September 23, 2020

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School field hockey player Jadyn Huff, left, controls the ball in a game last year. Sophomore forward Huff figures to be a go-to finisher for PDS this fall. The Panthers start their 2020 season by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There is a sense of gratitude for the Princeton Day School field hockey team as it has toiled through its preseason training.

With PDS having closed to in-person learning in March and the fall season in doubt for many months, the Panthers players were excited to get the go-ahead to start practice on August 24.

“It has been good for the kids to get back doing a fall sport and having a preseason after not being in school for almost five months,” said PDS head coach Heather Farlow, who guided the Panthers to an 8-7-3 record in 2019 and a trip to the state Prep B final.

“It is a nice change for all of them. It is challenging in so many ways but the kids have been really resilient and are just appreciating the connections with each other so much more.”

Farlow appreciates the leadership she is getting from senior captains Gianna Gasparro, Skye Harris, Olivia Phillips, and Aaliyah Sayed.

“I have four seniors returning from last year and because I knew that we were going to have to have smaller groups, these four seniors worked with me all summer,” said Farlow, whose team begins regular season action by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. more

SAVING GRACE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey goalie Audrey Blandford makes a save in a recent preseason workout. Junior star Blandford will be anchoring the Stuart defense again this fall. The Tartans start their 2020 season by hosting the Hun School on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having started coaching the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team in the mid-1980s, Missy Bruvik boasts a vast wealth of knowledge and experience.

But Bruvik has never seen anything like the 2020 preseason where she has been compelled to modify her tried and true coaching approach to incorporate COVID-19 protocols.

“I feel like because we were doing optional workouts in August, we used that time to learn how to best do some coaching to keep the kids engaged,” said Bruvik, who took a five-year hiatus from the program in the early 2000s to follow her daughter Kelly and son Ryan as they competed in college athletics in field hockey and golf, respectively. more

September 16, 2020

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Grace Barbara boots the ball upfield in a game last fall during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s soccer team. After assuming a reserve role in her first two years for the Tigers, former Princeton Day School standout Barbara was poised to battle for a starting spot this fall. But with the Ivy League canceling the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara is going to have wait a little longer for her shot to be a starter. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Grace Barbara is learning a lot about patience during her career with the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

After playing just about every minute during her three seasons for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team as a star goalie, Barbara played in just two games for a half each in her first college season in 2018 and then got into two contests last fall, playing a full game in one appearance and a half in the other.

With star goalie Natalie Grossi, the Ivy League career leader in shutouts, having graduated this past June, Barbara was poised to battle for the starting role as a junior.

But with the Ivy League canceling the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara is going to have wait a little longer for her shot to take charge in goal.

“Obviously I was very disappointed, but I completely understand that the University believes that is best and the Ivy League does as a collective group,” said Barbara, an ecology and evolutionary biology major who is hoping to go to medical school and took a class on pandemics this spring. more

FAY DAY: Katie Fay enjoys some classroom time. Fay, a former standout swimmer at Duke University who came to Princeton Day School in 2009 and has helped run the school’s Annual Fund, Alumni Giving, and Capital Giving, became the PDS director of athletics and physical education in July. She is succeeding Tim Williams, who left the school this spring to take the same position at the University School of Milwaukee. (Photo provided by Katie Fay)

By Bill Alden

For Katie Fay, attending a retirement party for a beloved former swimming coach in 2009 proved to be a transformative experience.

As Fay, a former star swimmer at Deerfield Academy and Duke University who went on to the banking world, soaked in the testimonials to Hank Buntin, the longtime coach of the Summit YMCA Seals, she started re-examining the course of her life.

“There were hundreds of people who came out for his retirement just to say how he had impacted them and changed their lives,” said Fay.

“Listening to the stories and speeches that went on for hours, I thought ‘what am I doing now? I am not touching anyone’s life, I am not making any impact.’ It really made me think. I had always wanted to be at an independent school. If I stay in this, it is going to be one more bonus, one more promotion, and I am never going to get myself out.”

Inspired to make her impact, Fay began searching for a prep school job.

