SWIMMERS SWING FOR THE FENCES: Daniel Byrnes '21 uses a weighted bar to hit balls on the track field at Patrick Henry High School on Saturday, April 4 to do "dry land" training with his fellow Gators Swim teammates. Byrnes gets to swim almost daily, when he is scheduled for training with fewer than 10 people at the Gator Swim Center. Photo by Robert Robillard
Story and photo by Hannah Nguyen
Most people who follow Raider basketball would know this big name who has played almost 100 games since he was an eight-grader: Nelson Etuk ‘20. “Nelson have done an awesome job this year - one of the most talented kids I have coached,” said Head Coach Taylor Shannon. “His sophomore and junior years he continued to grow as a player, but this year, he stepped up defensively: rebounded the ball really well and scored when needed it, which is a plus.” In his last season as a high school player, Etuk scored 9.6 points and rebounded 4.6 per game. “Nelson is a senior on the team so everyone in the team look up to him as a leader,” Grayson Bloomfield said. “He is the most athletic person on the team, so we all love playing with him.”
By Hannah Nguyen
Led by head coach Dr. Paul Haskins, North Cross’s ice hockey team made its way to Pittsburgh, PA for their first tournament and won the Three Rivers Cup tournament in their first season ever.
The team spent months of training at Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton with coach Haskins, who teamed up with assistant coach Dr. Damon Kuehl and Roanoke Junior Rail Yard Dawgs U16 travel team head coach Steve Esworthy as the remaining assistant coach.
Besides adding interested students from area high school including Roanoke Catholic, Salem High School, Lord Botetourt, Patrick Henry, Cave Spring, and Northside, our school has four players: Lennon Kuehl ‘23, Jackson Haskins ‘22, Zane Ratliff ‘22, and Maddox Haskins ‘24.
These players have been playing ice hockey since their very young age.
Coach Christopher Pollock, our school Assistant Athletic Director, shared: “The team is made up of travel players from the Roanoke Valley. These guys have played for years together and now they play for our High School as a club team.”
The team’s successful tournament started when they defeated the Miami of Ohio Red Hawks team 12-3 in their first tier of tournament play. The next Sunday they defeated Chatterton High School, 9-0. On Monday afternoon, the team, which is composed mostly of U16 players, would be pitted against the Pittsburgh Vipers U18 team, the team that the Raiders had defeated 3-2 earlier that day for the finals. After the first two periods passed scoreless, the North Cross team scored 5 goals in the last period to take the win and the cup.
“It feels great to win a tournament first year as a team!”, Jackson Haskins ‘21 said with excitement.
“Playing ice hockey helps me with my condition and balance,” Haskins said. He has been playing ice hockey since he was 4. “My dad got me into ice hockey at a young age. He taught me how to skate and inspired me to play hockey,” he said.
When being asked what he likes about ice hockey, Lennon Kuehl ‘23, who has also been playing ice hockey for nine years, said, “Hockey has made me a much better athlete. It’s affected all aspects of my life.”
Kuehl, who plays goalie, also expressed that ice hockey is an extremely mental and physical sport. “It’s very active. There is never a time I don’t want to be skating,” Kuehl commented.
Zane Ratliff ‘22, who started playing ice hockey when he was 3, looks forward to next year as a year that they can improve as a team, possibly play more tournaments and build the history of North Cross’s ice hockey.
“Our plan for next season is,” Coach Pollock said, “to continue to play in tournaments and possibly play against other high schools from Virginia and Washington, DC.”
By Tobi Bankole
Varsity swimming has had a triumphant year. With swimmers Daniel Byrnes and Asia Minnes leading the boys and girls teams respectively, the swim team has had a triumphant season. They had a somewhat turbulent start to the season when their longtime coach, Jon Circo, stepped down and was replaced by Kirsten Erwin. However the team did not let this deter them, and flourished even more under Erwin’s instruction.
Zack Sommer ‘20, longtime swimmer, said that he enjoyed the team’s new atmosphere. “I’m not the most into swimming, but I’m definitely going to miss it more when I graduate. I’m sad this is my last year.”
Sommer showed significant improvement in his last year, dropping a few seconds off of his 50 free and 100 free.
Kendra Earls ‘20 said that losing Sirco was a big blow to the team, but they bounced back quickly. “He wasn’t at our first away meet, which was kind of scary. But coach Erwin came in and she did great.”
