This month’s Athlete of the Month has been playing her sport since she was four years old and says while she has also played basketball, tennis and run track, she can’t imagine life without soccer.
“I’ve always played soccer and I can’t imagine not playing,” Athlete of the Month Riley Beam said.
Girls’ varsity soccer coach Ryan Connelly says Beam brings a “good sense of humor” and a positive attitude to the team.
“Simultaneously, she is an intense and competitive athlete. These are not always qualities that go together. In this regard, she is someone who I deeply admire and respect as both a player and person. She is a role model to her peers in this regard,” Connelly said.
Beam says she looks forward to the competition of soccer.
“I always give my best effort despite the difficulty of the game. I am incredibly competitive, aggressive and I don’t like losing,” Beam said.
One of Beam’s best soccer memories demonstrates that competitive spirit.
“I scored a tying goal against Wyoming with seconds left that lead us to a win and got us to the district finals,” Beam said.
Coach Connelly says Beam is also a “very coachable player.”
“After a game where she was not having as much success finding the back of the net, we talked about ways for her to improve going into the next game. She scored in the first 10 minutes of the next match. This is one of many instances in which Riley has impressed me and led her teammates to success throughout the season thus far. She is an awesome player to coach, a great teammate and a good person.”
Oakwood High School boys’ varsity golf is headed to post-season play with a strong team including this month’s Athlete of the Month, Jonah Cunningham.
Cunningham has been playing golf since the sixth grade. He says in addition to golf, he has played football, basketball, baseball, hockey, swimming and soccer. It’s golf and baseball he has continued through high school.
“Golf is different from other sports in various ways and one of those ways is without a doubt the game's ability to aid its younger players. Golf provides a great way to build social skills and eventually network (e.g. meet new people through corporate outings, etc.). Golf is also an extremely mental sport and tests a player's ability to persevere through and overcome hardships; a valuable life skill for anybody. I will certainly play golf for as long as I possibly can,” Cunningham said.
Boys’ varsity golf coach Jen Lohmeyer says Cunningham is a leader on this year’s team.
“He conducts himself well on the golf course no matter whether he made a birdie or a bogey on a hole. Jonah is a consistent player whose score has counted in all our matches and tournaments,” Lohmeyer said.
Lohmeyer says a perfect example is how Cunningham compliments his opponent at the end of a match or tournament.
“He always says, ‘Good playing with you,’” Lohmeyer said.
According to his coach, Cunningham is a hard worker and had spent his summer working on his game. And while he and the team have had a solid season, including an 18th straight SWBL title for OHS, Cunningham is still working harder.
“My performance this year has not lived up to my expectations until recently. While playing, I would consider my strong suits to be my short game, ability to scramble, and ability overcome adversity on the course. I also play rather quickly and try not to overthink things,” Cunningham said.
And speaking of thinking…
“When I am participating in my sport, I block out any external thoughts and immerse myself in the game. I love it,” Cunningham said.
With 12 years of cheerleading to her credit, Julianna Hoffman, this month’s Athlete of the Month, can easily explain why she loves this sport.
“When I am in my uniform, I am so proud. I love representing Oakwood and my high school. I also love the competition of tumbling with my team against the cheerleaders from other schools and the intense competition of tryouts when they come around every year,” Hoffman said.
Coach Kathy Barlow agrees with Hoffman about her love for her school.
“Julianna exudes school spirit and never misses a chance to cheer on her fellow Lumberjacks!” Barlow said.
Hoffman began cheering when she was in kindergarten with competition cheer. She has also played soccer and lacrosse, swam, ran track, and taken gymnastics, ballet, and tumbling classes.
“I chose to cheer because it is what makes me the happiest. I love every girl I cheer with and it is like my second family. I also love dancing and tumbling, it is one of my favorite things to do and going out on the floor with a new dance is something that makes me so proud because we work so hard on those dances and routines,” Hoffman said.
That strong work ethic makes Hoffman a good role model for her teammates according to Coach Barlow.
“Jules always has a positive attitude and doesn’t shy away from putting in extra time and hard work. She set the bar high for her teammates. Her passion and dedication to cheer is her strength. All who know her know she is proud to be an Oakwood Cheerleader” Barlow said.
As her cheer career comes to an end, Hoffman says she doesn’t plan to cheer in college but does see the possibility for cheer being in her future.
“My love for the sport will never die and I will miss it so much next year.”
With many wins and titles to his name, this month’s Athlete of the Month has certainly made a name for himself in the Oakwood record books. And it doesn’t look like AJ Lewandowski is done yet.
Lewandowski began wrestling in elementary school when his gym teacher convinced him to try out. He says since the fourth grade, he has “loved the sport of wrestling.”
“When I am wrestling, all of my worries go out the door and I am focused on the match I'm in and have a sense of tunnel vision. It also makes me exhilarated because I have met many new friends through the sport. I also enjoy the feeling of getting your hand raised at the end of the match after you put in all the hard work and preparation,” Lewandowski said.
Coach Nick Berger has known Lewandowski since he was in the seventh grade.