“I just starting to look at schools all over the country; I was applying to schools for jobs in admissions and advancement where I thought my skill set would be most transferable,” said Fay.

“One of the things I always asked when I was interviewing was how these schools feel about coaching. That was really important to me, not being a faculty member but being able to be engaged in the student side of life.”

Ending that search, Fay found a home at Princeton Day School, getting hired as the associate director of the Annual Fund in 2009.

“It was a beautiful campus, but it was the people that I met at the time,” said Fay, who became director of alumni giving a year later and was then named the director of capital giving and later joined the Thrive! Campaign as director of capital giving. more

GAME ON: Members of the Princeton High girls’ soccer team go through a training session before the 2019 season. Last week, the PHS athletes and coaches got the go-ahead from the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) for a fall varsity season. The teams started preseason practices last Monday with games to begin during the week of September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Val Rodriguez was on pins and needles as the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) met last week to decide whether fall sports could go ahead for Princeton High varsity teams with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing.

“I was doubtful, I have to be honest,” said Rodriguez, the head coach of the PHS girls’ soccer team, reflecting on the September 8 meeting. “I remained as hopeful as I could be.”

Tiger football head coach Charlie Gallagher shared the concerns of his colleague as the meeting unfolded.

“I was nervous, some of the Board members that had some concerns talked initially before any Board member that spoke in the affirmative,” said Gallagher, noting the PHS fall coaches had formed a task force and met over the summer to formulate return-to-play plans and protocols along with Director of Athletics Brian Dzbenski. more

September 9, 2020

ICE BREAKER: Sarah Filler controls the puck in a game this past winter during her sophomore season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95. This summer, Fillier was named to train with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Fillier just turned 20 this past June, but she is already on track to achieving a pair of ambitious goals in her ice hockey career.

Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95.

“I always plan to have a better season that the last one,” said the 5’4 Fillier, a native of Georgetown, Ontario who tallied 22 goals and 35 assists in each of her campaigns with the Tigers.

“I think the type of player that I am, you take points into that consideration and with that in mind, it would be great to be able to break records and set records.”

While Fillier didn’t increase her point total in her second season, she felt was a better player with a year of college experience under her belt.

“As a sophomore, I definitely had more confidence in the league for sure,” said Fillier, whose honors this winter included making American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) second-team All-America, first-team All-ECAC Hockey, first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-USCHO.

“I had been playing with Maggie [Connors] and Carly [Bullock] for a year and knowing how to handle school.” more

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Benito Gonzalez fires a pitch in 2009 game during his career with the Princeton High baseball team. Gonzalez, who went on the pitch for The College of New Jersey baseball program, has returned to his old stomping grounds, teaching at the Princeton Unified Middle School and coaching the PHS junior varsity baseball team. In addition, he took the helm of the Post 218 American Legion baseball team, succeeding longtime coach Tommy Parker. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

By Bill Alden

Benito Gonzalez experienced a turning point in his baseball career as he headed into the latter stages of his Princeton High career.

“I enjoyed playing for the team, I felt much better about my junior and senior seasons,” said Gonzalez, a 2010 PHS alum.

“Looking back, I feel like that is where I turned a corner and started thinking more about playing in college and things like that.”

Gonzalez went on to play college ball for The College of New Jersey, developing into a star relief pitcher.

“I threw a lot of two seamers and sliders at first; it was something that coach noticed,” said Gonzalez, who went 4-4 in 40 appearances in his career with the Lions, posting an ERA of 3.73 with 40 strikeouts in 70 innings. more

FINDING THEIR STRIDE: A group of girl runners show their form at the Princeton Recreation Department cross country camp held in late August at Greenway Meadows Park. The coed program, run by Princeton High cross country head coach Jim Smirk, drew approximately 45 runners. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With its dirt trails, steep hills, and manicured soccer fields nestled in a bucolic setting off of Rosedale Road, the Greenway Meadows Park is a superb training venue for distance runners.

Over the last two weeks of August, the park was teeming with runners as the Princeton Recreation Department held a two-week cross country program run by Princeton High cross country head coach Jim Smirk.