The difference in their coaching styles was a big change for the swimmers, especially those like Earls, Sam Karlen ‘20, Patrick Daly ‘20 and Daniel Byrnes ‘19.
“Sirco was more hands off, so we learned from experience,” Earls said, “but Ms. Erwin is really good about telling you what you’re doing wrong and helping you get better at it.”
Karlen also shaved off time from his 50 free and 100 free. “In total, I cut five or six seconds from my 100 and four seconds from my 50.”
Byrnes, in particular, had a successful season. Earning first team all state this year, Byrnes continue to dominate in the water. Adjusting to a new coach was challenging, and a shoulder injury prevented him from performing his best at conference, but he persevered. He bounced back at states, going on to place second in both his events.
Byrnes was modest about his triumphs. “I did alright,” he said. “There were places I could have done better, but I was mostly happy with my record.”
Daly had no such reservations and shared praise about his teammate.
“Daniel was a phenomenal swimmer this year and he was able to break a school record that he set again last year in the 200 free at states. It was amazing to watch him swim as always,” he said.
Daly also shared how impressed he was with Byrnes’ work ethic. “He’s early to every practice and one of the last people to leave everyday.”
Other than Byrnes, Asia Minnes made a splash on the 2020 swim season. Hailing from Canada, Minnes is an elite swimmer who already committed to the University of Tennessee. She had a successful season, placing first in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley at states. Ranked number six in the state and 37th in the country, Minnes’ arrival injected a fervor into the team.
“It’s really amazing to watch her in the water,” said Earls. “It’s motivating to have someone so good swimming with you. And she’s a really cool person out of the pool, too. The whole team got even closer this year.”
By WHH Staff
Since they were 5 years old, three boys have been playing soccer together and now they’re playing for the Raiders.
Juniors Cole Thompson, Andrew Sexton and Andrew Eigenfeld had been separated from each other since grade 9, when they were all at Staunton River together. Thompson arrived at North Cross last year. Andrew Sexton switched to Salem High last year. Eigenfeld remained at Staunton River by himself last year and was the only boy who continued to play team-soccer.
Thompson said that he did not want to play last year, because he didn’t have any friends. So he recruited his old teammates.
“Andrew E. has played the most of the group early,” coach James Brown said in an email interview. “He attended the team camp with us back in July, so he was able to get a jump start on learning the system. With Andrew’s great size and speed we have been able to use him in a number of different positions. He has done well and as he continues to learn. He will only get better and better.”
Eigenfeld, a former striker, who said he now gets placed at right-midfield in the new system, has scored three times and assisted on five goals for a total of 11 points in 19 games.
“Andrew S. and Cole also give us more experience and depth,” Coach Brown said. “This is important as we manage our way through a difficult regular season. Having fresh bodies to continually throw at teams is always a plus. With only one senior, our junior class has to really step up and lead. They have been able to help in this leadership thus far. When the three of them are on the field together, it is evident that they have played with one another for a while.”
Both Sexton and Thompson have scored one goal each.
The boys also face transitions academically.
Now, Sexton takes two AP classes —AP Physics and AP English after taking AP U.S. History last year at Salem. He expressed disdain for Salem’s grading system, which only assigns an A to 94% or above.
“Salem was a lot harder because of their grading scale,” Sexton said. “So like 94.5% is an A . . . 79 is a D and here it’s one point from a B”.
Eigenfeld is also taking AP English.
Despite their promising abilities, none hopes to play soccer in college.
“I used to,” Sexton said during the interview, “but not much anymore.”
Meanwhile, the team is doing well. So far, the defending state champions have a record of 13-4-1 after tying Carlisle in a storm-shortened game.
The veteran members of the team say they work to build team chemistry with the new players.
“We need to move the ball quicker,” said Spencer Brown ‘21, who will return to play center-midfield after suffering a stress fracture in his foot. He said the team needs to stop dribbling into trouble and pass the ball more often.
Brown, who scored the winning goal in the state championship, has 12 points to his credit this year.
Rees Wenk ‘22, who shares right-midfield responsibilities with Eigenfeld, noted the fact that the tie with Carlisle felt unjust, but it happens with rivalries.
“Especially Carlisle,” Wenk said. “[The rivalry] feels kinda salty.”
