By Noah Whiting
Managing Editor of Sports
At the end of 2015, senior sports writer Sam Rosenblatt reflected on the year in sports, calling our generation of Newton South athletics the “high renaissance” of Newton South athletics. This description remains apt this year as the boys’ soccer team saw their first playoff run in eight years, the girls’ volleyball team made a deep playoff run, both track teams captured Dual County League titles in outdoor, and many other teams enjoyed unparalleled success.
However, this generation also includes countless Newton South athletes that compete outside of school who have not received the same recognition despite being incredibly successful on an international level.
Junior ballroom dancer Valerie Dubinsky has won Nationals in ballroom dancing nine times, qualified five times to represent the United States at the World Championships of ballroom dancing, and most recently placed second in two events at Nationals along with third in another event.
Senior rockclimber Bimini Horstmann has qualified for the United States National rock climbing six times, travelling to multiple World Championships and earned her first National title in sport climbing this year.
Senior badminton extraordinaire Isaac Ehrlich won both the junior singles and doubles sections at the European Maccabi games last summer, a prestigious international Jewish tournament. He has also had multiple top five finishes at Nationals.
Despite these successes, many Newton South students have no idea that they sit in class with athletes who have represented not only their school but their country in their sport across the world.
Perhaps we are more aware of the accomplishments of our school’s sports teams because they involve more people, as is the nature of team sports. Perhaps we are more aware of the school teams because it is more convenient to walk out of the school and over to the field to watch a football game than it is to fly to China to see Horstmann compete at Youth World Championships in rock climbing. Perhaps we are more aware of our in-school athletes because most students know more about football than ballroom dancing.
And finally, perhaps we are more aware of our team accomplishments because they are more widely covered by our newspapers, including Denebola. Ehrlich acknowledges that while these athletes are not misrepresented by school publications, they perhaps could be better represented.
“I think you do not hear as much about badminton, or other sports that are at South, in the newspapers, but I definitely do not think they are being misrepresented in any way,” Ehrlich said. “It would be great to see more publicity, but I do not think that there is anything that this school is doing wrong.”
According to Horstmann, part of the disconnect between these athletes and our community lies in the fact that they are currently involved in two separate spheres of life.
“They are similar in that kids every day are leaving school to go to practice and work really hard and then come to school the next day really tired,” Horstmann said, “but I think it is definitely very different being on a sport at your school versus outside of your school because when you do sports in school, you are part of that community and you see those people all day, but outside of school it is like you are living a double life because I go to practice and these people in the context of rock climbing and the people at school only know me in the context of school.”
All three of these athletes have tried to bridge the gap between in-school and out-of-school sports by participating in their sport at school or attempting to start a club for their sport in an effort to build a community for it in school.
Ehrlich participates in the Newton South badminton club for fun, but does his most serious competition outside of school.
“Badminton at school is just mostly a recreational thing where kids come here for fun. We host tryouts, but we really just take the four or five best kids to compete at tournaments,” Ehrlich said.
Dubinsky and Horstmann do not have the same opportunity at school, since Newton South does not offer ballroom dancing or rock climbing. However, both have made efforts to start clubs at Newton South for their sport.
Dubinsky in particular wanted to start a club to dispel some of the stereotypes that surround ballroom dancing. In the end, though, she did not think that it would gain enough members to be worthwhile.
“I was thinking about starting a dance club at school because people know what ballroom dancing is, but the most common association is that people think it is like ‘Dancing with the Stars’– but it is not like that at all,” Dubinsky said. “It is a lot harder.”
These athletes conduct themselves like any other Newton South athlete. After school they head for the gym. They train hard six to seven days a week, strengthening, working on technique, and strategizing.
They are successful to a point that most of us can only dream about and are truly exceptional athletes and people.
There are many reasons, good and bad, why they do not get as much recognition as school sports. Whatever these reasons may be, I urge you to make an effort to take an interest in their athletic careers, not because they are extremely successful, but because they are part of our community.
You don’t need to travel across the country to support them. Ask them about their sport like you would ask a football player about their season and show your pride when they succeed because they represent us just like any other team.
If you were to ask Isaac Ehrlich about some of his most memorable moments, he might tell you about the time he played in the trials for the United States adult team. In this tournament, he made it to the quarterfinals, where he played the man who ended up going on to represent the United States at Rio.
“In the second game I faked him on my serve return and absolutely broke his ankles,” Ehrlich said. “After the point he walked up to me and said ‘nice shot’ before giving me the bird back. He whooped my butt but that point and getting the opportunity to play him at all was super cool.”
At the end of the day, these athletes may not wear a Newton South uniform, but they are part of our school and our community. Take pride in our athletes, and recognize them when they succeed because a Newton South athlete is a Newton South athlete.