“When we found out that we were unlikely to have a school sponsored preseason, we really felt like there was an opportunity for us to provide them with some quality training and face to face time,” said Smirk, noting that the fall season is still in doubt due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Our goal was to provide a safe training environment and  with the opportunity to reconnect with each other. Our team is so important to each other and we wanted to do that.” more

September 2, 2020

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: Maggie Connors fires the puck up the ice this past winter during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Star forward Connors tallied 22 goals and 25 assists in 2019-20 to help Princeton go 26-6-1 and win the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title. This summer, Connors is training with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually throughout the summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Maggie Connors will never forget the final game of her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

Star forward Connors contributed an assist as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun top-ranked Cornell 3-2 in overtime on March 8, earning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title in the process.

“That game was probably my favorite game that I have played for Princeton so far,” said Connors, a 5’6 native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador in Canada.

“It was incredible, I look back and we just fed off the energy in that building. We were so focused and so competitive. We were working so hard and we just had so much fun at the same time because we had never been there. There were no strings attached because we hadn’t even been to the ECAC final before. We had literally nothing to lose, it was definitely a thriller of a game.” more

SCHOLARLY APPROACH: Gigi Venizelos tags a runner in a 2019 game during her junior season for the Hun School softball team. While Venizelos didn’t get to compete in her senior year as the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she did receive a special honor, getting named as a recipient of the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame scholarship award. Star infielder Venizelos is headed to Colgate University, where she will be playing for its Division I softball program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Gigi Venizelos, traveling to Florida every spring for the Hun School softball team’s annual preseason trip proved to be a highlight of her high school career.

“I think what will stand out the most is how much the Quirks [head coach Kathy Quirk and assistant coach Bill Quirk] made the team and the program into a family,” said star shortstop and team co-captain Venizelos.

“Going down to Florida for the week before the season started was a staple in our team growth and becoming a family unit. I would say that is the most important thing of how much of a family we became.”

The jaunt to Florida this March will leave Venizelos with some unpleasant memories, as that is when she and her fellow seniors were called back to New Jersey and the players never saw the field together again as the season was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was tough, being the seniors, we were really looking forward to getting to play out our last season with the team,” said Venizelos. more

August 26, 2020

PREMIER ATTRACTION: Ryan Ambler looks for an opening in action for the Archers of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Former Princeton University men’s lax standout Ambler ’16 starred for the Archers as they advanced to the semifinals of the recently held PLL Championship Series. Midfielder Ambler ended up with nine points on four goals and five assists in the PLL competition. (Photo provided courtesy of PLL)

By Justin Feil

Ryan Ambler aims to make the most of his chances.

The 2016 Princeton University graduate had not made a shot as the Archers LC went into overtime against the Chrome LC in their Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship Series group game July 30.

“I was in somewhat of a shooting slump,” said Ambler, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Abington, Pa., who tallied 168 points in his Princeton career on 76 goals and 92 assists.

“The ball just wouldn’t go in. It was our third game. That night I’d hit the pipe, I’d hit the goalie three or four times. In my head, I was hoping just one of these falls. You kind of get in that rhythm where you wonder, when is this ball going to drop? It all happened so quickly. I have to give credit to guys like Tom Schreiber, another Princeton guy, and Grant Ament. They’re fantastic passers.” more

MORE TO COME: Paul Cooke showing his game face as he got ready for his sophomore season with the Swarthmore College baseball team. Former Princeton High standout Cooke has hit .267 with one homer and five RBIs over two abbreviated campaigns with the Garnet. (Photo by Brandon Hodnett, provided courtesy of Swarthmore College Athletics Communications)

By Bill Alden

Paul Cooke hasn’t been able to get in a complete season in his first two years with Swarthmore College baseball team, but he has still made an impact for the program.

As a freshman in 2019, former Princeton High standout Cooke hit .600 with six hits in 10 at-bats, one homer and four RBIs before getting sidelined for the rest of the season by an ankle injury.

This past spring, Cooke picked up two hits and an RBI before the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving him a career batting average of .267 in college play.

