Out of school, not out of mind

By NATASHA RAI, senior

Every season must eventually come to an end. For high school athletics, the conclusions of the fall, winter, and spring seasons heap an abundance of broken school records, All-Conference and/or Red Division recognition, Senior Nights, and banquets. While their accomplishments are proudly broadcasted the next day during morning announcements, some athletes don’t necessarily receive the same appreciation, simply because their sports do not involve intramural high school competitions. However, these athletes  are the unsung heroes of the high school sports world-they often put in the same, if not more, effort into practices and matches, without the rallying support of their classmates and school. From table tennis to chess, these JP athletes are hoarding dozens of secret achievements, and it’s about time they were recognized.

If you had a conversation with Arthur Shen (12) in person, you probably would have never guessed that he was a nationally ranked chess star. He has a unique, dark sense of humor, and claimed during the interview with great pride that “chess is great because people think you’re smart even though you might not be.” Arthur spends most of his days off from school in other parts of the world participating in global chess tournaments. As of last December, he had a rating of 2458 and the title of World Chess Federation (FIDE) master. A member of US Chess Champs and the 2013 United States Chess Federation All-America Chess Team, he has been honored at prestigious competitions throughout his career, including the 2011 U.S. Cadet Championship. Recently, the U.S. Chess Trust presented him with the 2014 Scholar Chess Player Award.

To most people, table tennis is a basement hobby, a party game like foosball or billiards. For Patrick Pei (12) and Farhan Patel (11), it’s a disciplined, competitive sport. They both practice and train at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in Dunellen, NJ. On the weekends though, they face off against kids from all over America. Patrick points out, “Through table tennis I’ve learned the importance of hard work. I really enjoy the complexity of the game.” He also takes pride in the fact that it is the fastest ball rotational sport. Similarly, Farhan says, “Table tennis gives me a rush of adrenaline that makes me forget about everything else and just focus on the match.” Last year, Farhan represented the Northeast region in the National Sports Tournament in Florida. Both Patrick and Farhan most enjoy the sport’s intensity, with its fast-paced points and fierce atmosphere.

If you asked the majority of students in America about cricket, they would probably refer you to the insect. Shekhar Kripalani (11) is certainly not one of those kids. Shekhar spends his weekends “bowling,” the cricket equivalent to pitching in baseball. Shekhar has a second home in the Cricket League of New Jersey, where he plays in tournaments hosted by the United States Cricket Association and represents the Atlantic Region in the under 17 and under 19 categories.  Shekhar adds, “Cricket is something I grew up playing. Despite it not being a popular sport in the US, the passion has always been there.”  He enjoys the unique sport and believes that “as youngsters, it is our duty to move the game forward in the US.”

Although some people dread the ice, Katie Lam (10) lives on it. Starting at eight years old, she has been ice skating for nearly half her life. For three days a week, she travels to either Connecticut or New York for synchronized skating team practice, and spends the other two days in Princeton for solo training.  While Katie admits that “it takes up a lot of time each week…not to mention the commuting time,” she adds that it’s ultimately worth it. Her training eventually paid off, for she now represents the US in international figure skating competitions. She fondly recalls, “One of my greatest memories is when my team won the National Bronze medal at the Synchronized Skating Championship.” This January, she recently traveled to France once again represent the US and compete against other countries.

As demonstrated by these five exemplary students, the term “athlete” doesn’t always mean coming to school wearing a green and gold varsity jacket. Instead, it should include any talented students at JP who dedicate their time and effort to activities that they love. Next time you see any of these students, make sure you congratulate them on their achievements and wish them luck on their future competitions. Whether they practice on JP fields or not, it is always important to show them and other students whose sports remain unacknowledged that they will always have their school’s wholehearted support.

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