On track to Ivies: Staples’ Lewis (Yale), Schachne (Princeton)
Updated 8:12 am, Saturday, April 16, 2016
WESTPORT — James Lewis and Reece Schachne are two of Staples’ top individual track standouts. They’re not too shabby in the classroom, either, and will be joining a stellar list of Wreckers who have headed to the Ivy League.
With Schachne completing her college plans to attend Princeton this week and Lewis headed to Yale, add two more performers to a growing list of Ivy League athletes from Westport.
In the last several years the program has sent a number of stars — Olivia Weiner (Dartmouth) and Bridget van Dorsten (Brown) from last year’s senior class alone — to the eight-school conference.
“It’s an honor to have the type of kids in the program,” said girls coach Jesse McCray. “It speaks volumes to the school for giving them the support academically to qualify them to go to such fine academic institutions.”
Lewis — who follows 2006 graduate and former sprinter Remy Ray to Yale — developed into one of the top middle distance runners in the state since joining the program as a freshman as a sprinter looking to stay in shape while he prepared for the soccer season. One day near the end of his freshman season he was moved up to the 800 meters. He immediately qualified for FCIACs and states and was off and running.
“That was a huge moment,” Lewis recalled. “That’s when I first realized I could really be good at middle distance running and totally changed the course of high school.”
Lewis immediately found himself in a different training regimen and was running with a new crowd.
“I was trying to run behind (former All-American) Henry Wynne and all his friends kind of beating me up,” Lewis said. “It was awesome to be able to run with some of the best runners in Staples history.”
The success also meant having to give up soccer, a sport Lewis played almost from the time he could walk. For Lewis to realize his full potential, training in the summer cross country in the fall was necessary.
“It was an interest to be the best I could be in the sport, and I knew I would never have that opportunity if I took the fall off to do something I thought was fun,” Lewis said. “I wanted to take this sport to the next level.”
Which is exactly what he did during the ensuing cross country season, getting acclimated to the longer distance of that sport. As a junior he notched a top-15 finish at the State Open while improving his 800 time by leaps and bounds the following indoor season.
Staples claimed its first State Open cross country title since 1990 last fall, as Lewis, then a senior captain, was a part of a special group that was as quick as one another.
“That was an interesting season because every single race it seemed with the exception of (Zakeer Ahmad), the pecking order kept changing every meet,” Staples coach Laddie Lawrence said. “Every one of those kids was instrumental in the success that we had in the one meet that counted.”
Lewis backed that effort up with a third-place finish in the 1,000 while helping the Wreckers 4x400 relay team to a second, and a second in the 1,000 at the State Open during the indoor season.
The versatile Lewis will play a key role in Staples’ hopes during the outdoor season and then continue his career in New Haven for the Bulldogs.
“I think it’s wonderful he’s going to Yale,” said Lawrence, who cited Charlie Stoebe (Dartmouth), Paul Chandler (Yale), Cameron Marantz (Princeton) and Mark Young (Princeton) among others as other Ivy League alumni. “James is an academically gifted kid and he could probably go anywhere he wants; the fact that he got into Yale is fantastic. The Yale coaches are very excited he’s going there.”
For Schachne, track wasn’t the primary path despite her sister Lexie dominating the pole vault in junior and senior seasons Staples in 2011-2012 before attending Harvard — Another Ivy institution — for four years. Lexie is now a senior and someone that Reece has looked up to for her entire career once she picked up a javelin.
“Her worth ethic in academics and on the track was something that made me want to try track,” Schachne said. “I definitely look up to her for sure.”
Schachne, who stands 6-foot-1, utilized her height while playing travel basketball and volleyball growing up. Seeing the success of her sister in the pole vault, Schachne decided to try each event as a freshman