Before he even took the field for his first game as a freshman, Cooke had developed a comfort level with the squad.

“I was really lucky to have six seniors my freshman year that were just really welcoming and did a great job of getting you up to speed and showing you the ropes,” said Cooke. more

STAGGERED START: Members of the Princeton High boys’ cross country team take off at the start of the Mercer County Championship meet last fall. While the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) gave the green light to fall sports last Thursday, there is no certainty that PHS athletes will be able to compete this fall. Under the NJSIAA plan, outdoor sports — football, cross country, field hockey, girls’ tennis, and soccer — can go ahead with practices to start on September 14 and competition beginning from September 28-October 2. At this point, Princeton Public Schools and private schools in town are still considering their options regarding the fall season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) gave the green light to fall sports last Thursday, a slew of questions remain before it will truly be game on for Princeton schools.

Under the NJSIAA plan, outdoor sports — football, cross country, field hockey, girls’ tennis, and soccer — can go ahead. Practices can begin on September 14 with girls’ tennis to start competition on September 28 and cross country, field hockey, and soccer to have opening day on October 1. Football will start on October 2.

The indoor fall sports — gymnastics and girls’ volleyball — will be moved to a winter start with practices beginning on February 16 and games on March 3. Winter sports teams can begin practice on December 3 with competition starting on December 21.

The NJSIAA, though, set forth a key caveat, noting that “all of these dates are subject to change based on guidance from the governor and Department of Health.”

An important date looming for Princeton High sports is September 14 as that is when Princeton Public Schools officials are slated to decide whether the district will be allowed to go ahead with a fall sports season.

With the neighboring West Windsor-Plainsboro district having already opted out of fall sports, PHS Athletic Director Brian Dzbenski recognizes that the PPS has other priorities besides sports.

“We in Princeton are really focused on bringing the kids back into the building as soon as possible and having teaching and learning going on,” said Dzbenski, noting that under the current district plan the school year is scheduled to start remotely on September 14 with the PHS students not slated to be on campus until October 19. more

August 19, 2020

EXECUTIVE DECISION: Craig Robinson speaking at the “Thrive: Empowering and Celebrating Princeton’s Black Alumni” conference last fall on campus. Robinson, a former Princeton men’s hoops standout, college coach, and NBA executive, was recently named as the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). (Photo by Denise J. Applewhite, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Having seen many sides of basketball over the last 40 years, Craig Robinson is getting a new view of the game as he was named the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) last month.

Robinson was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year for the Princeton University men’s hoops program in the early ’80s, an assistant college hoops coach at Northwestern from 2000-2006, and a head coach at Brown and Oregon State from 2006-14. Since leaving coaching, he has been a college basketball analyst for ESPN, a front office executive with the Milwaukee Bucks and then the New York Knicks, as well as general manager of the Knick’s G League Westchester Knicks.

“It’s really the first time I’ve been able to bring all of my experiences to bear on one particular job,” said Robinson, 58, who worked as a bond trader, investment banker, and executive in the corporate world after graduating from Princeton before making the move into college coaching. more

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: Chase Ealy, left, battles a foe during recent action in the Mercer County Amateur Master Soccer League (MCAMSL) at Mercer County Park. Former Princeton High boys’ soccer star Ealy helped organize a team of PHS alums, the Princeton Wanderers, to play in the MCAMSL this summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It has become a summer tradition for Princeton High boys’ soccer alums to meet up when they are back in town for some spirited pick-up games and camaraderie.

“Over the summer whenever we are home, we will always get together and have a couple of beers and kick around,” said former PHS soccer standout Chase Ealy ’15. “We hang out and get to see each other again.”

But with the COVID-19 limiting field availability, Ealy and his buddies decided to enter a team in the Mercer County Amateur Master Soccer League (MCAMSL).

“We were having a really hard time finding somewhere to play casually so we said ‘you know what, this league already exists, why don’t we see if we can play in the league,’” said Ealy of the league which plays at Mercer County Park.

