Except for skiing, every winter sport is underway as of yesterday. Just like every year, I look forward to the winter sports season because it's my favorite.
My two favorite high school sports, basketball and gymnastics, take place during this period. Another positive for the winter is that it's more of a marathon than a sprint, allowing everyone time to get into the season. This differs from all the fall sports, sans football, and the spring sports, in which those seasons appear to end shortly after they have commenced.
Although none of the Westport and Weston teams has been predicted to win a championship this season, that doesn't mean it won't be a great and fun season on many levels. Besides, there are more important things than who wins and who loses on the playing field and it's more important for the universe to be in harmony than it is for one's team to win.
Covering athletes who are passionate about their chosen sport is also more fun than following the exploits of those who don't possess this quality. One thing most of these winter athletes have is heart, starting with the Staples boys basketball team.
Despite losing its first two games of the season, I predict Staples will work hard this season. Its players already proved their determination during summer basketball by going 6-2 in the DeSantis Basketball Academy Summer League, including a 61-59 upset victory over Notre Dame of Fairfield.
The Wreckers can blame a tough opponent (Bridgeport Central) in its opener and inexperience in its second loss as most of its players, except junior Frankie Bergonzi and senior captain Brendan Rankowitz, don't have regular season varsity experience. Once the players gain the necessary experience, Staples will improve as the season progresses and even if the Wreckers don't make the playoffs, they will be fun to watch because its players have character and determination.
In fact, I predict that in spite of its slow start, Staples will recover and win eight to 10 games and qualify for the Class LL tournament.
This winter will be fun to watch because of the many athletes who will provide excitement, starting with Bergonzi, Rankowitz and a few of their teammates, junior Gabe Seidman and juniors Grant Fenton and Luke Yeager. These guys are also supported by a talented group of athletes.
The Staples girls basketball team also has players worth watching, such as senior captain Suvi Puripattarapan and classmate Chelsea Salamone along with juniors Jaclyn Katz, Nicole Brill and MaryKate Van Sant.
Weston's boys basketball team will be fun to watch because of senior captains Dennis Levene and Andrew Baron, along with classmate Robbie Cordisco, and Weston's girls basketball team is helmed by talented athletes like senior captains Brittany Swanson, Jessica Welsh and Natalie Odierna, and juniors Christina Welsh and Hannah Hutchins.
Even though Staples gymnastics doesn't expect to repeat as FCIAC champions, it will still be a contender, starting with Lady Wrecker senior captain Emma Vaimberg. Vaimberg has already eclipsed 1,000 points and embodies what a student-athlete represents, as do her junior teammates Zoe Heller and Kara Tricarico.
The Weston gymnastics team looks to improve this year. Lady Trojan senior captain Kailee Mann is a good role model and will be easy to work with this winter.
Four athletes outside of basketball and gymnastics have set a standard of excellence already and I also look forward to seeing what they'll do this winter. Two pole vaulters, Staples boys indoor track senior captain Paul Chandler and Weston girls track senior captain Emily Ando, hope to reach new heights this season, while Lady Wreckers indoor track senior captain Joselyn Henry (jump and sprints) and Staples junior swimmer Cory should also make it a memorable winter.
Last, but certainly not least, working with two coaches I hold in high regard, Staples girls basketball coach Ed Huydic and Lady Trojans gymnastics coach Salina Tavella are two finer points of the winter sports season.
Let's hope this is a positive and memorable winter season.