“AJ is a tough wrestler. He is strong and he has developed a group of moves that are doing well for him. What I really like about AJ is that he is constantly working and chaining moves together during his matches. He doesn’t slow down and he tries to capitalize in every position no matter what the situation is,” Berger said.
Berger says Lewandowski is a tough competitor and serves as a positive role model for the younger members of the OHS wrestling team. One of Berger’s favorite memories of his team leader demonstrates the senior’s competitive nature.
“One of my favorite memories was at last year’s District tournament at Wilmington. It was AJ’s consolation semi-finals match and he needed a win to qualify for the State Tournament. He was wrestling a tough Urbana wrestler who placed ahead of him the previous week at Sectionals. AJ wrestled determined and ended-up winning. It was awesome to experience the joy, excitement and his hard work paying off as AJ reached one of his goals,” Berger said.
The saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” For Oakwood High School junior Paige Reymann the statement holds true when she’s in the pool.
“When I am swimming, I feel like time moves faster. One hour in the pool feels like 15 minutes have gone by,” Reymann said.
Reymann started swimming when she was six years old. She now represents OHS as a member of the school team. She says swimming for OHS provides her a great balance in the sport she loves.
“I love working out and the swim team has a great mix of competitiveness with fun,” Reymann said.
Coach Audrey Martin describes Reymann as a “hard worker with a positive attitude.” Martin says Reymann is a good role model for her teammates.
“Paige balances school work, swimming, rowing and college preparations with grace. She communicates often with me about her schedule and is always willing to be flexible with her schedule to make everything work. Her drive, dedication and attitude are all things other athletes and students should aim to achieve,” Martin said.
As for her plans for the future, Reymann doesn’t know for sure how swimming will be a part of her life but she plans to be in the pool.
“I will definitely continue swimming after high school, most likely not competitively but swimming is something I will try to always hold onto.”
After making it to the State Championship as a freshman and just missing the podium, sophomore Sam Campbell is determined to made his second year swimming for Oakwood High School even more memorable.
“This year, I plan on coming back and doing even better,” Campbell said.
Coach Audrey Martin, who describes Campbell as a “dedicated and hard working athlete with a humble attitude,” says this month’s Athlete of the Month works to improve himself and the team as a whole.
“Sam's speed earns the team points at meets, but he contributes much more than that. He encourages his teammates to do their best at meets, and asks good questions about how he can continue to get even better,” Martin said.
Backstroke and distance freestyle are Campbell’s strengths. He says he never stops working to improve all of his strokes and hopes to swim at the collegiate level after high school. Coach Martin sees his work ethic as a great example for others.
“Sam is a perfect example of what happens when you work hard. His skill improves every year, but he never accepts that as enough. He continues to work and expect the best from himself. His dedication and attitude make Sam coachable and respectable - two things all athletes and students should strive to be,” Martin said.
Basketball has been a part of Oakwood High School senior Darren Rubin’s life since he was just two years old. It’s no surprise then what he sees as his strength in his favorite sport.
“My experience. I’ve played in a lot of games,” Rubin said.
OHS Boys’ Varsity Head Coach Paul Stone has known Rubin since his player was in third grade. He says the senior, who’s headed to Denison University next year, is a hard worker who “leads by example.”
“He’s one of the best to ever play basketball at Oakwood. He has no weaknesses and can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. He has broken so many records, I can't count them all. He will end up being the highest scoring player in Oakwood history,” Stone said.
Rubin says he’s always loved basketball, that’s why he’s stuck with the sport. And when he’s playing, he feels “comfortable.”
“It’s hard to put into words, I just feel comfortable and in the zone,” Rubin said.
While his favorite memories are “beating Franklin and Brookville at home by double digits last season,” he’s ready to make more memories this year.
“It’s time to cut down the nets.”
After a season-ending injury her junior year, Oakwood High School senior Kylie Foos is “thankful” to be on the court again. Coach Matt Salyer says Foos’ determination to get back in the game is why she’s a role model for her teammates.
“Kylie has experienced multiple injuries during her high school career, including a severe concussion. She consistently worked with the trainers and physical therapists to return to play. Her display of resiliency is a great example for other players and students to follow,” Salyer said.
Foos began playing basketball in kindergarten. While she played golf for OHS her freshman and sophomore years, its basketball she kept playing.
“I fell in love with the game and the relationships I built with my teammates so I wanted to continue,” Foos said.
Foos describes herself “as a physical, defensive-minded player” who likes to share the ball with her teammates. And it’s being with her teammates that helped create one of her favorite basketball memories.
“My favorite memory is my sophomore year, winning our first tournament game and being able to spend time with my teammates, making memories that will last a lifetime,” Foos said.
For Coach Salyer, who says Foos plays “with maximum effort,” his favorite memory happened this year when Foos signed to continue her academic and basketball career at Wittenberg University.
“(Kylie) was surrounded by the support of family, teammates and friends. The event was memorable because it showed hard work pays off and we have multiple people helping us achieve our goals,” Salyer said.
While she wrapped up her final season of high school volleyball and has just one more season of high school lacrosse, senior Anna Millard isn’t planning to say goodbye to her favorite sports just yet. After years playing competitively, she hopes to continue playing club sports, coaching a younger team or becoming an official. She says she plans to keep sports in her life.
