By Elisabeth Cannell
After playing field hockey at Brearley for four years and dabbling in quidditch, Jane Jacoby ’13 arrived at Brown University without a definite extracurricular plan. A member of the crew team “scouted” her early in the year and encouraged her to consider rowing. On a lark she tried out and won a bow seat on the women’s boat that went to Henley and also won the Ivy League championship two years in a row. Another Brown walk-on (and coincidentally a member of Jane’s Brearley peer-leading group) was Sophie Starck ’16. Sophie had been a tri-season athlete all her years at Brearley and “had never lived life without an athletic commitment.” A fellow student who had been a friend at riding camp suggested that she look into the equestrian team. “I tried out and suddenly I was a varsity athlete on a Division 1 team.” Just like at Brearley, practice is a great mental break for Sophie. “I get in the car and drive away from problems for a couple hours.” She is now in charge of the Brown Equestrian twitter account. Check it out: https://twitter.com/browneq?lang=en
Another equestrienne, Sylvia de Toledo ’13, took a very different path. She started riding at age five and began competing at age eight. By the time she was in high school, she was doing homework in the car while traveling to New Jersey and Westchester four afternoons a week. At Southern Methodist University she was named All-UEC in both equitation over fences and on the flat, all the while studying finance in the undergraduate business program. She now works for an investment bank in New York.
Abby Damsky ‘14, who also began competing at eight, just graduated from Brandeis where she specialized in freestyle swimming in the 50, 100 and 200-meter events — “sprinting”. In high school it is common to swim several events, Abby explains, but by college, one has to specialize. During high school she practiced four days a week for Brearley, going to club practice immediately afterwards. She credits coach Dina Barker with helping her balance schoolwork and training. Abby was attracted to Brandeis because of its historical emphasis on social justice. After studying politics and sociology, she recently started working in City Councilman Ben Kallos’ office and is considering a degree in public policy and even running for office herself. She is taking a short break from swimming but plans to join a masters’ team in the fall.
Another four-year high school athlete, Katie Hanss ’13 went on to run track at Princeton but says that her attitude toward sports was formed at Brearley. Math teacher and track coach Karl Paranya influenced her athletic and academic choices. “He was an excellent coach. He’s a very accomplished runner himself but is low key about competition. He taught us that having fun is the first priority and running fast is the second.” Katie explains that Mr. Paranya encouraged her to take a computer science class freshman year, and she went on to major in the field; so her trajectory started, she says, at track practice. Katie still goes on runs with her friends in San Francisco, where she now works as a product manager at Dropbox, coordinating with engineers on desktop applications and advocates for customer support.
Brearley has never had a fencing team, but many of the students were introduced to fencing through the Interschool program hosted by Chapin, and the School has graduated a number of elite swordswomen. Kenya Plenty ’17 and Jamie Noh ’17 were recruited by Columbia and Brandeis last year. Emily Cross ‘04 maintains that she “happened to be bad at every other sport” and tried fencing after watching her father practice for fun. She followed her older brother, also a fencer, to Harvard where they both joined the team. In the middle of her junior year, Emily took time away from school to train for the Beijing Olympics where she and her teammates won silver medals. They returned to some well-deserved fanfare and were welcomed as guests on Oprah. Emily threw the first pitch at Fenway Park the following fall. She recalls her time at Brearley with “fond memories of my math buddies faxing me problem sets to hotels in Europe so I could keep up.” Next year she will be Chief Resident at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Some athletes compete throughout college and then boomerang back to 610. After playing soccer, squash and lacrosse for four years at Brearley, Corey Hacker ’07 returned to coach. She assisted Matt Plunkett with soccer and was often asked to demonstrate proper techniques, having been so recently on the field. “It was a blast, but a little weird being a coach after having been on the Brearley team so recently. I ran into some of the girls later, and we had a group hug.” At Washington University in St. Louis Corey played coed club soccer and found herself to be well prepared. She says she received great training, especially coming from a New York City school. “I was easily comparable to kids who went to big field schools.” Her team experiences at Brearley also prepared her for her career as a nurse in the Pediatric and Neonatal ICUs at Weill Cornell NY Hospital. “I loved athletics at Brearley, I was co-head of the Athletics Association…. That’s probably why I like working in the PICU where you have to anticipate every possible situation, you have to keep calm in a crisis and use leadership skills while coordinating with a team.”
Catherine Egan ‘12 finished her degree in Art History at Williams in 2016 just in time to return to the field house to fill in for her former coach, Doug Levine, who was on sabbatical last year. “Mr. Levine was extremely helpful the summer before I started coaching - he shared practice plans, some of his favorite drills, workouts, etc., and told me a little bit about the returning players. He also encouraged me to find my own relationship with the team, which I really appreciated.” It was “super fun going back to Brearley and reliving my volleyball experience through the girls. I really loved it.” Returning alumnae is a mini-tradition in volleyball. When Catherine was a freshman at Brearley, former player Gabi D’Addario ‘06, who was at Columbia, came back as an assistant coach. The team’s nickname “The Wild” came from a spirit game that originated from way back when Gabi was a senior in 2006. Catherine also substituted in the English Department. “It was very cool to be back at Brearley, a school that gave me so much. And soon I was calling my former teachers by their first names.”
At Brearley, Victoria Kingham ‘14 played soccer, competed in gymnastics and ran track but she was actually recruited for cross-country by Williams. “My coach took a gamble. He had seen my track times and thought they would translate. My first cross-country meet ever was in college.” Victoria credits the whole Brearley Athletics department with her success. Mr. La Morte was understanding and helpful with the need to take time to run during gymnastics season, and when Victoria considered switching her fall sport to cross country, Director of Athletics Tammy Zazuri encouraged her to stick with soccer rather than narrow her focus. “She was 200% right. I entered college so much fresher. I wasn’t burnt out from running.” Victoria plans to go to law school but next year will be back on the esplanade coaching cross-country and track. “Ever since I left Brearley, I’ve wanted to come back, in any capacity. All my friends are so unsurprised: ‘Of course you’re going back to Brearley’.”
More tales of valor and prowess to come, as well as photos of the athletes not pictured here. Go Beavers!!