Pictured from left to right, back to front row: Samir Dutta, Matt Eichten, Joe Schwab, Jaden D'Abreo, Reyan Tuck, Savy Short, Grace Taylor, Charlie Strear
Today, Jesuit will host the Twilight Relays (TR). 2,700 premier athletes from across the Northwest will come to Jesuit in pursuit of athletic excellence in an atmosphere of electric competitive camaraderie. The TR is an event unlike any other, and a tribute to its founder, legendary Jesuit High track coach Tom Rothenberger (in fact, whenever I see the TR logo, I think of our own "TR," Coach Roth).
Click here for a heart-warming story of sportsmanship and respect for Tom Rothenberger by Central Catholic's track team, whose members heard that Tom had a medical issue last Sunday. This tribute occurred Wednesday at Central's track meet.
Now, back to the "lightning strikes" of my title: Occasionally, in the course of a regular season, a Jesuit student-athlete's pursuit of excellence turns into a moment of pure magic. The lightning bolt may come in one bright flash, at other times, the electricity builds on the horizon, and we can see it coming over the course of several innings, holes, or games.
But what are we to think when lightning strikes not once, not even twice, but SEVEN times in the course of one spring season? Over the past few weeks, Jesuit athletes at all levels have reached the rare of air of athletic perfection. We have witnessed a hole-in-one, a triple play, a perfect game, two grand slams, a golden set, and a discus toss that shattered a four-decade-old record. (Photo above is of our amazing athletes!)
1. In late March, in the top of the 6th inning in a game vs Century, the Mighty JV II made JHS softball history. With Century players on 2nd and 3rd base and no outs, a long fly ball arced to left field. Freshman Savy Short made the catch and threw to Charlie Strear at 2nd base, catching the runner for out #2. Charlie stepped on 2nd and rifled the ball to Grace Taylor on 3rd base. Bing-bang-boom, the inning was over before anyone could say, "Holy cow!"
According to Coach Don Clarke: "If it had been filmed, this play would have definitely made SportsCenter's Top 10!"
2. On Monday, April 9, sophomore tennis player Jaden D'Abreo had a golden set, meaning he won every point in the set (24 points). According to Coach Jeff Wood, Jaden was extremely humble about his phenomenal achievement, which has been accomplished only once in the whole history of men's professional tennis.
In fact, Jaden did not even tell Coach Wood about his golden set—that information came from his proud teammates. When Coach Wood found out, he said, "Jaden, you have to realize how amazing this accomplishment is. To get a golden set, you can't miss a single shot—not a serve, a backhand, a volley—it's perfection!" Though I am not supposed to reveal this inside secret, the rumor is that Coach Wood plans to buy Jaden a steak dinner as a reward...
3a. A Senior Swat by Reyan Tuck: When Reyan belted a Grand Slam on April 9 against archrivals Beaverton, the Fab 5 (four-year starters Annalisa Williamson, Ashley Renda, Jenny Marnin, Olivia Strickland and Reyan herself) celebrated in grand (but respectful!) style. Coach Speciale says that this year's 15-player roster is a true sisterhood. When Reyan launched her lightning strike, the whole dugout erupted in cheers and whoops.
3b. Connor Kollas Goes Yard: On Monday, April 23, Connor hit his first-ever grand slam in a game on Jesuit's own turf. On a windy afternoon, Connor celebrated William Shakespeare's 454th birthday by driving a fastball out of the stadium. Shakespeare's King Lear would have said of Connor's mighty smash, "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!/Vaunt couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts/ ...thou all-shaking thunder/ Strike flat the thick rotundity of the world!"
Forsooth, Connor went yard, striking flat the thick rotundity of the ball and brought all runners home safely.
4. Samir Dutta's hole-in-one—only the third hole-in-one for any Jesuit golfer, at least in living memory.
Samir, the only senior on the team, is a superb player. He is a three-year varsity player, a member of the 2017 OSAA 6A state championship team, the 2017 Metro League Medalist (ie, he had the lowest scoring average in the league). Samir was really in the zone on that fateful April Wednesday.
On the 9th hole, Samir chipped in for birdie to finish the front nine with a score of 33 (!). He followed that with a chip-in for eagle on #10. After parring the 11th and 12th holes, Samir had his hole-in-one for another eagle on lucky #13—going 178 yards straight at the cup with a 5-iron. Fathom this: Samir was 5 under par on five holes, completing his round with an astounding 67.
Coach Jay Minsker reports, "When Samir arrived at the clubhouse, he didn't tell us about the hole-in-one or his two eagles. Fortunately, Samir's proud dad, Saj, who witnessed the hole-in-one, provided the details. Believe it or not, this was Samir's third hole-in-one, though his first as a Crusader."
5. Sophomore Joe Schwab's Perfect Game: On April 3rd, Joe Schwab threw a total of 56 pitches, 46 of them for strikes. He faced the minimum amount of batters in a 5-inning game (shortened because of the 10-run-lead rule). Joe faced 15 batters and struck out 10 of them.
At the bottom of the 4th, the players realized that Joe was throwing a perfect game. In the top of the 5th, no one sat by Joe in the dugout even though he tried to converse with the other players on the bench. They didn't want to jinx what was about to happen, so no one said a word about the possibility of a perfect game.
Joe finished off the game with a strikeout, after two foul balls landed barely foul down the first base line, making everyone in the dugout gasp.
Says Coach John Santiago, "I've been around baseball for a long time as a player and coach, and I have never been part of a perfect game. When we start a baseball game, we never strive for perfection, because by nature, baseball is a game of failure. For example, an excellent hitter fails to get a hit 7 out of 10 times. Those who can accept failure, learn from it and move on become successful baseball players. That is why a perfect game is such a rarity, and why Joe's performance should live in Jesuit history!"
6. On April 18, senior Matt Eichten broke a 40-year-old school record in the discus with an astounding throw of 172 feet. Doing his best impression of Zeus hurling a thunderbolt from Mt. Olympus, Matt whirled and unleashed the 1.6 kg disc through the air, breaking the long-standing record of 169 feet, held by Paul Doyle '77. The South Bend-bound Matt received a wonderful note of congratulations from Mr. Doyle, also a Notre Dame graduate.
When he heard of Matt's mighty toss, Notre Dame's head coach Adam Beltran called to say, "Welcome to the Notre Dame track and field team, Matt!"
Matt, a superb student as well as an athlete, is also a man of deep faith. Along with Meghan Gorman, Matt is the senior Coordinator of our Freshman Chapter 1 campus ministry program. Matt is leading the April Coed Encounter this weekend, cheering for his friends in the Twilight Relays (and praying for Coach Roth's recovery) from St. Benedict's Lodge along the banks of the McKenzie River.
Paul J. Hogan