“Competing in sports is my favorite thing. Before a game starts, I get so nervous but once it begins, I feel like I’m in the right place. My heart races and my mind narrows on the game,” Millard said.
Varsity Volleyball Coach Jill Howard says Millard’s focus made her a positive leader on the team and helped others.
“She had a touch on every play and vocally led the team. She was helpful to keep the team focused and help put hitters in situations to be successful. And she always stayed positive toward the team. I was so proud of her style of play,” Howard said.
Millard agrees her communication skills helped her lead the volleyball team this season.
“I made sure I vocalized what I was doing and asked the same from my team. It not only helped our play but helped us understand each other better. I promoted my strength through my maturity. Maturity is something my coach emphasized and I used it in my play, especially when my team was down. It takes one person to bring it back and one of my strengths is being able to do that,” Millard said.
In the spring, you’ll find Millard on the lacrosse field, once again leading the team. As a junior, Millard received the MVP award and was the team’s leading scorer with 51 goals.
Kyle Lethander is making his mark on running at Oakwood High School and in the state of Ohio. Qualifying for the State cross country meet three times and the State track meet two times, so far, Coach Dan Flaute says Lethander will go down as “one of the best distance runners in school history.”
Lethander began running cross country and track as a seventh grader at Oakwood Junior High. He says once he started running, he quit playing other sports.
“I quickly grew to enjoy running and racing. I started training year-round after my freshman high school cross country season,” Lethander said.
This past season, his training schedule became more challenging but Coach Flaute says it didn’t stop this top-notch athlete.
“What stands out about Kyle is the level of work he puts in. This past season, he's been taking college classes, which often required him to practice very early in the morning or late at night, and he never missed a workout,” Flaute said.
Lethander is looking ahead to what happens after high school. He says running will be a part of his future.
“I am now exploring opportunities for running in college and am currently in contact with a couple of coaches. Whether or not I run on a team, I plan on continuing to train for competition, be it on the course, the track, or the road.”
While fairly new to the Oakwood High School soccer program, senior Mark Kujawa has made quite an impact on his team and the school.
“Mark came into Oakwood at a time when we only had two goalkeepers in the entire program. He has greatly contributed to the team’s success since he moved into Oakwood [prior to his junior year,]” Boys’ Varsity Soccer Coach Kyle Duwel said.
As a junior, Kujawa made a mark for himself on the field. He was named 2nd Team Miami Valley South and 2nd Team SWBL. Coach Duwel says off the field, the OHS senior also made the adjustment to a new school look easy.
“Not only did Mark make a seamless move on the soccer field, but also in school and academically. Mark has shown that through good character, one can quickly assimilate into a different high school culture,” Duwel said.
Kujawa says he has “high expectations” for himself and considers his leadership and communication skills to be his strengths.
“Every time I step onto the field whether it’s a practice or game, I become focused and always put forth my best effort,” Kujawa said.
He also knows soccer is a team sport and credits his “awesome defense” with helping him achieve a school record for goals conceded. And the gratitude doesn’t stop there.
“I also just wanted to thank my coaches for supporting and believing me.
Sophomore Grace Hartman started running track in the seventh grade. The following year, she gave cross country a try. She says at the time, she couldn’t imagine what running would mean to her now.
“When I started running a few years ago, I struggled to run two miles. I would have never believed I would become a distance runner! I love this sport. I’ve also made so many great friends and so many unforgettable memories,” Hartman said
Varsity Cross Country Coach Dan Flaute says he sees Hartman making more memories and a big impact.
“Grace has the potential to be only the second State cross country champion in school history and to be one of the best runners in the nation by the time she graduates,” Flaute said.
Hartman describes her running as “tactical.” She admits she is “really nervous” before a race but “energized and excited” once the gun goes off.
“Though I am not one to shy away from taking the lead from the gun, I have learned in the more competitive races to hang on to people longer so I have more energy to pass and get a better place toward the end of the race. I’ve also learned when to back off and when to go hard. I had a few mistakes last year when I went out too fast and really regretted it in the last mile, so I learned a lot from those experiences,” Hartman said.
Coach Flaute describes Hartman as “fearless.”
“She'll challenge some of the best runners in the country without hesitation. She is a great role model for her teammates as she has a work ethic that matches her talent,” Flaute said.
Hartman hopes to continue running after high school and beyond.
“In the future, I would love to run in college. We will see what happens from there! I definitely want to run the rest of my life, regardless of the level of competition. Running is an awesome sport to try out and it makes you feel so good!”
While R.C. Cosler has been playing golf since he was eight years old, he doesn’t plan on giving up the sport anytime soon.
“Golf is a great sport for networking. It is a sport that you can play for the rest of your life,” Cosler said.
The Oakwood High School senior says baseball was his first love and he played until sophomore year. That same year was when OHS Golf Coach Jen Lohmeyer recognized Cosler as a determined golfer with a strong work ethic.
