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Winter sports dive into season, hope for success

Members of the girls ice hockey team pose for a photo after the first day of tryouts, Monday, Nov. 27.
Callie Saris
Members of the girls’ ice hockey team pose for a photo after the first day of tryouts, Monday, Nov. 27.

As the fall breeze turns into a chilly winter nip, winter sports are kicking into high gear at North. Athletes and coaches are eager to have a successful season while fostering personal growth and positive team spirit. 

This year, winter sports include boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ indoor track, boys’ and girls’ ice hockey, gymnastics, boys’ swim and dive, dance, wrestling, nordic skiing, and alpine skiing. 

According to athletic director Mike Jackson, North’s athletics provide an environment where students can develop socially and emotionally. “What I’m always looking forward to is for our student-athletes to have a good experience,” he said. “In the 12 or so weeks that coaches and athletes are together, you can see improvements in so many areas, a lot of which have nothing to do with the actual sport. That growth over time is always something that I enjoy watching.” 

Todd Sundstrom, the newly appointed head coach of girls’ basketball, wants to cultivate team synergy and collaboration, two skills that transcend the basketball court. “My goal this season and every season is getting to a place where the players are ultimate teammates and will do anything to succeed for each other,” said Sundstrom. “When you can get to that place, the winning takes care of itself.” 

According to Sundstrom, the team is primed for success this year. “I am incredibly optimistic about the upcoming season,” he said. “We have a great mix of returners as well as up-and-coming talent. Now we just need to focus on getting better each and every day.”

Gymnastics head coach Cassie Ford also has a promising mix of young and experienced talent at her disposal. “I’m excited about having the returning members of the team, but I’m also excited to see a lot of really talented new members show their skills throughout the season,” she said. 

Ford, who led her team to a 4th place finish at States last season, hopes her team will continue its success. “We’re taking where we left off at the end of last season and continuing to go from there with the positive energy, the skills from the returners that we have, and really motivating the newcomers while building off of the experience that we had last season,” she said. 

Senior Spike Michel, a captain along with seniors Eva Riesenburger, Dianna Tartaglia, and Daniella Clark, is optimistic about his team’s chances to perform well at states. “We’re really confident that we can improve and we’re looking good going into the season,” he said.

North’s teams will rely on their supportive fans this winter, and boys’ indoor track is no exception, according to senior Gabe Grove, a captain along with seniors Reeve Derby, DJ Harvey, Jonas Helman, and Theo Teszler.  “I am excited for the energy that the winter season has,” he said. “Newton North prides itself on being one of the loudest teams when it comes to cheering on our athletes during competitions and I look forward to carrying on that tradition.”  

Boys’ indoor track, known for its high standards and an impressive 27-year undefeated streak, faces the challenge of maintaining its dominance. “There’s a standard that the athletes set and the bar keeps getting met every season. They’re motivated all the time to achieve these goals which is great,” said math teacher Shawn Wallace, the head coach. 

According to Wallace, the team graduated many talented seniors last year but he is confident that the returning members of the team can step up and replace their leadership. 

 “I’m excited to see which of the new members, sophomores or juniors, will fill the roles because there are some big holes,” he said.

Wrestling also prioritizes creating an environment that encourages underclassmen to succeed,  according to campus aide John Staulo, the head coach. 

“In wrestling, we don’t discourage anybody because everyone has a chance,” he said. “When we start practices and competition, I want to get to a level where everybody experiences some measure of success.” 

While North athletics aim to uphold their impressive standing this winter, budget cuts introduce significant challenges, according to Jackson. “There’s transportation that we can’t provide for scrimmages, we had to cut some coaches, and we have to watch what equipment we are buying, so we are trying to be mindful of everything that we spend right now until we can get past this point,” he said.

In these challenging circumstances, North athletics must stick to its pillars for success, which are competitiveness, respect, and inclusion, according to Jackson. 

“If we’re doing those things, we’re always doing the right things,” he said.

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Aanya Vishwanath
Aanya Vishwanath, Sports Managing Editor
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