Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Class of 2021

TigerBlog loves the P-Rade.

You know, the one at Reunions each year. It's awesome. The 25th Reunion Class, and the Old Guard, and then everyone else, all decked out in their beer jackets, with the random splashings of orange and black, stripes and checks.

What does that have to do with early September?

TigerBlog will get to that in a second.

Yesterday was Freshman Student-Athlete Orientation. It's an annual gathering of the incoming athletes, along with the current captains, in the McCosh 50 lecture hall.

It's quite a contrast from the event that kicks off Reunions, when the senior athletes gather for the Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet. That's the finish line for the athletes.

The event yesterday is something of the starting line. Yes, many of the fall athletes have already competed, so it's not quite like the first day they're all on campus.

What it is, though, is one of the few times the entire athletic class will be together at the same time., and TigerBlog is always struck by a few things about the event.

First, Princeton has 37 teams. There are more than 200 freshman athletes, and they come here from incredibly different backgrounds, different states and countries, with different experiences as they grew up. A football player from Texas, for instance, had a much different high school experience than a women's squash player from Egypt. That's obvious.

And yet they're both here, Princeton freshmen, ready to compete for the same school, hoping to have the best possible experience. Even within their sports, most of them are tossed together here as total strangers. And yet they now have that bond, Princeton Athletic Class of 2021.

As he does every year at freshman athlete orientation, TigerBlog looks around the room and wonders what the next four years holds for each of them. And, as always, he wonders one other thing.

Somewhere in the room yesterday were the 2021 winners of the von Kiensbusch Award and the Roper Trophy, the top senior athlete awards - unless one or both of the winners is like last year, when Ashleigh Johnson won after taking a year off from school to train for the Olympics. But hey, you get the point.

In addition to the winners, there will also be a handful of finalists for the awards. Who will they be?

So those are the things that TB thinks about each year.

Yesterday, he added something new to that, something rather wild to consider. Hint - this is the part that involves the P-Rade.

The event itself is meant to give the newbies a sense of what to expect, what pitfalls there might be, how to avoid those pitfalls. There were introductions of the members of what Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan refers to as "The Team Around The Team," something she's upfront about having swiped from men's volleyball coach Sam Shweisky.

It's the end of a long run of orientation activities, and it's the lead up to the start of classes. Marcoux Samaan's message is to "control the controllables" and then not to let stress overwhelm you about everything else.

Marcoux Samaan also showed team pictures from her playing days here, with the women's hockey and women's soccer teams. When TB first saw the pictures, he was pretty sure, though not 100 percent sure, he could pick her out. He turned out to be right.

There were a few other pictures displayed as well.

Mostly, those featured alums. Former athletes, like Chris Young, David Hale, Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable, who were all active Major Leaguers at the time they spoke at a Princeton Varsity Club event. There were several pictures like that. Gary Walters, Marcoux Samaan's predecessor, was in one of them.

There were others too. Steve Mills, the president of the New York Knicks. Bill Powers, the benefactor of Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Chanel Lattimer, a former track and field athlete and an all-time great Office of Athletic Communications student worker. Ralph DeNunzio, Bill Ford, Janet Morrison Clarke. John Berger. Frank Sowinski. So many who have given so much of their time and resources to make the experience for the athletes better.

And as TB looked at those pictures, he began to think beyond the senior athlete banquet. He began to think about when this group would become alums, and then become the ones who help the generations to come.

He thought of them in the P-Rade, perhaps on their 50th reunion, which would be the P-Rade of 2071, as opposed to the current year of 2017. That's sort of freaky, no?

Anyway, TigerBlog was getting way ahead of things with that one. Well, not really.

The trip that they're all starting to take together now leads directly to things like that. It was Courtney Banghart, the women's basketball coach, who told the group that the next four years will fly by. She's right.

Not that the Class of 2021 will be at its 50th in a blink of an eye. But time does move quickly sometimes.

Best of luck to all of them. Hopefully, they have a winning, satisfying, educational experience as Princeton athletes - like so many who've come before them have. 

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