“In 2017, I saw him (as a sophomore) three putt his last hole on the last day of tryouts. He knew he would not make varsity with that score. I saw how devastated he was, but he took that as a challenge and ended up as the most improved player at the end of the season, plus he earned a varsity letter. He came back and didn't give up,” Lohmeyer said.
Cosler says he would describe his play as “aggressive and fearless.” Lohmeyer adds “confident.”
As a team captain, Cosler serves as a leader and role model for his teammates but it’s what they do for him he wants to recognize.
“I would like to thank everyone on my team for being the greatest people I know. I would also like to thank my mother, stepdad and grandparents for putting in so much effort for me to be the golfer I am today,” Cosler said.
For senior defender Elizabeth Grant, the beginning of high school brought some big decisions. One of those choices was whether to play soccer, run cross country or try to do both sports. Grant says the answer came pretty quickly.
“Once I went to my first high school open-field soccer practice, I knew I wanted to play soccer and only soccer,” Grant said.
Now in her final season playing for Oakwood High School, Grant is still enjoying her chosen sport.
“When I am playing in a soccer game there is no other feeling like it. Whether under the lights at night or during a cold fall day, the adrenaline I get from playing in a soccer game is the best feeling!”
Grant describes her play as “aggressive and full of energy,” which she shares with her teammates as a two-time team captain. While her defensive skills get her noticed on the field, it’s the lessons she says she’ll take with her in life that are most beneficial.
“The most important lesson I learned from playing soccer and which I practice in everything I do, is to always do my personal best and act with integrity. This is a minimum of what my family expects of me and what I demand of myself. I will continue to do my very best as I become an adult, to conduct myself with high moral standards, always taking the lead, and act with integrity.”
From tee ball to varsity softball, Casey Zepernick has done it all and doesn’t plan on stopping playing her favorite sport anytime soon.
“When I compete in softball, it’s my oasis. For an hour and a half, I have time to myself and to play the game I love,” Zepernick said
Varsity softball coach Kristie Savino says Zepernick is an impact player on her team. She can count on her three-year varsity starting shortstop when the game is on the line.
“Casey contributes many attributes to the team. I can always count on her to get a hit and get on base. The last three games she has had three homeruns! She also plays stealer defensive. If the ball is hit to her, I can usually count on an out. She also contributes overall knowledge of the game. She always knows where the plays are on the field,” Savino said.
Zepernick began playing when she was five. She says while she had some natural talent, she worked hard to get where she is today.
“I have played softball year round for four years. I go to batting cages and throw outside of practices. Softball is a hard sport, you have to be willing to put a lot of time and effort into it,” Zepernick said.
That hard work has paid off, on and off the field. This year, she was elected team captain.
“She is a strong softball player that the other girls look up to. Every day we have a game, she is in charge of warming the girls up and then takes the team out to the outfield and gives a motivation pep talk to start us off! She has done a great job leading the team this year,” Savino said.
That pre-game warm up may lead to Zepernick’s future. She says she hopes to one day be a softball coach.
Congratulations to Casey Zepernick, one of the April Athletes of the Month.
While it may be his first year as a starter on the varsity boy’s lacrosse team, Coach Alan Hemler says goalie Owen Eckerle is a “major factor” in the team’s success this season.
“Owen keeps our team in games and is a major factor in all of our victories this season. He has had multiple 20+ save games this season that have allowed us to remain competitive with our opponents late in games. He is also a vocal leader of the defense and helps get offensive transition started with his clearing passes,” Hemler said.
Being in the goal for Oakwood High School isn’t new to the Eckerle family. Owen followed his two older brothers to that position. He started playing lacrosse in the fifth grade. He also has played soccer and basketball and ran cross country, but it’s lacrosse he’s stuck with.
“It's simply because I love lacrosse and the team,” Eckerle said.
Beyond making saves, Eckerle is also a team leader.
“I always keep a positive attitude and I try to keep my teammates positive as well,” Eckerle said.
Coach Hemler agrees.
“Owen is a great kid who constantly demonstrates great sportsmanship, attitude and leadership. He plays the game the right way and is a great teammate,” Hemler said.
Congratulations to Owen Eckerle, an April Athlete of the Month.
While he is fairly new to high school tennis, one of this month’s OHS Athletes of the Month makes an impact on his teammates and his opponents alike.
“Michael (O’Hara) is positive and always shows respect and perseverance, making it easy for all teammates to look up to him,” Varsity Boys’ Tennis Coach Kim Gilbert said.
O’Hara says he started playing tennis his sophomore year after friends Sam Lahmon and Ryan Clark convinced him to try out and he’s “loved it ever since.” O’Hara played soccer for Oakwood High School for four years and basketball his freshman year.
“When I’m competing, I feel very focused but also excited because I want to win above all else. I also have an incredible time each time I’m on the soccer field or tennis court,” O’Hara said.
Coach Gilbert says O’Hara shares that love of competition with his teammates, serving as a leader for his team.
“He is a great senior leader, always leading by example. He is flexible with each position he plays, as well as with whom he plays. He always supports the members on the tennis team,” Gilbert said.
And while O’Hara is having “an incredible time” in games and matches, he’s also “driven” to win.