The team will not have to play any rivalry matches for a while. During Homecoming week, they only played Southwest Virginia Home School, who they defeated 4-1 on a hat trick by Geist Pollock. Then, they played a succession of tough Division I teams - a schedule designed to prepare the squad for the rigors of post-season play. The team knows it will not be easy to repeat.
“Feels like there is a target on our back,” Brown said “Every team tries harder when they play us.”
By WHH Staff
The boys cross-country team enters the final meet of the season with one of the deeper pools of talent in recent years.
Henry Robinson ‘22 transfered from Patrick Henry and began summer workouts with the team after a rugged regimen of hiking and backpacking with a National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming.
That rigor made Robinson tough enough for Middle School Hill and the Raiders’ demanding schedule. Robinson’s best 5K this year was 18:59 at the CHARCS invitational. Like most runners, Robinson’s time on the Raiders’ home course is about a minute slower.
“Henry came to the team with a level of experience and dedication that added immediately to the depth of our boys’ team,” said head coach Ed Dickenson. “From the first day, he trained with the front group and supported his teammates and our team philosophy with total enthusiasm. He is one of those athletes who commits himself to the team effort and knows how to push himself to the next level. He knows how to dig in during tough practices and keep going even when he is at his limit, and that is a special quality. We needed another runner to add depth to our top 5, and Henry (and Kyle Thomson) showed total commitment . . . . to carry on the best traditions of our cross country team.”
By WHH Staff
Caroline Lystash ‘20 won the BRC singles title over teammate Kylie Schaefer ‘23 (8-3) last Saturday at VES, which will allow NCS to host the event next year.
Previously, Emma Cartledge ‘17 and Charlotte Cartledge have won the singles title.
Chloe Hunt ‘21 won the consolation match to secure third place, making the tournament a clean sweep for the Raiders.
The girls’ tennis team has beenranked No. 7 in VISAA Div. II, impressive for a team comprised of five underclassmen.
No. 1 singles player Lystash has been on the team for five years, and is undefeated in singles.
“We have a really good team this year,” Lystash said. “I think we are going to win it [the conference championship.]”
Indeed, the Raiders won. Last year, the team lost to Virginia Episcopal School, but the Raiders are ranked ahead of VES, and the young players are gaining competitive toughness heading toward playoffs.
“Reagan Karlen is a very consistent player, and is an integral part of the team,” Lystash said, “as well as juniors Chloe Hunt and Genny Chandel.”
By Kevin Dinh
Climbing the 2.55-mile to the top of Poage Mt. culminated six years of tough training in the cross-country program for Patrick Daly ‘20, the team leader.
“The last mountain run was bitter-sweet,” Daly said, “because it is my favorite workout and really checks our fitness before states and knowing it was my last time running it.
“It was great to see how well our team did and put in a really great hard effort . . . . I was very excited to break the record set by Harry Pearson by 10 seconds.”
Coach Ed Dickenson said the mountain run goes from pavement to gravel up 27% grades in various places. “Patrick killed it,” he said.
The team bonds over the rigorous run, taking team photos at the top, including a mini version of the unoffical team mascot - the sloth.
Initiated by Kerrigan Chaney ‘24, who recently placed fourth in the state championships for middle school girls, the sloth adds levity to the grind.
“We didn’t choose the sloth,” said Michael Habib ‘20, “the sloth chose us.”
Daly recounts it with glee.
“We chose sloth as our mascot because during track and field Kerrigan carried her sloth to practice one day and we loved it. Sam [Karlen] and I thought sloth was so funny, and then she brought it to the cross country team and now it is the team animal.”
The boys are approaching their final race of the season by making goals.
Habib hopes to place as all-state and help the team get top-three.
“This year at states,” Daly said, “I hope to achieve a top-10 place after receiving 4th at conference.”
By WHH staff
Most Raiders’ fans know the big names who score most of the points on an offense averaging almost 40 points per game.
We know Zae Baines ‘20 is one of the most widely recognized football talents in the history of the school.
While Head Coach Stephen Alexander emphasizes the way in which stellar players like Baines play well as a group. “It helps that those talented players play well together,” he said.
“Zae is probably the best athlete that I’ve coached in my career,” Alexander said. “He’s very gifted in terms of his size, speed, quickness and athleticism. He’s typically the best player on the field almost every game.”
