, a team that works hard and is competitive, and a team that’s going to do their best to represent Pingry.” The team officially kicks off the year with a difficult game at Immaculata on December 23rd.
By Brooke Pan (V)
This season, the Pingry ski team is looking to continue their positive momentum by improving upon last season’s success. Led by captains Matt Dispenza (VI), Natalie Ladino (VI), Peter McClearn (VI), and Rosemary Collins (V), the team hopes to build on last year’s performances while also fostering a strong rapport between each member of the team.
The ski team’s main priority this year is “to qualify for team states and get more individual skiers into the Race of Champions,” Collins said. To do this, the captains have implemented additional on-snow training sessions at the National Winter Activity Center. “This mountain has a steeper trail than we usually train on […] By training more on a steeper pitch, we will be better prepared to race,” Collins added.
Aside from individual improvement, the captains also hope to further the camaraderie on the team. Ladino notes, “One of our goals is to foster a stronger team environment so that we can encourage a more positive and supportive atmosphere for everyone.”
Overall, the Big Blue ski team is looking forward to a promising season.
By Sarah Kloss (IV)
The boys’ winter track team is returning with a strong lineup this year. Despite losing a handful of senior players, the team still has fifteen boys, including five new freshmen. With both new and returning runners, Head Coach Chris Shilts says, “We have some strong individual talent, and we hope to put these pieces together with some with lesser experience for some relay experimenting.”
The boys will be pushing through rigorous training in the winter weather. Henry Wood (V), a runner for the boys’ winter track team, said, “There are a lot of different elements that go into our training. The team lifts in the weight room four days a week. It is important for us to practice even if conditions are harsh so we don’t fall behind on our training.” After finishing fifth last year, the team hopes to crack into the top three in the NJSIAA Prep “A” Meet. The team is also hoping to place high in the Skyland Conference.
With a lot of strong runners, the boys’ winter track team is ready to perform to the best of their ability. They are excited to succeed and show that their training has paid off!
By Walker Johnson (V)
The girls’ winter track team, led by captains Dylan Anidjar (VI) and Kier Brown (VI), is looking to carry their great successes from last spring into the winter season. Last spring, two relay squads made it to nationals. This year, the team is looking to build on this achievement. Coach Christopher Shilts’s main goals this season are to “make a run at the Group A title and place high at Nationals in both relay and individual events.”
The team is made up of both experienced upperclassmen and newcomers to the sport. Anidjar believes that with the team’s “supportive and knowledgeable coaching staff” as well as its “hard work, [it] will definitely lead to a successful season.” With the season right around the corner, girls’ winter track is ready to achieve their goals and have a great season.
By Emily Shen (IV)
With Mrs. Whitman Annis as Head Coach, the Girls’ Ice Hockey team is ready to continue their last year’s legacy. This year, with many new players joining the team, Head Captain Lizzie Gilfillan (VI) and Assistant Captains Allie Moss (VI) and Annie Oatman (VI) are excited for the team to kick off the season with a smashing start.
The addition of new players to the team means working with girls of different skill levels. Gilfillan, discussing challenges that she is determined to overcome, says, “As a team, we definitely have a lot of strong and experienced players, but with many new girls joining this year, there will be a gap between the older and the younger players. As the captain, it is important to bridge the gap between the two groups and work together toward the championship.”
Gilfillan also plans to make her last high school season a memorable one. When asked about her experience with Pingry Ice Hockey, she mentioned, “Last year was one of the most fun seasons I’ve had. We weren’t the strongest, but it was a lot of fun. This year, we are trying to foster a fun and enjoyable environment, but we also look forward to playing strong in the tournament season in February!”
With a large team this year, the girls’ ice hockey team is looking forward to a successful season. In one of their first meets, they will be playing against Kent Place School, another very competitive team.