“I try to do whatever it takes to win each and every point in my tennis matches. I would say my strength in tennis is definitely my drive. During my time playing tennis, I’ve beaten many people who are more experienced and skilled than I am but I’m able to win because I know going into the match that I’ll out work them,” O’Hara said.
As a senior, O’Hara will be wrapping up his competitive sports career but sees both soccer and tennis being a part of his future.
“I definitely plan on having sports as a part of my future. I hope to play soccer for fun with friends in college, as a young adult. I would love to play tennis for many years to come. The competitive nature of the game and the fun time I have with friends will keep me invested in sports for years to come. “
Lacrosse may be a new sport for some but for one of this month’s OHS Athletes of the Month, the sport has been a part of her life for a decade. Senior Taylor Shineman, a four-year varsity player for Oakwood High School, began her lacrosse career in the third grade, playing on a boys’ team.
When she was younger, she played soccer and basketball and, briefly in junior high, tried field hockey. Ultimately, lacrosse became her primary sport.
“When I'm playing lacrosse, I feel completely engrossed in every aspect of the game. I love the strategy that goes into each play, the teamwork and constant communication that takes place on the field, and the constant challenge of pushing myself as both a player and a leader on the team,” Taylor Shineman said.
Her teammates recognize that leadership also, selecting her as team captain three years in a row. For the senior leader, lacrosse is a family affair, with her dad, Justin Shineman, serving as her coach.
“Her contributions off the field, and at practice, sometimes outshine her game performance. She's the first player to pick up balls, move goals, help the coaches and assist her teammates. She's by far the most prepared, carrying a spare of nearly everything in her bag, hair ties, tissues, leggings, everything,” Justin Shineman said.
This scholar athlete is also setting a good example off the field, maintaining a 4.0 GPA, balancing five AP courses this semester and continuing to develop her artistic abilities. In addition to designing the fall and winter sports program covers, the Class of 2019 t-shirt and student council t-shirts, she has had a work of art selected as "Top 25" in the Ohio Governor's Youth Art Exhibition for the second year in a row. Even with all of those accomplishments, it is lacrosse that brings Taylor “a sense of pride that nothing else has.”
“My participation on this team has always included the team giving something back to me, be it the honor of leading them as captain or just the joy and support of team camaraderie. That collaborative dynamic is something a lot of other activities can't provide. We win and lose as a team, and being able to be a part of the tremendous growth and success that has taken place these past few years has been incredibly rewarding,” Taylor Shineman said.
And others have taken notice of Taylor and her play with OHS.
“We had a college coach say the entire team seems to calm down and play better when Taylor has the ball. She's unselfish, knowing when to pass and feed other players, but not afraid to take over the game when it's needed,” Justin Shineman said.
After 10 years, Taylor says she doesn’t plan to give up lacrosse just yet.
“I intend to try out for a club team so I can continue to play through college. I've also discovered passion for helping and coaching others. Working as a counselor for clinics throughout high school has helped me realize lacrosse is something I can continue even if I'm not able to play on the field. I want to get involved with new or developing programs and help share this amazing sport with as many girls as possible. I also absolutely intend to come back to Oakwood and see how the team is doing here, and continue to support all of the girls who are helping this program continue to grow.”
Playing with a level of energy his coach calls “contagious,” one of this month’s Athletes of the Month is a leader on and off the basketball court. Jack Armstrong says it’s his competitiveness that keeps him going at a level few attain.
“I hate nothing more than to lose. I think that carries me to work as hard as I can while I’m playing,” Armstrong said.
Boys’ varsity basketball coach Paul Stone says Armstrong’s energy has resulted in big wins for Oakwood High School.
“Jack was subbed in as a junior last year at Eaton when our seniors were
not playing hard enough. He single handedly sparked our team to a comeback
win that was led by his tenacity and energy,” Stone said.
Armstrong has been on the court since preschool and began playing competitively for Oakwood’s travel team when he was in the fourth grade.
“I stuck with my sports throughout high school because I love to compete with my friends and enjoy being a part of a team. After high school, you won’t have these kinds of opportunities again so I think it’s good to take advantage of them while you can,” Armstrong said.
And he did take advantage of the opportunities. Along the way, he’s played football, lacrosse, soccer, baseball and wrestled. He says what he’s learned through sports are great life lessons.
“They’ve taught me the importance and rewards of hard work, given me lifelong friends, and have showed me how to deal with and overcome adversity,” Armstrong said.
Coach Stone appreciates what Armstrong has brought to the team also.
“I am proud of Jack for how much he has improved throughout the season. He brings out the best in others,” Stone said.
One of this month’s Athletes of the Month says she knows her role on the girls’ varsity basketball team and her coach agrees. As the leading rebounder, Kylie Neff is key to a strong defense for her Oakwood High School team.
“My job is to rebound, and to do it well. My role on the team is to go be physical and get as many rebounds as possible, on both ends of the court,” Neff said.
“Kylie is a relentless worker with a complimentary combination of physical strength and basketball skill,” girls’ varsity coach Matt Salyer said.
But it isn’t just aggressive defense Neff brings to the court.