“A bunch of Princeton boys have always played in the league on other teams but this year I said we have enough guys that we could have a Princeton team. As we reached out to people, they were saying yes.” more

SMOOTH STROKE: Travis Petrone of the West Windsor-Plainsboro all-star team shows his hitting form last Friday in the Southern New Jersey Babe Ruth 13-year-old state tournament at Bacon Field in Hopewell. Outfielder/pitcher Petrone helped the WW-P squad battle hard as it fell 7-3 to Nottingham on Friday and 8-5 to Ewing/Hopewell a day later to get knocked out of the double-elimination competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the West Windsor-Plainsboro all-star squad fell behind 5-0 to Nottingham in the second inning of the opener at the Southern New Jersey Babe Ruth 13-year-old state tournament last Friday evening, it could have thrown in the towel.

Instead, WW-P battled back, scoring three runs in the top of the fifth to narrow the gap to 5-3 in the game played at Bacon Field in Hopewell.

After Nottingham responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, WW-P got runners on first and third in the top of the seventh but the rally fizzled as it ended up falling 7-3.

“It was nice that the kids hung in there,” said WW-P manager Jason Petrone, whose roster included Princeton residents Eddie Kuczysnski, Michael Prete, Ben Walden, Alex Winters, and Travis Petrone. more

August 12, 2020

SEEING RED: Doug Davis shouts out instructions in a 2019 game during his tenure as the head coach of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team. Davis, a former Princeton University men’s hoops star who guided PDS to its first state Prep B title this past winter, is heading down Route 206 to take the helm of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program. He will be succeeding longtime Big Red coach Ron Kane. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Doug Davis knows something about winning titles.

During his career with The Hun School boys’ basketball program, sharpshooting guard Davis helped the Raiders win state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League championships in 2007.

Going across town to Princeton for college, Davis started from day one with the Tigers and provided one of the greatest highlights in program history, draining a buzzer-beater to beat Harvard an Ivy League championship playoff game in 2011 during his junior season.

Getting into coaching, Davis started at the Berkshire School (Mass.) and then returned to the area to take the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball program in 2018 and guided the Panthers to the state Prep B title this past winter.

Now, Davis is bringing his championship touch down Route 206 as he recently became the new head coach of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program, succeeding longtime coach Ron Kane.

“I want to be at the top of this league again, that is definitely going to require some buy-in from the players but it is definitely doable with all of the resources that Lawrenceville has,” said Davis, reflecting on his vision for the program that posted a 6-19 record in the 2019-20 campaign.

“It is an amazing place to be. I truly believe that if we set our goals and sights on winning again, we can do it.” more

LION-HEARTED: Ben Amon fires a pitch this spring in his freshman season for The College of New Jersey baseball team. Amon, a former Princeton High standout, posted a 0-1 record in two starts for the Lions, piling up 16 strikeouts in 14 innings with a 3.21 ERA before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo provided courtesy of TCNJ Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Ben Amon experienced a baptism of fire in his first start on the mound for The College of New Jersey baseball team.

Former Princeton High star Amon gave up five runs in the first inning at Ursinus as he made his college debut on March 4.

“That was 100 percent a great learning experience; I went out in the first inning having the same mindset as in high school ball,” said Amon, reflecting on the rocky start.

“I thought I could just throw my stuff and it will be good enough to get them out. I quickly learned in that first inning that wasn’t going to be the case.”

Settling down after that early barrage which saw Ursinus bang out five hits, including a two-run homer, Amon yielded only two hits and picked up six strikeouts over the next six innings as TCNJ fell 5-3. more

IN THE SWING: Jackson Durbin of the West Windsor Plainsboro Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-star team follows through on a swing last weekend at the Southern New Jersey State tourney. After falling 5-0 to host Hamilton/Northern Burlington last Saturday in its opening game of the double-elimination competition, WWP topped Lawrence 6-0 on Monday. The squad is slated to get a rematch with Hamilton/NB on August 11 with the winner advancing to the championship round against Atlantic Shore on Wednesday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Andrew Liggio realized that his West Windsor Plainsboro Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-star team was in for a challenge as it faced host Hamilton/Northern Burlington at Switlik Park in the Southern New Jersey State tourney.