Maybe people don’t know how many touchdowns he has scored this season (12), but we know he will be playing at rising FBS power Temple University next year.
“It’s inspiring to be playing with Zae because he’s going to a DI school,” said cornerback Juwan Jackson ‘21. “I get to be on the field with a DI talent.”
We know Baines might have even more touchdowns if defenses didn’t spend so much time trying to double and triple-team him.
The team has a balanced passing and rushing attack because the healthy Isaac Harris ‘20 is distracting defenses with his powerful running. Maybe people can’t keep track of how many touchdowns (21) he has scored, but we know he is a big deal since the Roanoke Times has put his picture in the paper on three different occasions and featured him in a major story.
“He’s healthy, and he’s strong,” Alexander said about Harris, “and he’s quicker than he’s ever been. He’s added a very valuable dimension to our offense.”
We are starting to notice that quarterback Gabe Zappia ‘21 set a single-game record for passing yards (436) against the second-ranked team in VISAA Division II. He has passed for 25 TDs this year and rushed for two by himself.
“Gabe has done a good job of maturing from last year,” Alexander said. “And he’s more accurate. He has a very good group of seniors who he can throw to. Again, football is very dependent on the players working well together. Gabe is playing well, and so are his receivers.”
Most of us do not focus on what happens after the big names score all those touchdowns. That’s when Vedant Muse ‘22 converts the point-after-attempt. Because of all the scoring, Muse has attempted 60 PATs and converted 49. He kicked his first field goal of the season in a loss to Trinity Episcopal.
In other words, Muse is one of the top four scorers on the team with 52 points.
“Vedant has been a very pleasant surprise for us at place kicker,” Alexander said. “He joined the team late in the summer and has provided with a level of consistency at kicker that we have not had in awhile. We’re excited to see him develop in the next two years.”
Muse learned to kick by playing soccer, and he also shares kick-off duties with Baines. Recently, he started learning some of the other positions to be ready to substitute for other players in case of injury. For now, he gets to specialize.
“I always wanted to be a kicker,” Muse said, “and I have been kicking for a long time. So I asked coach and he let me try.”
By Nathan Seidel
The baseball team has started the year red hot, pummeling three out of their first four opponents by 10 or more runs and coming from 10 runs down to top Roanoke Valley Christian 14-10.
Several Raiders have been on a roll hitting the ball, with two players’ batting averages at .400 or above. Justin Jensen (‘16) and Josh Greenway (‘17) have led the team so far, as they have combined for 32 runs scored and 25 RBIs (runs batted in) between the two of them.
Even after the fast start, the team lost a blowout to the Eagles of Covenant. Greenway thinks the team can perform at a much higher level than they played against Covenant.
“Our season started off really well,” Greenway said, “We’ve only lost two games, but we haven’t been playing as good as I thought we should.”
The highlight of the 2015 campaign was a game where the Raiders found themselves down by 10 runs to RVCS and managed to claw their way back for a four-run victory. RVCS’s pitchers walked 18 hitters in the game, allowing the Raiders to score 13 runs in the sixth inning to take the lead.
This win was big for the Raiders, showing that they do not crumble when down big. The win gives the team momentum for the rest of the season.
“As the season goes on,” Jensen said, “We’ll get better and hopefully make a run at states.”
The team is looking to purge the memories of last season, when they lost in the state semifinals to Fuqua 5-4.
Even with the momentum of revenge driving them, the Raiders fell to Fuqua again last Saturday by one run, 6-5. Fuqua scored five unearned runs in the second inning, dealing a mortal blow to the Raiders.
The team’s first six games were blowouts, but they have played in more close games of late. Next up for the Raiders is a showdown with the Bulldogs of Liberty Christian (LCA), a familiar foe that has already achieved a 7-0-1 record so far this year. The Bulldogs’ last two games were a 23-0 shellacking of Virginia Episcopal School (VES), and a 13-0 victory over Fishburne Military.
The LCA game will be a tough test for the Raiders, and a victory would likely catapult them even higher than their state ranking of third overall. The team wants to do everything it can to go deep into the state tournament again this year.
Coach Eric Lawrence shares the goal of his players. “I think that making it to the state title game would mean that we came together as a team,” he said, “and accomplished some things that even we didn’t know we could accomplish.”