“Another role I have is being a leader. Some younger girls made varsity this year, and as a junior, my role as a leader was to always make sure they felt comfortable in games and knew what to do,” Neff said.
Neff began playing basketball for the Oakwood Junior Jills when she was eight. She has also played softball and golf for OHS. She says sports give her a chance to relax.
“When I am competing, I feel very relaxed. It is a nice break to get away from school and anything else going on outside of basketball,” Neff said.
Don’t let that “relaxed” attitude fool you, Neff also describes herself as a “very competitive person" and her 17 rebounds on the road against Fenwick show she plays hard.
“I would describe my play as physical, focused and smart. Although there isn’t a ton of time on the court to think because the game happens so fast, I’m always thinking about what I’m doing and what I should do. I’m very focused on the court because when I’m playing a basketball game, the only things that matter are my team and winning.”
While she hasn’t decided how sports will fit into her future after OHS, she knows she will continue to play.
“I see my sports continuing in the future for sure. Maybe playing in college or maybe not, but I will definitely join rec teams and keep playing because I want to play basketball and softball for as long as I can.“
Swim practice may be tough but for Oakwood High School senior Mary Kidwell, it’s a time to “relax.”
“When I am swimming or competing, I feel free. Usually when I am swimming, my mind is almost blank. It is just a natural instinct at this point. Swim practice is anywhere from an hour to two hours a day where I don’t have to think, I can just relax and go,” Kidwell said.
Kidwell has spent a lot of time in the pool. She began swimming for the Oakwood Dolphins when she was four. But swimming hasn’t been her only activity, she has participated in tennis, basketball, fencing, ballet, soccer, golf, volleyball, cross country and track.
“Ever since I was young, I have loved being active. So finding an activity where I can be active while spending time with my friends is important to me. In addition, I love the feeling of being on a team and making new friends,” Kidwell said.
Kidwell say the OHS swim team is “like a second family” to her.
“Through swimming, I have become friends or come to know people I might not have known otherwise. In addition, the same thing applies to track and cross country,”
She’s also become a leader on the swim team, this year being named a captain.
“As team captain, Mary demonstrates leadership in a variety of ways. She sets positive examples at practices, cheers on her teammates through tough practices or meets, and goes above and beyond outside of the pool. She will lead the team through warm-ups and put in hours of planning on her own to make sure the year is successful for her teammates,” Swim Coach Audrey Martin said.
Kidwell has also experienced individual success, qualifying for three different state competitions.
“My junior year swim season, I competed on the 200 free relay at state in prelims and finals, hitting a personal best and close to personal best time during both races. My junior track season, I qualified individually for the state meet in the 800m. Although I did not hit a personal best at this race, I did the week prior at Regionals. In addition, going into the state race I was seated 18th (last) but finished 15th. My last highlight would be competing on the state cross country team for Oakwood. At the state meet, I placed 75th out of 177 runners, while the team placed 14th out of 20 teams,” Kidwell said.
Coach Martin says it’s not just Kidwell’s athletic success that make her a good role model but also her work ethic in the classroom.
“Mary represents the highest level of student-athlete at all times. She works hard at practice, but also works diligently in the classroom. She understands how to balance many activities at once and does so successfully. She improves her times and technique at each practice and meet, showing other athletes that hard work pays off, and carries that attitude in the classroom as well,” Martin said.
While swimming may seem like an individual sport, for Oakwood High School senior Brendan Tsui it’s the teammates that make it a good sport for him.
“Every team I've been on doesn't just feel like a bunch of peers, I feel as though they are my closest friends. My highlights are definitely the friendships I've built over the years as I've met people through sports that I typically wouldn't meet through school,” Tsui said.
That strong team feeling is demonstrated in Tsui’s actions as one of this year’s OHS swim and dive team captains.
“He shows up on time every day with a positive attitude. Even if he is having a rough practice, you can always count on him to encourage his teammates and complete the set. Brendan cheers for his teammates at meets and helps new swimmers navigate practices and meets,” Swim Coach Audrey Martin said.
Tsui began club swimming in the seventh grade and competing for school in eighth grade.
“Swimming gives me a concrete purpose. While competing, I have a goal that I am certain of and it is to swim as hard and fast as I can. It is also the confidence I have while swimming. During the swim, it's only your individual performance. You don't have to react to an opponent. It's only what you're capable of,” Tsui said.
Coach Martin says Tsui is capable of some great swims thanks to his solid work ethic. His “thoughtful and driven” technique during practices and competition also makes him a great role model for his teammates.
“Brendan's attitude and work ethic constantly make him a good role model for the team. He is always on time and prepared, he takes on challenging practices with eagerness, and he encourages his teammates to do the same. Coaching an athlete that encompasses all of these qualities makes my job so enjoyable. By following Brendan's lead, other members of the team can only improve,” Martin said.
While Tsui doesn’t know what the future holds for his competitive swimming, he believes it will continue to be a part of his life.
“Even if I don't swim competitively in college, swimming is a sport where organization isn't necessary and is already a very good workout. I can see myself still enjoying swim and using swim as a way to stay fit and healthy after I graduate.”
