Freshmen athletes provide depth for future


The EEE (Extended Educational Experiences) room provides space for tennis bags. Photo courtesy by Ryan Choe

Ryan Choe

February 18, 2017 is a day the girls’ swimming and diving team will remember for years to come. That day freshman Ansley Barnes and her teammates waited for the team results to appear during the state championship. The board soon lit up with the scores of nearly 50 schools that had participated in the state championship.
“We had won state the past two years, so there was a lot of [emotions] leading up to the results.” Barnes said. As Barnes and the other girls looked to find Rock Bridge on the leaderboard, they found themselves in the top half once again. But this time they were short of the top spot..
“When [Lafayette] had beaten us by 3.5 points, everyone’s initial reaction was not overly excited.” Barnes said “We were all pretty upset right after it happened.”
Barnes said eventually a few minutes later the entire team had gotten better from the results, and were able to acknowledge the fact they had placed second at state.
“It was a great experience for me, and winning second at state is awesome for my freshman year.” Barnes said. “There are things we wish we could’ve done better, so hopefully we can come back next year and [win] state.”
Swim coach Zach Mertens is proud of what the freshmen on the girls’ and boys’ swimming team have accomplished this past season. Mertens said the freshmen did a “fantastic job” of becoming impactful on “an already very successful team.”
Mertens believes freshmen are charged with adding depth to the team. He knows many of the Rock Bridge teams seemingly have everything, so a freshman’s role can take a bit of creativity.
“When freshmen come in, they likely know that they are going to be hard pressed to be the fastest or the most versatile.” Mertens said. “Their roles must extend beyond their raw capabilities as an athlete and extends to the attitude they bring to the deck.” Mertens hopes the freshmen’s role in establishing the competitive environment ensures that Rock Bridge will continue to be a strong force for the years to come.
Barnes is one of [roughly] 32 freshman who participated on 13 Rock Bridge varsity sports teams this year. Most freshmen sign up to do some activity outside of school and also do it with their friends.
[quote cite=”RBHS Swim Coach Zach Mertens”]“When freshmen come in, they likely know that they are going to be hard pressed to be the fastest or the most versatile. Their roles must extend beyond their raw capabilities as an athlete and extends to the attitude they bring to the deck.”[/quote]
Senior Sam Baumer started cross country and track since a freshman back in 2013. He has since been a part of both cross country and track all through high school, and along the way has mentored the younger classmen each year. This year featured more than 50 freshmen participants on cross country and track, alone.
“I remember my freshman year feeling pretty much every emotion and combination of emotions.” Baumer said. “There was a huge barrier between junior varsity (JV) and varsity (V) and it took the whole season to break through it.”
Baumer said a lot of freshmen usually ended up on JV their first year, making it difficult for them to really connect with a lot of the older classmen on varsity. Baumer enjoyed connecting with the freshmen, not just to give them advice but also offer them a friend to talk to during practices or competitions.
“I wanted to show them that just because you are fast doesn’t mean to need to separate yourself from people and belittle [them] for being worse than you.” Baumer said. “That was a characteristic of the old varsity, so I wanted everyone to feel accepted no matter what.”
For Nathan Herting, freshman year on the varsity tennis team has been a blast. Herting feels honored to be on a strong team that is able to help push him to become a better player.
“The team is so successful because we work as a team and push each other to do better.” Herting said. “The success is for everyone not just one person.”
Boys’ and girls’ tennis coach Ben Loeb takes pride in how far both teams have come. The freshmen from both teams have provided younger athletes that he hopes will continue to grow each year.
Nate [Herting] has helped solidify our number six singles position that we lost from last year.” Loeb said. “I always want to have several freshmen come in each year and upgrade our team, and [freshman] Eric Kwon could also help us in the future if he truly works at it.”
Loeb said last year brought the best influx of freshman ever. However Loeb knows the time frame of having great players such as sophomores Kam Farid, Jake Fraunfelder, and Zach Grueber will be short. Loeb emphasized that the team will need more help in future years from incoming freshman to help sustain success. Loeb went on to say that Herting has a “bright future if he continues to be a striver.”
Just like anyone else in any area of interest they [freshmen] need to keep striving to bring out the best in themselves. This will improve their chances of being successful, but it will not guarantee it.”