Athlete Spotlight: A focus on winter sports athletes


Alena Gillespie

Sophomore bowler Olivia Fonseca, senior basketball players Emajin McCallop and Xavier Hall, senior swimmer Blake Allen and sophomore wrestler Maria Ziegler represent the winter sport that they compete in.

Alena Gillespie, Features Editor

Xavier Hall

Basketball has been part of senior Xavier Hall’s life since he was 6. He has been playing the game ever since, all year round.
For the upcoming season, Hall prepares to take a leadership role.
“I want to make connections with my teammates on and off the court,” Hall said. “I’ll do this by staying in contact with them and being friends with them.”
Hall said he looks up to head basketball coach Rick Zych.
“I admire his competitiveness,” Hall said. “He always wants to win.”
Hall’s favorite moment from playing in high school was when Miege won the state championship last year. His top goal is to do the same this year.
“I think a lot of people are underestimating us because we lost Mark [Mitchell] and Taj [Manning],” Hall said. “I still think we’re going to be really good and win several games.”
With a smaller team this year, Hall said he feels that the team will still fit in nicely.
“I think we’ll be able to spread the floor out, so we will be able to play faster,” Hall said. “I’m looking forward to playing with a new set of guys.”

Olivia Fonseca

Motivated by her dad, sophomore Olivia Fonseca has been bowling since she was 5.
As a freshman last year, Fonseca qualified individually for state. This year, she said she aims for the entire team to make it.
“I’m hoping we qualify for state as a team this year,” Fonseca said. “We were only a couple pins away from qualifying the team last year.”
According to Fonseca, the team aspect has allowed her to develop friendships, and she is excited to meet the incoming athletes this year.
“I am looking forward to the new people on the team,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca said head bowling coach, Matt Eshelbrenner, has a way for driving the team.
“He motivates us really well,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca encourages anyone considering joining the bowling team to go for it.
“Don’t knock it until you try it,” Fonseca said. “Most people who do bowling have never bowled before.”

Jack Leavey

During senior Jack Leavey’s sophomore year, he was dragged to dive practice by upperclassman Ethan Waris after not wanting to go.
Today, Leavey is inspired by Waris to continue diving.
For Leavey’s third year competing at dive, he hopes to place high after placing third at state last season.
A moment of dive that stands out to Leavey was during his first ever meet.
“Ethan and I both failed out of our meets and then the next week after, we got first and second,” Leavey said.
Being the only athlete on the dive team, Leavey practices with other dive teams at Blue Valley Southwest. Leavey said he admires his dive coach Jeanette Giangrosso. He hopes anyone interested in diving joins.
“It’s a really good team,” Leavey said.

Tyler Pankey

One event can be a gateway to a person’s life.
For sophomore Tyler Pankey, his dad took him to a wrestling tournament when he was seven. Pankey has competed ever since.
“I’ve been wrestling every year,” Pankey said. “My Grandpa Mark, who competed in high school, inspires me.”
Pankey has set a goal for himself to place in the top three at state.
“I want to compete to the best of my ability,” Pankey said.
At wrestling practice, Coach Ryan Wrigley has the athletes run, do wrestling drills and do lives. Lives are similar to matches.
“He pushes and drives me,” Pankey said.
Before matches, Pankey ties his faith into the sport.
“I pray before every match,” Pankey said.
As a freshman last year, Pankey qualified for state and had a final record of 24-7.
“It feels pretty good,” Pankey said. “I don’t want to be one of the best. I want to be the best.”

Maria Ziegler

Since winter of last year, sophomore Maria Ziegler has competed on the girls’ wrestling team.
The girls’ wrestling team started last year and had a total of three wrestlers. This season, Ziegler as well as two other female wrestler will be on the team.
Ziegler said she was happy when she heard that the school was starting a girls team.
“My brother [initiated me] to do wrestling,” Ziegler said. “He wrestled the four years he was at Miege.”
According to Ziegler, wrestling has had a positive impact on her life.
“I train outside of school, but Miege is where I do all of my competitions,” Ziegler said. “It’s my life.”
Before every wrestling tournament, Ziegler listens to rap music as part of her pre-match ritual.
This season, Ziegler hopes to make it to state and get Miege a trophy.
“It is a hard sport that you have to commit to, but it is really fun,” Zieger said. “You really have to focus.”

Blake Allen

Senior Blake Allen was inspired by his parents to swim. According to Allen, his parents put him in swimming at a young age thinking it was something he would enjoy.
Allen has been swimming for around eight years.
“[Swimming] is a place where I do not have to think about anything,” Allen said. “I go, work hard, any of my other problems are gone for that time.”
To top off his senior season, Allen joined a club team to prepare for his year.
“I wanted to get ready for the swim season before it actually happens,” Allen said.
This year, Allen is taking the role of a senior captain. “I’ll make sure that the team is really working hard and that no one feels left out,” Allen said. “We are all working together to become better.”
According to Allen, he hopes the swimmers will succeed as a team.
“I definitely have expectations that we will get better as a group,” Allen said.
Individually, Allen has set his own goal for the season.
“I definitely want to win a few meets,΅ Allen said.
Swim coach Dennis Mueller has a positive impact on Allen.
“He’s a very friendly and very generous person,” Allen said. ¨He’s all around a really great person and coach.”

Jack Brown

Encouraged by his friends to bowl, senior Jack Brown joined the bowling team his sophomore year.
This season, Brown is looking forward to the Topeka tournament. In previous seasons, driving to this tournament in the school’s white bus has been one of Brown’s favorite memories.
“It is really fun because we get together for a couple days,” Brown said.
A pre tournament ritual that Brown does before each meet is listen to music.
“Rap is my favorite,” Brown said.
According to Brown, his highest score in one game is around 230 pins. Brown said he appreciates the way bowling coach Matt Eshelbrenner conveys to the athletes.
“I admire his ability to communicate with everyone,” Brown said.
Brown said he wishes that anyone with an interest in the sport joins this season.
“It is a lot of fun and you don’t have to be super good,” Brown said.

Emajin McCallop

Basketball has been part of senior captain Emajin McCallop’s life since she was three years old. Next year, McCallop is committed to playing basketball at Alabama A&M.
“I come from a basketball family,” McCallop said. “Seeing all of them doing it growing up, I wanted to do it.”
Due to a knee injury, McCallop will be supporting her teammates for the majority of the season off of the court.
“[I’ll be] keeping the bench energy alive, as well as echoing the coaches play calling,” McCallop said.
According to McCallop, she will also be helping the younger players adjust to high school basketball.
“I still have to lead my team on and off the court,” McCallop said.
McCallop said she looks forward to watching her teammates and encouraging them throughout the season.
“I’m really excited to see what the team does this year and how they overcome and adapt to all these changes,” McCallop said. “I can’t wait to support them the whole way.”