When Oakwood coaches call an athlete “The Oakwood Jack,” it’s obvious that student athlete has made an impression. That is certainly true of this month’s Jack of the Month, Oakwood High School senior Jack Henry.
A two-time captain of the OHS wrestling team, Henry has been wrestling since the third grade. He says there’s more than just physical toughness that goes into being a successful wrestler.
“Wrestling is not only a physical sport, but it is also one that builds character and teaches a multitude of life lessons that I will bring into my future,” Henry said.
Head Wrestling Coach Nick Berger says Henry is also sharing those life lessons with his fellow wrestlers.
“He is definitely a role model for our underclassman. The way he practices and drills is a great example for the younger wrestlers to see and try to emulate. Jack is extremely dependable and I can rely on him to be another coach out on the mat,” Berger said.
While Henry has had success on the mat, including qualifying for Districts his freshmen year, his wrestling career has had its setbacks. He’s dealt with his share of injuries but says hard work and perseverance has helped him push through. Berger agrees, Henry “has a motor that doesn’t stop.”
“He goes 100% all the time and many times he wears out his opponent in the third period because of his ability to keep pushing the whole time,” Berger said.
And while he will say goodbye to the OHS wrestling team as a student athlete, he won’t stop being “The Oakwood Jack.”
“It has been exciting to see the Oakwood wresting program grow over the years and I wish the underclassmen on the team best of luck for their years to come.”
While there may not be highlights on the scoreboard or in record books for Oakwood High School cheerleaders, the hard work and dedication these student athletes give to the program makes an impact. This month’s Jill of the Month, Julia Mullen has been firing up Oakwood crowds since she came to the program in seventh program.
“Julia is an extremely talented cheerleader in making up new dances and she has outstanding showmanship! Oakwood fans gravitate to watch her on game days because she shines so brightly!” Varsity Cheer Coach Kathy Barlow said.
Julia says she has benefitted from the program, growing as a person and getting “to explore a completely different, creative side.”
“When I’m cheering, I get this indescribable feeling. I feel excited, happy and always a tad bit nervous. But I mainly feel content. I get the sense that I'm at home. This is what I want to be doing for my high school career: cheering on our football and basketball players, getting the crowds excited through cheers and chants, performing dances, and so much more,” Mullen said.
Barlow says Mullen is “driven by hard work and dedication,” that shows on game day and ever day with her peers.
“At the end of a long eight-hour cheer camp day, Julia was still practicing the dance like it was a game day performance, giving 100% even when she’s not asked too! Her cheerleading peers think so highly of her she was voted ‘Most Spirited’ in the fall,” Barlow said.
And while her official cheering days will most likely come to an end when she graduates, Mullen says don’t count her out on the sidelines.
“I will always come back home to cheer on and support the Jacks and my best friends that I’ve made through cheer.”
Senior Tess Henderson has been playing field hockey in Oakwood since the fourth grade, thanks to her sisters.
“Field Hockey is a family sport for me. All of my older sisters played when they were in high school. They are my role models, so I decided I wanted to continue to play in high school,” Henderson said.
As the fourth and last of the Henderson sisters to play Oakwood High School field hockey, Coach Mitch Miller says it seems like he’s known Henderson forever. He describes this team leader as “fierce, determined, positive and yet kind and caring for her teammates and others.”
Henderson says while her sport is quite physical, it requires mental skill as well.
“When I am on the field, I play smart. I'm always thinking on the field and deciding my next move. I also talk to my teammates while on the field, I actually talk so much my voice goes hoarse by the end of the game,” Henderson said.
It’s that type of leadership that Miller says makes Henderson the “epitome of a senior role model.”
“She was instrumental in our team's success this season, whether she was leading on the field or on the sidelines. She has dedicated the last nine years to organized field hockey. Tess always thanks us, the coaching staff, daily for what we do. She always gives 100%. She's always ‘all in,’” Miller said.
While high school field hockey is over for Henderson, she says the impact will stay with her.
“Being on a team really sets me up for my future because I now have lifelong friends and I have learned good life lessons along the way. I've learned to listen to other people's opinions, live with passion and always have a positive attitude,” Henderson said.
And she says Coach Miller will also continue to have an impact thanks to one of his key phrases, "have self discipline, a positive mental attitude and give honest hard work.”
Running more than 50 miles a week makes Dolan Johnson “a great example to his teammates,” according to Oakwood High School Cross Country Coach Dan Flaute. All of that training also helped to earn Johnson a spot at this year’s OHSAA State Meet.
Johnson started running track and field in the sixth grade when he lived in Oklahoma. He had “played all the main sports that are known, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey” but it was running that he continues because he loves it.
“The feeling when I run is really indescribable. It is a very powerful feeling of excitement and pain. It is very hard to describe, it is not like any other sport,” Johnson said.
It’s a sport he hopes to continue.
“It fits into my future because this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, I want to run and become the best.”
Calm, composed and focused. That’s just three ways October Jill of the Month Amy Sarle has been described. Coach Elizabeth Kussman says the Oakwood High School junior midfielder “leads by example.” And while she may have questioned Sarle’s pre-game preparation at one time, she doesn’t any more.