“Hamilton is a great team, it is well coached and they have been together for three years,” said WWP manager Liggio.

“They have gone through the states back-to-back years and have played in the Mid-Atlantic tournament. They have everyone back.”

While WWP fell behind 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Liggio wasn’t discouraged.

“I liked how the boys came out and played defense,” said Liggio, whose squad includes Princeton residents Jude Blaser, Jackson Durbin, Daniel Harlan, Leyton Shroff, Jonathan Tao, and Jake Zuckerman. “I think our bats were a little sleepy to start.” more

August 5, 2020

RED ALERT: James Proctor fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Shortly after graduating from Princeton in June, Proctor signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Over his Tiger career, Proctor posted a 2-16 record in 28 starts with 133 strikeouts in 137 2/3 innings and a 5.88 ERA. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Jim Proctor made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers just over 60 years ago after being named the South Atlantic League’s most outstanding pitcher in 1959.

James Proctor always dreamed of the chance to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. The 2020 Princeton University graduate took a big step toward that goal when he signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds on June 15.

“I was really excited about that,” said Proctor, a 6’5, 215-pound native of St. Louis, Mo.

“I went over to his house after it happened and celebrated and talked. We talk about baseball all the time. He’s definitely my biggest inspiration to keep playing. That was something really cool to follow in his footsteps moving forward.”

Proctor’s grandfather played professionally for nine years mostly in the minor leagues and Negro League. Proctor knew at a young age of his grandfather’s success and wanted to mirror it.

“It was cool,” said Proctor. “It was something that initially piqued my interest in baseball. I just had to continue because I wanted to. I’ve always carried it with me knowing I can lean on him any time for advice with anything. It’s a different game now but there’s still a lot of things that translate into today’s game. To always having him to talk to about baseball because he went through the same things at a higher level than me — where I want to get to — just having someone in the family who’s been at the top level has been great.” more

STICKING WITH IT: Julia Ryan heads to goal during her career for the Temple University women’s lacrosse team. While Princeton High alumna Ryan’s senior season with the Owls was cut short this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she enjoyed a productive career, tallying 16 goals and 14 assists over her four years. (Photo by Zamani Feelings, provided courtesy Temple Athletics Strategic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Having displayed steady progress during her first three seasons for the Temple University women’s lacrosse team, Julia Ryan was primed for a big finale to her college career this spring.

“I was part of a class of 10 at Temple, so we had been waiting for our senior season since we walked in the door as freshmen,” said Ryan, a former Princeton High standout.

“We were such a tight unit and of the starting lineup, I think we had nine seniors and two juniors on the field. So it was a veteran squad and we were really looking to build.”

Ryan and the Owls showed their prowess in a tight 16-14 loss to then-No. 6 Princeton on February 15.

“The Princeton game was this huge moment for us because we really pushed them,” recalled Ryan, a 5’10 attacker who had an assist in the setback.

“At halftime, we were ahead 8-6 and we were all sitting in the locker room, saying guys we can do this. We have never had this feeling before. Even though we ended up losing, it was such a good, well-fought game. We were all so proud of ourselves, that was really an exciting game for us.”

But after getting off to a promising 5-4 start, the excitement ended for Temple as the season was canceled in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will never forget that meeting because the coaches were in there, they told us and then they left us alone and let us sit in a circle and talk,” said Ryan, recalling when she and her teammates learned that their season was over.

“Lacrosse is a great character building experience; it is also grueling for four years. I remember sitting there and I was very upset. I said to the group that I didn’t think I was going to be upset but I really am.” more

July 29, 2020

STILL CHASING HIS DREAM: Donn Cabral clears a hurdle in a steeplechase race during a 2016 meet. Former Princeton University men’s track star Cabral ’12, who competed for the U.S. in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, was planning to go after a third trip to the Olympics before the U.S. Olympic Track Trials and 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabral placed eighth in each of his two previous Olympic appearances and is planning to continue training over the next year for one last shot at the Games. (Photo Courtesy of USA Track)

By Justin Feil

Donn Cabral returned to Princeton University in late May and ran on the weekend that would have featured Reunion festivities.

