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Henry Wood

Class of 2021
A unit on cross-country running in his sixth-grade P.E. class got Henry Wood ’21 hooked. He joined the Middle School team in seventh grade, the first year competitive teams are offered to Middle Schoolers. In his very first meet, against Far Hills Country Day School, he won. “I surprised myself a little bit that first meet,” he remembers. “I wasn’t expecting to place that high, but I was pretty happy.”

Come spring track season, he won every 800- and 1600-meter event he raced. A year later, as an eighth grader, he avenged his runner-up status in both meets the year before by winning the competitive Ed Scott Invitational—on Pingry’s home course—and Gill St. Bernard’s Great Pumpkin Run.

Henry’s love of the sport—and talent—is a family affair. His older brother, Stewart ’14, who captained Big Blue’s cross-country team his senior year, competed for Dartmouth College for a year (an injury forced an early end to his running career). His older sister, Anna ’18, also a standout runner at Pingry, recently broke the indoor track school record in the 3200-meter run. A lover of math, who also plays ice hockey in the winter (“I like to go fast!” he says), Henry embraces the work ethic and persistence that running require. “Like schoolwork,” he says, “you get out of running what you put into it.”

Charlotte Curnin

Class of 2017
In mid-October of her junior year, Charlotte Curnin ’17 was a frazzled spectator, watching the girls’ varsity soccer team fall in a crushing, 7-0 loss to a nearby school. The team’s goalie, Libby Parsons ’16, also Charlotte’s good friend from the basketball team, was out with an injury, and the team was feeling her absence. Charlotte hadn’t played soccer since her days as a Middle School goalie, but the natural athlete and competitor in her felt compelled to help out if she could. After taking a few test shots from a team member and feeling that she was decent enough, she bravely approached Coach Andrew Egginton with her proposal: take Libby’s place for as along as a goalie was needed. “He looked me up and down and declared, ‘Libby 2.0. You’re both tall, you both play basketball. See you at practice tomorrow!’”

The gesture, which suddenly committed the basketball captain and lacrosse player to a third, nearly full season of sport, exemplifies the tenacity and spirit she feels as a Big Blue athlete. And she loves everything about the role—running out onto the lush green of Miller A. Bugliari World Cup Soccer Field, shooting hoops in the drudgery of winter with a tight-knit group of friends, the bus rides back from lacrosse games, which, even if they followed a loss, still somehow, after some song and banter, felt like wins.

“Together” is the word she would choose to sum up her athletic memories at Pingry. “At the end of the day, we all come out after a hard day of school and we’re with each other. Some days we just want to go home, but we gather our teams, a small nerdy school often facing much larger opponents,” she says. “We have to win together or we’re not going to win.”

Jack Baulig

Class of 2019

It was an away game with Hillside High School, a football powerhouse that had overcome Big Blue in the past. But that early-October afternoon, as the team warmed up on the field, things felt different, special even, said Jack Baulig ’19. Assistant football coach (also Assistant Headmaster) Mr. Jon Leef pulled Jack aside.

“’This is an existential game,’ he said to me. ‘You’re a very good freshman, you know your place on the team, but it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; you play like you play and good things will happen,’” recalls Jack. “I will never forget his words. We lost that game, but our defense, which I’m proud to be a part of, held Hillside to 18 points, one of their lowest scoring games all season.”

What word would this three-sport athlete use to sum up Pingry athletics? Pride. It’s not only the school chant, he says, it speaks to the greater character of the school, and the coaches’ commitment to—and expectation of—the players.

Jessica Li

Class of 2018
For Jessica Li, a standout moment as a Pingry student athlete—one she will remember 20 years from now—wasn’t a shining one, she will admit.

She was down in a big tennis tournament, playing poorly against a girl she should have easily upset. She lost badly, and was distraught. “I was embarrassed, but Coach Diaz pulled me over and helped me to regroup. He arranged a time for us to review all my previous matches from the season to figure out what I was doing right and where I could improve. He and Coach Weber were so comforting and supportive throughout the season. Ultimately, I learned from that experience not to stress out so much, to stay positive. On or outside the tennis court, you just can’t let yourself get down.” She adds, after reflecting for a moment: “If a teammate of mine gets sad like I did, I hope I can comfort her the same way my coaches did.”

Indeed, the team community is what Jessica cites as most valuable to her as a Big Blue athlete. A calligrapher and aspiring rock climber, tennis player and sabre fencer, she is drawn to pursuits that require hand-eye coordination and fast reflexes. But far more than honing these skills under the guidance of expert coaches, she says, it’s the close-knit group of friends, her teammates, who have given her the most. When asked to capture Pingry athletics in a short phrase, she replies, thoughtfully, “A sense of belonging.”

Natalia Ramirez

Class of 2019
State tournament semifinals her freshman year: Natalia Ramirez ’19 scored the first goal, giving Big Blue an early lead over their opponent, but the teams jockeyed back and forth for points, endlessly, it seemed, until they were forced into overtime. Her teammate, Maddie Temares ’16, played her a ball, and she floated it into the net, securing the win. Beset by a sudden asthma attack, however, she didn’t even know she had scored! Mistaking her fear for a euphoric victory stance, her teammates swarmed her with exuberant embraces. Thankfully, her inhaler was nearby, and came to a quick rescue. All in all, it was a Pingry memory Natalia Ramirez ’19 won’t soon forget.

Reticent and petite, Natalia says playing for Big Blue teams allows her to show a different side of herself. “I’m super focused in school and on the playing field, but it’s a different ‘me’, in a way, on the field,” she said. “Sometimes I can hear the opponents’ coaches yell from the sidelines, ‘Number 20 has nothing on you; she’s short!’ Then I score and prove them wrong. It’s such a great feeling.”

Soccer is her passion. When Paris Saint-Germain headquartered itself at Pingry for a portion of its preseason training, she was front and center, watching one of her favorite professional teams intently, studying their technique. Despite her involvement in a serious club team outside of school—International GFA— including an invited stint to play at the U.S. Soccer Training Center at Princeton University and the national training camp in Phoenix, she really can’t imagine not playing for Pingry. “I’m really proud to be a part of the team.”