“On my way to Lane one day for a game, I saw Amy walking up the large hill on Far Hills near Five Points. Her glasses were dark because of all the sun, she had headphones in, a scowl on her face, walking with a purpose and basically looked like the terminator. I was confused why she wasn’t at the field for our game yet and a little irritated. That game she went out and played unbelievable and I haven’t questioned her game preparation methods again!!” Kussman said.
Sarle says she started playing soccer when she was 10. While she also ran, swam and played tennis, soccer was always her favorite.
“Whenever I play, I can just relax and have fun. It’s a nice break from school and whatever else is going on,” Sarle said.
She may be relaxing but this team leader says she always puts 100% effort into her player. Her coach says she does even more than that.
“Amy gives 110% every time she steps foot on the field. She disrupts the defense of other teams with high pressure and can take anyone 1v1. She’s a versatile player, as well, and plays quite composed under pressure and distributes the ball so well from midfield,” Kussman said.
Kussman says it’s not just Sarle’s play that that makes her an asset to the team.
“Amy’s attitude and demeanor make her an absolute joy to coach. I wish I had multiples of her! She is the type of kid who will do anything she is asked without question. She excels on the soccer field, but the classroom as well.”
Tommy Lunne, the October Jack of the Month, is a three-sport athlete at Oakwood High School. Soon he’ll hang up his football pads and move into the Pit for the start of the basketball season. From there, he’ll head to the diamond for baseball, a sport he’s been playing since he was four years old. Obviously, this Jack senior loves sports.
“I love competing. It’s a great feeling winning a game with your friends,” Lunne said.
OHS Head Football Coach Butch Snider agrees Lunne’s competitive spirit helps him be the player he is.
“Tommy is a good athlete who works hard every day. He has the ability to both throw and run the ball effectively for us. He is a competitor who will do whatever is needed to help the team be successful,” Snider said.
As the quarterback this year, Lunne has been a leader on the field. Snider says his positive play doesn’t stop there.
“He is always a positive person who helps to make his teammates better and always displays great sportsmanship on and off the field of play,” Snider said.
Lunne says he tries “hard to be the best” he can be and his coach agrees.
“Not only is he a good football player but he is an outstanding person too. He is very unselfish and committed to giving his best effort not only for himself but for his teammates as well,” Snider said.
Will Midtbo, the September Jack of the Month, has been making his mark on Oakwood High School soccer since he was a freshman.
“As a freshman, Will was a little smaller than he is now. At first sight, I was not sure how much he would be adding to the program, but watching that first burst of speed and ability, we knew early on that Will could help the program, he could help varsity from day one,” Varsity boys’ soccer coach Kyle Duwel said.
Midtbo says one of his “favorite” memories also comes from that first year playing for OHS.
“One of my favorite moments during my career was the first time I got an assist during a varsity game. I was just a freshman and everything seemed so overwhelming and fast paced. I don’t really remember how I got the assist but I just remember how much energy and excitement there was right after. It was something I hadn’t experienced during a game before,” Midtbo said.
Now a senior and captain of the team, Midtbo is a leader on and off the field.
“At the end of last season, Will was ready to lead from day one. He understood he wanted to be a leader for the team in his senior season and has done so. He wants the team to be great and he knows it starts by example,” Duwel said.
Midtbo began playing soccer when he was four. While he also played basketball and ran track, it was soccer that he loved playing.
“No matter who the other players are on the team or who the coaches are, I am going to play because of my love for the game. Fortunately, I have had Incredible teammates over the past years and knowledgeable dedicated coaches alongside me,” Midtbo said.
Even though he’s wrapping up his senior season, Midtbo says soccer will stay a part of his life.
“No matter what path I take in life. I hope I will always have soccer in it. Whether that be coaching or having a team I support and follow, it is important to me that soccer will always stay in my life.”
Sarah Hall, the September Jill of the Month, may be new to Oakwood High School tennis, being a freshman, but she’s not new to the sport in which she is excelling. She began playing tennis when she was seven and has stuck with it because she just loves playing.
Varsity girls’ tennis coach Kim Gilbert says no one should take her for granted based on her age or experience.
“Sarah is one of the most intense players I've ever coached. She is a freshman who plays with confidence, power and intellect,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert first met Hall at tryouts in August but very quickly knew the freshman would make an impact on the OHS tennis. At the Pickerington Central Doubles Invitational in mid-August, Hall joined sophomore Lily McCloskey to play first doubles. The pair won, helping OHS win the event and take down some of the toughest teams in the state.
“Her [Hall] performance on the court at the Pickerington Doubles tournament exceeded all of my expectations as an athlete and team player,” Gilbert said.
Winning the tournament ranks as one of Hall’s favorite memories in her young career, a career that has already seen a lot of success this season.
“Sarah is an excellent example of a talented athlete but keeping humble. She knows there are better players and she is looking for ways to improve, working and dedicating her time to tennis for the team,” Gilbert said.
In the future, Hall hopes to play tennis for a Division 1 college, and after that who knows how long she will stay on the court.
“Tennis is a great sport, because whether you’re 90 or 3, you can still play and have fun with it.”