Year in Review: Senior Memories

We asked graduating Maroons to tell us their favorite stories from four years as Chicago athletes.

By Jordan Holliday

After four years of playing, practicing, traveling, and hanging out with their teams, we knew this year’s graduating athletes would have a few stories to share. Some of those stories we’ve already seen and heard: the championships, the comebacks, the highs and lows on the field, on the track, in the pool, or on the hardwood. But that’s only one part of what a Maroon athlete goes through, so we asked some of the members of the class of 2009 to tell us about one of their favorite memories that might not have been visible from the stands. Here’s what we got back.

Adam Machones, basketball

Out of the many memories in my four years, one in particular during my freshman year came to mind. Our seniors that year were a comical bunch and loved bringing humor to practice. They did this thing called “the creep” where, in the post-practice huddle, they would get behind Coach and slowly move closer to him, almost touching him. In the middle of his speech he would subconsciously sense them and move forward. They would keep creeping in, biting their jerseys so as not to explode in laughter. The huddle would keep getting tighter until the end of the speech. I also will always remember the potent aroma of a weekend morning practice.

Travis Blane, baseball

Our last game of the 2009 baseball season was at North Central on Mother’s Day. Several players on both teams went up into the stands and gave their mothers a rose to start out the day right. Then, Coach Budeselich offered some inspirational words of wisdom to the team in the pre-game huddle. He jokingly said something like:

“Today is Mother’s Day. Now I know it would make each of your mothers happier than anything on Earth if you beat North Central today. My Mother’s Day wish for all of you is to not only make your mothers happy, but to also make this the worst Mother’s Day ever for North Central’s mothers!” (maniacal laugh) “Go out there and embarrass them all by beating their sons into the ground out on the baseball field! I want to see all those mothers of North Central crying this Mother’s Day!” (maniacal laugh)

It was the funniest and best pre-game speech I heard in all four years and the last one I’ll always remember.

Kate Volzer, volleyball

Every road trip is a favorite memory. The time I got to spend sitting on a bus or flying on an airplane around the country and world with my best friends is something that I would never trade for all of the money in the world.

Probably one of the funniest memories was explaining to our China tour guide little bits of American culture. We taught him how to get the tattoo off the Fruit Roll-up onto his tongue and how to “roll out.” One of the funniest lines of the trip came when we started to leave too early from one of the tourist spots. Peter didn’t quite know how to get us to stop so he shouted, “Volleyball team! Stop rolling out! Stop rolling out!”

Alex Leach, basketball

My favorite part of this season was the week before we were going to play Rochester at Rochester. At the time Rochester was undefeated. I remember that week of practice was so intense. Everyone was playing at a different level and there was a total team focus. Right before the game everyone was really focused and prepared to play. When it came down to game time I remember on every play we just executed and played defense with discipline. You could see the Rochester players getting frustrated and by the end of the game, we took away their will to play. We upset the number one team in the country. It was a really exciting feeling and is one that I won’t forget.

Tom Gonzalez, baseball

I have many great stories involving Coach Baldea, which require a familiarity with his old-school character. My first year, instead of the traditional coach bus, the bus company sent us a ‘party’ bus, fully equipped with armchairs that reclined and tables in the back. Coach was not happy about the bus to begin with; however it took us to Aurora where we were blown out twice by their baseball team. After the games, we had scheduled a barbecue at the house of [pitcher Payton Leonhardt]. I remember Coach’s reaction when Payton’s father told him what a great bus we had. He was livid. The next game, the bus company sent us a bus big enough for only half of the team. Coach was on the phone with the company trying to rectify the situation. Unfortunately for him, they sent back the party bus a second time. That was the last time I have been on a party bus.

Justin Lucas, wrestling

Some of the best memories for wrestlers come after a bout of weight cutting. Once we get off the scale and all sit down and start eating and drinking, everyone gets happier. At UAAs in New York in 2008, the guys were all together hanging out and someone was trying to find out who manufactured Goober [a product with peanut butter and jelly in the same jar]. After asking a few times, a teammate responded, “SMUCKER’S!” a few hundred decibels too loud. From that point on, it’s been something all the guys can laugh about whenever it’s brought up.

Callie Brown, soccer and swimming

One of my favorite memories from soccer was at a practice this past year. The soccer team is very competitive and sometimes we have contests to warm up. If you lose, you have to do something silly, like star jumps, frying like bacon, or singing and acting out “I’m a Little Tea Pot.” After losing a competition, a few girls were called out to do the Beyoncé kitty-cat-crawl. Naturally the team made a tunnel so that everyone could see all the girls do the crawl. The girls hesitated, and then Coach got down on the ground and led the way through the tunnel. She even arched up and clawed the air while meowing. It was priceless.

One of my favorite memories from swimming was the UAA meet at Emory my first year. We were a small team that didn’t have many goals other than to swim as fast as we could. After completing the first day, we were amazed at how fast our 400-medley relay was. Each one of us had dropped time. While we were stuffing our faces at the dinner table that evening our coach yelled. She ran over to us to inform us that we had broken a school record. We went on to break another school record in the 400-free relay, as well as taking seventh place overall. It was a wonderful surprise to do so well at the conference meet.

Ruth Anne Whitfield, track and field and swimming and diving

For athletes, the next best thing to succeeding and improving is eating. One of my best memories of the swim team is the feeling of downing four 6-foot-long subs immediately after a competition. This past year, a pre-competition banquet was held at the outdoor UAA championships. My fellow throwers and I had a strategy: Get there early and sit as close to the buffet as possible. But of course, wouldn’t you know, we were the LAST table picked to stand in line. I can still feel the hunger pains. Words of wisdom: When feeding athletes, serve it quickly and make it “all you can eat”.

Julia Moriarty, cross country and track and field

My most memorable practice was at a forest preserve in the suburbs called Blackwell. This year, it had been raining all week, and we ran through calf-deep moving water for parts of the workout. It was awesome! I also remember my second year traveling to cheer on the team at regionals and nationals and the great dance parties before those meets (and the ones in the vans this year).

Siggy Nachtergaele, soccer

Every season that I’ve been a Maroon, I can pinpoint moments that embody what the women’s soccer program is all about.

What sticks in my mind from this season is our second-round NCAA tournament game at Calvin—which went scoreless through two overtimes.

You could sense the fury and intensity from both sides as we warmed up. The game itself was a battle of heart, but what was going on off the field probably defines our team best of all: The bench was on their feet on a frigid November day, giving constant encouragement and advice with as much intensity as anyone on the field.

In the end, the game was decided by penalty kicks, perhaps the least team-like aspect of soccer. Yet even there, we relied on our depth—from starters to backup players, seniors to first-years—to win it in extra P.K.s.

After a victory like that, inevitably dancing and party-busing ensue, and we relish what we’ve accomplished as a unit. A week later we lost to Messiah, but because of these special moments, there wasn’t bitterness or anger, only sadness that our little family would have to part ways.