Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pomp And Circumstance

Ah, graduation day. It takes TigerBlog back to 1977 and graduation from junior high. TB is still not sure why they have graduation for junior high. It's all the same kids in the same school the next year, so what's the point?

Still, graduation for the Pine Brook Middle School Class of 1977 was held at the local community college. As an aside, to show how the little farm town that TigerBlog grew up in has changed, Pine Brook is now an elementary school and the sprawling new Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School has taken over.

Anyway, at Pine Brook graduation 32 years ago, everyone had to line up by height, from shortest to tallest. TigerBlog was the fourth shortest boy in the class and stood behind one of his best friends, John Conte. TigerBlog then grew nearly a foot in high school, while John Conte today is one of the world's shorter concert pianists.

For some reason, TigerBlog remembers having to be fourth in line at middle school graduation more than anything else about either high school or college graduation. Maybe it's the fact that the ceremonies themselves aren't really what makes or breaks your experience as you go through high school and college.

For those graduating from Princeton today, and especially the more than 200 Princeton grads who were varsity athletes during their time here, the make-or-break of the experience happened long before the diplomas were handed out. Hopefully, it was a good run for all of them, and TB wishes them all well as they move forward.

TigerBlog was invited to the annual Monday before graduation picnic at Bill Tierney's house yesterday, when Tierney and his wife Helen host the seniors who are graduating and their families. During the event, assistant coach Bryce Chase pulled out the release TigerBlog had written on June 14, 2005, entitled "Tierney Announces Princeton Men's Lacrosse Class of 2009."

There were nine recruits in the class, and all nine remained with the program. Eight of the nine were huge contributors this past season, and most played considerably all four years. The ninth player in the group had three major knee injuries that forced him to withdraw for a year; he'll be a senior next year.

Among the comments from Tierney: "Mark is a very fast, left-handed athlete who possesses an accurate hard shot, both on the move and with time and room." The "Mark" in question was Mark Kovler; he would score 91 goals with that accurate hard shot and be a four-time All-America.

Looking at other recruiting releases from four years ago, TigerBlog found some other interesting stuff.

The field hockey release quoted head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn: "I could not be more pleased with the overall quality of this year's incoming class." Four years, four Ivy titles later, seems her optimism was justified.

Guy Gadowsky called Brandon Kushniruk "a winner and a leader." Kushniruk proved him right; he became captain of the team his senior year and was a key member of two NCAA tournament teams.

Bob Callahan called his men's squash recruits "one of the best classes Princeton has ever had." He may have sold Mauricio Sanchez, Hesham El Halaby, Kimlee Wong and the rest short; they won four Ivy titles and may be the best class in Princeton history.

Julie Shackford called Sarah Peteraf a player "with a big upside." Shackford also spoke of how Peteraf, from Hanover, N.H., was from a weaker soccer area and might need some time to adjust. Peteraf went from scoring four goals in her first three years combined to becoming one of the greatest clutch scorers in Princeton history and a first-team All-Ivy selection for the Ivy champion team her senior year.

On the other hand, there's the softball release that talks about Samantha O'Hara and her ability as a power-hitting catcher. O'Hara was unable to come back from a torn ACL she suffered at Princeton, though she became one of the great student workers in recent athletic department memory.

The releases are filled with names that have become familiar to Tiger fans and others who never became starters or even stayed with the programs. Each name, though, belongs to an individual, someone whose road through Princeton began with a few words on goprincetontigers.com, continued with a unique path for each of them and ends today with a short ceremony in front of Nassau Hall.

Good luck to all of them. See you in the P-Rade.

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