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Winter Sports: A Look Back
Sara Courtney

This year’s Winter Sports featured heated competition, record-breaking stats, and the highs and lows that come with hard-fought victories and heartbreaking defeats. The Flex checked in with several notable Winter Sport athletes as they reflect on what made this season so memorable.

When skier Dylan Jay '24, who won 4 of his 6 races, looks back on the ski season, he considers what the most exciting moment was. "I think my favorite moment from this season was at the States GS race. I had just finished my second run and I heard parents, teammates, and other teams all cheering for me," he says, before adding, "What I love most about ski racing is the feeling after finishing a good run. You get a boost of adrenaline that is unlike any feeling."


And Helen Pols '25, who won 2 of 6 races this season, recalls her own standout memory. "Just recently, at the Giant Slalom States Race on February 24, one of our captains brought navy and white bows to wear on our helmets. The entire girls' team, and even some of the boys, wore them while racing, and I think that small action shows just how close of a team we are. The whole day, everyone on the team cheered each other on, whether it was from the top of the hill at the start or the bottom at the finish line. Our team always takes videos of each other skiing, helps get the next racer clicked into their skis, and checks in on how each other’s runs went. Although ski racing is a highly competitive individual sport, with times being as close as a couple of hundredths of a second, high school ski racing has more of a team aspect, using four skiers' time on a team to calculate scores and requiring teammates to work together on how to ski the fastest." When it comes to the question of why skiing, Helen shares what she loves most about the sport. "I love the adrenaline rush I get right before I start a race. I always feel a bit nervous, but by the time I get down the hill, I realize it is really more excitement. Having been ski racing for a long time, I have always loved to see small, incremental improvements in my skiing after every day I train. Every video I watch of my skiing and every time I place better in a race shows me that my hard work is paying off. Now on a high school team, I have learned the importance of not only improving myself but sharing my racing knowledge with others and skiing while thinking about the team. For example, that might even mean toning my skiing down a little to make sure I finish a race and score points


For Evan Chen '26, who plays squash, he recalls a particular great moment. "My favorite standout moment was our Division II highschool nationals championship. For starters, in all of our matches, we were down 0-3 or 0-2, but somehow, we always managed to push through...". Evan enjoys the "competitive environment", noting that "everyone wants to get better and win, so we all push each other in our respective strengths.




For Director of Squash and Girls Varsity Head Coach Francis Odeh, he is particularly proud of the Varsity Girls' Squash team result from the recently concluded U.S. High Schools Nationals, which were held in Philadelphia. "The girls got 11th position in the country, which is the highest Pingry has ever achieved," he says.



When looking back at the fencing season, Anika Sinha '24, notes the focus it takes to win on the strip. "A big part of fencing is being mentally prepared for the next touch, whether it takes the form of strategizing or just taking a deep breath to clear your mind," she says. "While we are not on the strip, it is our job as fencer coaches to remind our teammates about this biggest part of the sport. My favorite memory was when my teammate, Fiona and I coached and cheered for every touch as the current fencer on the strip, Delaney, made a huge comeback by fencing every touch with everything she had and changing up her tactics in a way that only an experienced fencer could have. Having fenced with Delaney since she first picked up the blade three years ago it was so awesome to see her grow as a fencer and make an individual sport feel like a team one by cheering her on and seeing her wins as my own."

Noting that she loves the "creativity behind fencing and the ability to do anything on the strip", she shares what makes the sport so rewarding and challenging to play. "Fencing is often called physical chess because every action has a counteraction, and it is up to the players how they can create an uncounterable action from their mind and body. The sport has always been a way for me to let off steam, and concentrate on the things that I can control, especially when school or other parts of my life were out of my control. Moreover, because every fencer uniquely plays the sport, each bout always brings something new that I can learn and take away from. Alongside the creativity of the sport, I have also made so many friends from different states and even countries from competing over the past ten years. As a sport with a tight-knit community, I have seen fencing connect beginners who have only fenced for a few months to Olympic-bound fencers."

Girls Ice Hockey is still in the thick of postseason, but that hasn't stopped Charlotte Diemar '24 from reflecting on what her favorite moment has been. "My favorite memory this year was beating IHA 5-1 after losing to them earlier in the season 3-6. They are a good team, but we played one of our best games all season. We really needed a win after losing our two previous games. After reaching 100 career points at Pingry, Charlotte shares what she loves most about ice hockey. "I love how fast-paced and physical the game is. There is never a dull moment. Hockey is fun for me and I enjoy every second of it. The team is so supportive no matter what the game's outcome is. If I score a goal everyone celebrates because we are all one team working towards the same goal."

And in Boys Ice Hockey, Javi Trujillo '24 is proud of the way the team came together when it counted most. "It's the way we play together as a team," he says. "I think especially as the season has progressed, we've learned how to come together as a unit and play together within a structured game plan."



