Farewell From Rylan

This is my last column after four years of working for TSL. I entered as a sports designer when I was a freshman and, eight semesters later, I leave as a sports editor. Of course, there were all sorts of positions in between, but I don’t mind admitting that the sports section has been my default setting. With so much time under my belt, I feel entitled to say a little goodbye to Pomona College in the sports pages. Hell, if you stick around, I will even reveal my athlete crush from the last four years.

One theme that came up in the writing contest a few weeks ago was how accessible Sagehen athletes are. We see them in our classes, we see them in the gym, we exchange greetings with them in the Village. Pomona College is a small school, so athletes are built into our lives on a day-to-day basis.

Some people enjoy the fact that they can look at our athletes as “another student”… just “another student” with an extra-curricular.

I haven’t been able to do this.

As soon as you are put in a box score, I am going to have trouble thinking of you as “another student.” Perhaps it is because I have spent the better part of my life immersed in the news of the sporting world, but getting your name in the paper seems sacred in an odd way. I could not work on the newspaper and report on the accomplishments of our student-athletes and still look at them the same.

An “OMG athlete” stigma is hardly prevalent at Pomona. Starting with the admissions process, in which athletics scholarships are banned, the school stresses student first, athlete second. I think this is a good thing for a school of such academic rigor, but sometimes I can’t help but get the creeping feeling that we don’t recognize the athletes enough for their accomplishments.

Take Siobhan Finicane for example. I have had a massive crush on Siobhan for the last four years. Now, before you all decide that sounds overly creepy, keep in mind that Siobhan is a national champion. She has won the national Division-III singles tournament. When I reported on women’s tennis freshmen and sophomore year, I got to watch her demolish CMS en route to her national success. Then, as a journalist, I had to look up her stats online, follow her career arc, and write about her accomplishments. What can I say: I am a sucker for champions.

Or take Justin Sexton, Adam Chaimowitz, Kael Kristof, Colin Reinstedt, and David Liss (at least for the last two years). I have followed the basketball team closely for the past four years. Basketball is my favorite sport and I played it in high school. Without a team membership in college, I transferred my allegiance to fandom. The team has been a perennial contender and has contributed to some of my best moments in college (beating CMS in the championship my sophomore year, right before Smiley 80s) and worst (getting run out of the CMS gym the last two years in the title). I have trouble looking at the Justin-Adam-David-Kael as another student group. So excuse me if, when Justin shows up at a B2 party at two in the morning, I get a little excited.

There are other examples. The dominance of Will Leer on the cross-country circuit morphed into the supremacy of Alicia Freese. Alicia puts Pomona on the national map, with her name consistently in the mention for the title hunt. She has already qualified for Nationals this year for track, and has placed her name up and down the Sagehen record books. I interviewed her once for an article basically about “why she is so good at running,” and yes, I was a little nervous before the meeting.

Finally, let me give a quick shout-out to my friend and roommate Nick Frederick. Nick bats in the cleanup spot for the defending SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer Sagehen baseball program. I watch him on the diamond, and, five hours later, I hang out with him and watch him wrestle his sponsor. I make fun of the fact that he likes the Redskins. In a weird way, I am proud to be around him. He is my friend like any other friend, but I can never quite get over the fact that he is also a SCIAC champion.

Why the appreciation for these athletes?

For me, sports have always ordered the world in a convenient way. There are people that can talk sports and people that can’t. But I feel more comfortable with sports fans, because with sports there is always a conversation, no matter the individual’s background.

Even more, every sport has its own hierarchy of achievement. Competition shows you some of the better qualities of humanity. It is a challenge of strength, sure, but also of will power and intelligence. Sport is active but also cerebral… it is everything that is human. You use your tools as best you can to come out on top. This is simple; this makes sense.

With all of the gray areas in the world, if you show up on the sports page, you have worked to earn a place in that paper. This success is something that I appreciate. It shows at the very least that you are better than a number of people at something. This accessible success has caught my imagination.

In sum, I just want to thank the athletes for doing their thing the last few years. It has been a fun ride, and I have enjoyed covering all of you in the sports section. In some places I have done well, and in others failed. Now, it is time for baseball to take the Regional title and go to Nationals, so I can be just that much more proud to be a Pomona Sagehen.

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