Alums Thriving in College Athletics

This story originally appeared on The Willistonian website.

Williston alums are proving themselves to be prominent contributors as they compete on the field, ice, court, and in the pool at college.

As most colleges enter a new semester, many sports teams are gearing up for a new season while others are using some much-needed free time after last season’s games.

Williston’s structured environment sends most student athletes off to college prepared and ready for the new challenge. Last year, members of the Class of 2022 went off to play a wide range of sports, including water polo, swimming, ice hockey, basketball, football, and many more. With 39% of the Class of 2022 going on to play their sport at the collegiate level, they are already making on impact on their new teams.

Providence College Swimmer Ava Larkin has found some comfort in how similar the meets are in college compared to Williston, although she says the level of competition has soared.

“The competition is a lot different and is way more competitive,” Larkin said. “Racing at meets is somewhat similar to how it was in high school given the team environment, but you can tell the competition takes things a lot more seriously.”

Larkin competed on the Williston swim team for six years. While on the team she established herself as a versatile swimmer, competing in a variety of events from sprinting to distance as well as every stroke. During her time competing for the team, Larkin swam eight individual events at NEPSAC Championships, where she placed second four times behind fellow Wildcat Sydney Joyce ’19, as well as earning four champion titles. Larkin’s legacy lives on; she currently holds five Williston records.

Similarly, Maeve Reynolds, a ’22 alum now skating for the Amherst College Hockey team, attributes her successful transition from Williston to several factors, including academic habits as well as having an old teammate by her side.

“I think Williston really prepares you with time management skills,” said Reynolds. “After learning to do work during my frees and before study hall at Williston, it made it pretty easy to transition and do my work during my free time here at Amherst.”

“I am also very lucky to be going to Amherst with a few Williston classmates which makes the transition even easier,” Reynolds added. “Having Natalie [Stott, Williston ’22] at school with me has made my transition so much easier, having a familiar face around here.”

Reynolds, a Plymouth, Mass., native was a boarder at Williston for four years. During her time here she was a prominent center for the team, helping lead them to win the 2022 New England Championship.

Although her time at Amherst has been short, Reynolds has already had a large impact on the community. As a freshman, she has played in most of their games and has scored seven goals. Reynolds was recognized as the Amherst Student Athlete of the month for her tremendous work in the classroom and on the ice.

Christian Ubochi, originally from Nigeria, came to Williston last year as a post graduate. After only a year on the basketball team, Ubochi was named to the All-NEPSAC post season honorable mention list.

Ubochi echoes Reynolds as he credits his recent success as a member of the University of Pennsylvania Men’s Basketball team to his time spent at Williston.

“I had a great experience there, and the school indeed helped me achieve my goals of playing sports in college,” he said. “I think the curriculum at Williston gave me a glimpse of what it is like to be a student athlete, in terms of managing a rigorous schedule with academics and sports. I think my time in Williston helped me in terms of time management.”

Although outstanding in its own right, the Class of 2022 is just a small part of Williston’s long-term athletic success. Sports recruiting is a very tricky and tough process. Depending on the sport you play, some athletes commit as early as freshman year and some as late as their senior year.

In 2019, the NCAA, changed their rules on how student-athletes can be recruited. As of now, players are not allowed to talk to coaches until June 15 of their junior year. Many athletes spend months or even years sending emails to coaches, knowing they are unable to get a response until this time.

Zac Landon ’22, a current student athlete at Colby College, from Longmeadow, Mass., explained that although his lacrosse recruitment process was difficult, Williston’s college counseling office helped him navigate everything.

“It was tough with Covid because it didn’t give me many opportunities to play in front of college coaches,” Landon explained. “The Williston College Counseling office helped me see that I really wanted to attend a NESCAC school. The conference provided everything I was looking for in terms of academics, athletics, and social life.”

While at Colby, Landon and his team have been preparing for their season diligently, following “a plan comprised of lifting 3-4x a week, practicing 3-4x a week and then conditioning 3x. It has been a lot, but it has put us in a great spot to be successful this spring,” he said.

Many collegiate athletes would argue that preseason is the hardest part of the year. Shutesbury, Mass., native Ella Mattocks ’22 has been training a hefty amount since her arrival back to Villanova for sophomore year.

“We just finished preseason yesterday and it was super fun but also really hard,” she explained. “We were playing water polo between 30-35 hours per week since January 2, but being with the other girls on the team made it a lot easier.”

While at Williston, Mattocks was a part of the Swim and Water Polo teams since middle school. Her athleticism prevailed in both, as she racked up awards such as NEPSAC Champion in the 100 butterfly and All-NEPSAC honors. She also aided the Girls Water Polo team to its first ever NEPSAC Championship win in school history.

While at his first year of College at Connecticut College, Jack Haddad, a member of the Men’s Water Polo team, recognized the importance of training hard.

“In college the level of play is much higher,” Haddad said. “It’s different because there goalies are a lot better, and teams have way more depth, especially Division 1 teams like Harvard whose entire second line is just as good as their starters.”