Winter Sport Roundup
Noah Levitt, Isaiah Trumbull (Sophomores)
Obama Academy’s winter sports teams started the season with lots of questions. What would the season look like? How would competition compare to previous years? How do you come back from a pandemic season? All of Obama Academy’s winter sports teams successfully answered these questions and performed well on their respective courts, lanes, and mats.
Obama Academy’s swim team took to the pool this season in style. For the boys team, Balaji Alagar, Isaac Tabachnik, Elliott Mcinnes, and Allhiem Devan-Bey were a few of the key swimmers for Obama, all setting new personal bests. Elliot Mcinnes commented on the season and said that although they didn’t do as well as he had hoped, he was still happy about the season, “I am really happy we went to WPIALs. We went for the 200 IM Relay and the 400 Freestyle Relay—we won our 400 Freestyle heat.” Elliott also said that he is looking forward to “growing and improving as a team” next season.
Cora Myers, a sophomore swimmer, also talked to us about the season and female participation. Regarding the season as a whole, she said that it was “not great for the girls.” She continued, “We have three girls on the team so we are one short of a relay. This means we don’t get as many points because we don’t have girls competing in every event which means we lose a lot.” When asked about her plans to recruit girls, she responded that she didn’t know what else she could do, “We have been trying to recruit people… nobody at Obama wants to swim.” Cora also commented on how the section the girls team was placed in posed another challenge. “The girls are Triple-A which means that the girls have to swim faster times compared to the boys which is completely unfair when we don’t have enough people.” Although participation was raised as a problem for both swimmers, they were hopeful for the next season.
The dozen kids that wrestled for Obama this year went for a combined 43-61 win/loss record, the team went 2-5 on the season, and 1-4 in the City League. When asked about the stiff competition offered by other schools, Cameron Suzensky (CJ), a sophomore wrestler, (8-3) said, “The competition is different. These kids wrestle in barnyards, they try-hard.” He said that the only way forward was to “keep getting better [and] keep improving.” When asked about the new additions to the team, CJ responded that he was “really excited about the new guys” and that they “learned quickly and adjusted fast.” Another thing CJ said was to keep an eye on Khalil Collins (AKA Hollywood), who is a current junior. When referencing Khalil, CJ said that “He is a beast. Watch out for him.” CJ also talked about the departing Coach Cole, “We’re going to win next year for him. We’re going to win the City League for him.” Coach Cole helped build the wrestling program at Obama.
Both boys and girls basketball attracted a lot of attention this year. After a coronavirus case forced the boys team to shut down, the team went 8-2 in the City League and 12-9 overall. They were knocked out of the City League by Brashear in a close 52-48 battle. Obama made it to the first round of the PIAA Championships with a buzzer-beater by Xavier Johnson but was eliminated by Belle Vernon (20-5) in the first round of the 4A PIAA Championships 51-73. Coach Naron Jackson talked to us about the future of the team, “I believe the future is bright. We only had two seniors and started a freshman at point guard. We made it to the first round of state playoffs and had a winning season. To come back and win a regional championship two hours away in overtime at the buzzer explained our season in a nutshell with all of the injuries and covid cases we dealt with all year.” After an exciting year, the boys look ready for the future, and the rosters of the next couple of years will only get more exciting.
The girls basketball team also had success, winning the City League in a dramatic 58-40 victory over familiar rival Allderdice. Although Obama was eliminated by McKeesport 56-31 in the first round of the PIAA Championships, their season was perhaps the most inspiring of the winter teams. We spoke with Coach McCoy who said, “We met two out of three of our expectations. We went ten and zero in City League play and won the City League title. The only thing we didn’t do is make it past the first round of the state playoffs. Still, overall we had a great season.” Senior Samaree Perkins scored her 1000th point during their semifinal matchup vs Brashear. Unfortunately for the team, Samaree Perkins will be graduating this year. Addressing this, Coach McCoy said, “I wish Samaree had another year. Her leadership both on and off the court has been outstanding. She really knew her teammates well and knew how to get through to each of them.” With Samaree Perkins and other seniors moving on, the team will need to see current and future players step up but no matter what happens the future is bound to be exciting for the girls basketball team.
Obama sports persevered and thrived during this winter season. New and returning swimmers set personal bests and went to WPIALs, the wrestling team grew their program and went to regionals, the boys basketball team had a winning season and made it to the PIAA Championships, and the girls basketball team won the City League. It is safe to say that all of Obama’s winter sports teams came back with passion this season, and Obama Academy students and fans are excited to see their teams perform next year.