In Big Blue Wrestling, Jack Abramson '27, had a standout season. "My favorite wrestling memory was winning districts and getting the most outstanding wrestler of the whole tournament," he says. "The thing I love most about wrestling is being able to wrestle with my teammates and represent the pingry name every time i’m on the mat.

And in Winter Track, Leah Solomon '26, feels her hard work is seeing winning results. "I recently got an 11 foot PR and seeing everyone’s reactions made for such a memorable moment," she recalls. "I turned to look at my parents first, and watching them celebrate for what I’ve put so much time into practicing meant so much. Sharing that feeling with my friends and coaches was so special and having my competitors reach out and congratulate me was a great feeling. I finally felt the thousands of practices and struggles paying off." Despite the tough competition, Leah enjoys the camaraderie among athletes. "I love being able to go to these track meets and talk to the other athletes from different schools. Pole vault in particular has a lot of support among all the kids, so being able to go to the meets and bond with everyone for this weird sport we do is so fun. We get to the point where we all just want to do the best we can individually, so we always cheer and congratulate each other no matter what. It keeps the sport fun instead of being too serious."

Graham Houghton '25 found this season of Winter Track was filled with progress. "More than a specific memory, I think the most compelling takeaway from this season has just been the overall growth of the sport at Pingry," he says. "Our team was much larger this winter than in past years with really strong commitment even on the snowiest days. We had 4 (nearly 7!) athletes qualify for the NJ Meet of Champions, and we are sending 5 athletes to nationals, which I think demonstrates how hard we worked as a team.

He takes note of the close knit track community as well. "Track has such an incredible community with so much support and respect across the US, but especially in New Jersey. You spend a lot of time with your competitors and get to know them as well as their coaches and families on a personal level," he shares. "This is even more true indoors where physical space is confined and the constraints of the sport can produce unique shared experiences. We compete in some of the most legendary venues, yet even for high school track athletes it is easy to feel at home when you walk in and start warming up with your fellow runners from other schools. Even though a win is always great, everyone roots for each other and when a meet brings down the house race after race, the atmosphere is electric."


For outstanding swimmer Daniela Karnaugh '24, it's hard to pick simply one moment among season filled with so many good ones. "There are so many memories that come to mind when I hear this question, but I think the one that takes the crown is Preps 2024," she says. "We won for the 2nd year in a row, but the BEST part was when we pushed Mrs. O'Mara in the pool and were all swimming with her while hoisting up our trophies and plaques! Yet, what really made this meet so special was the unspoken moments - those moments where we all watched our teammates succeed, like when Mia Cuiffo pulled an upset to win the 100 fly or when Emily had a huge breakthrough in the 100 breast. Being there together, singing and cheering and raising one another up, is what made Preps so special. This is by far one of my most favorite meets ever, if not the pinnacle of my high school swim career, and moments like these remind me why I love this sport so much." When it comes to what she loves most about swimming, she is clear. "There is just something so electrifying about stepping onto the block when I've got some real competition next to me, knowing that I can either give up, or I can take control, bring it to the table, and lay it all out there to show the world what I'm capable of doing."



Derek Cheng '24 enjoys the supportive swimming community. "The thing that I love the most about competitive swimming is the team atmosphere and energy that everyone brings to the pool deck," he says. "Whether we had a long day at school or a rough night writing an essay the day before, we have always left everything in the pool. We have created a brotherhood this season and it has truly shown through our results. This camaraderie and shared commitment to the sport is truly special in competitive swimming. Our team is a perfect example of how a group of individuals can come together, support each other through the highs and lows, and achieve greatness as a team. The bond formed through our shared challenges, victories, and even defeats is something that has brought our team together. Competitive swimming isn't just about racing against others; it's about pushing yourself to be the best you can be, all while being part of something greater than yourself. That's what makes it so rewarding and why I love it so much."

Ngozi Nnaeto '24, who was the only senior on this year's Girls Basketball team, enjoyed her last season of high school ball. "One standout memory from this season was undoubtedly Senior Night. Being the sole senior on the team, I felt deeply honored and valued by my teammates," she says. "With their support, I approached the game with confidence, so I shot 5 threes in the first half. Shooting has been one of my biggest obstacles and something I worked hard on in the offseason. It took me a while to become confident in my shot, especially from the three-point line. Finally having the confidence to shoot and to celebrate the makes with all my friends and family there was really rewarding."

And finally, in fencing, Bora Akyamac '27, he recalls a season filled with thrills, with one moment in particular that stood out. "I think a standout in the fencing season was that my squad got 5th at the state-wide tournament. It was one of the best results the Pingry foil squad (weapon I fence) has gotten for a long time, and getting that as a team was a very good feeling," he says. 





Contact: Sara Courtney, Communications Writer