The three-time NCAA All-American in steeplechase and two-time cross country All-America during his Princeton men’s track career might normally have been preparing for a shot at making his third United States Olympic team, but on this occasion it was just a chance to reconnect with former Tiger men’s cross country co-captain Brian Leung.

“I’m still very much plugged in with the people that I knew,” said Cabral, the American collegiate record holder in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:19.14).

“The most important thing for me is the inspiration I get from other friends from college who are doing really cool things and following what they love and putting their heart and soul into it and even just being willing and able to talk and open up and discuss our goals and shortcomings and our steps to improve through them. Princeton is still very much a part of my life. I was looking forward to getting to go to Reunions this year.”

Cabral has done some really cool things himself since graduating in 2012 and hopes to add one more big achievement before he retires from running professionally. more

POST TIME: Gracie Poston catches her breath after running a hurdles race at the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp held at the Princeton High track earlier this month. The program, which took place from July 13-15, drew about 40 athletes and culminated with FAT (fully automatic timing) races on its final day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The loud crack of a starter pistol can be startling to some, but it was music to the ears of Ben Samara as he presided over the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp earlier this month.

For Princeton High track head coach Samara, getting to work with athletes after the spring season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a blast.

“I can’t believe we are actually here,” said a smiling Samara of the camp which took place at the Princeton High track from July 13-15.

“It is kind of crazy to hear the sound of the gun go off and to see these kids, who invest so much time in this to be able to enjoy themselves. It is just so rewarding.”

The athletes enjoyed being together even as they observed the protocols put in place due to COVID-19.

“The kids were so thrilled to see each other, it was great to just be around athletes training again,” said Samara of the program which drew about 40 athletes, who came mainly from PHS but also Allentown and Hillsborough. more

FULL SPEED AHEAD: Matt Perello sprints to the finish line in a race at the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp held at the Princeton High track earlier this month. After his senior season for PHS track was canceled this spring due to COVID-19 pandemic, star sprinter Perello is looking forward to racing at the college level as he will be attending Bucknell University and competing for its men’s track program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After a disappointing junior campaign last year for the Princeton High boys’ track team, star sprinter Matt Perello knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish this spring.

“Last season wasn’t the best for me, I was plateauing a little bit; I was coming off an injury so it wasn’t really good for me,” said Perello, whose personal bests coming into this spring were 11.09 in the 100 and 22.31 in the 200.

“I still had PRs from sophomore year that I really wanted to break last year so this spring season, I really wanted to break all of those. I wanted to break 22 seconds in the 200. I wanted to break 50 seconds in the 400. I wanted to break 11 seconds in the 100. Running track in high school, you are always looking to  get better. You are trying to self-improve and improve your team.” more

July 22, 2020

FINAL SWING: Maya Walton displays her driving form during her career for the Princeton University women’s golf team. While Walton didn’t get to complete her senior season this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she graduated as one of the most decorated players in program history. She was Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018 and a three-time All-Ivy performer. Walton helped Princeton to Ivy League titles in her first two seasons and became the third Tiger player to earn an individual bid to the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, tying for fifth at the Athens Regional in 2017 to advance to the national competition. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Maya Walton was planning to peak when it mattered most in her senior season for the Princeton University women’s golf team.

In the 2019 fall season, Walton tied for second in the William and Mary Invitational and tied for fifth in the Princeton Invitational.

“I didn’t quite play exactly how I wanted,” said Walton, who hails from Austin, Texas.

“It was always trusting the process and trusting practice that eventually by the time Ivies came back around, my game would where I needed it to be.”

As she looked forward to the spring season and competing in the Ivy League Championships, Walton spent the winter honing her game, technically and mentally.

“It was more about consistency for me,” said Walton, who helped Princeton win the Ivy tournament in both 2017 and 2018.

“I did a lot of short game practice. I practiced what I could and then a lot of it was just mental game management and really trying to practice what I could indoors for the spring season. It is always kind of hard coming out of an offseason where you are a feel-based player but you live in New Jersey so you don’t really get to be outside.” more