Big Cleats to Fill

Posted: 23rd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the April issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer, and cowritten with Mahan Chitgari.

At TPHS, “band of brothers” has nothing to do with a humvee or an M-16, nor with the popular HBO mini-series; it represents the bond, forged with blood, sweat and tears, between Falcon football players.

Offensive lineman Jake Ashby (12) and linebacker Kyle Ashby (11) do not need a slogan to band them together. Not only are the boys brothers, but their father, Scott Ashby, is the head football coach and defensive coordinator.

“When you’re putting in 20 hours a week you’re going to get close with every one of those guys, so it has made me and my brother closer,” Jake said. “The competitiveness is always there between us, but at home I know he has my back, and I always have his.”

While they lifted weights and ran together before the season, they are now often pitted against one another during practice.

“There was one play where [Kyle] was blitzing the A-gap, and he knocked me back a little bit on that play,” Jake said. “I told coach, ‘Let’s run that play again,’ and then I knocked him back, and then we just got fired up with each other.”

Until they both made the TPHS softball team, Lauren Bower (12) and Andrea Bower (10) had never played  on the same team. Now they work together to enterain the Lady Falcons whenever the girls are feeling down, according to Lauren.

“We make up handshakes and wrestle,” Lauren said. “If she’s picking something up, I’ll push her, and she’ll fall down.

Andrea said that once her sister leaves, although she does not anticipate breaking out of her shell any more, she will become more serious because she will not have anyone to mess around with.

All four Ingwells have been swimming since they were little and after Milan Ingwell (12) graduates this year, Kian Ingwell (10) will be the last of the line.

“When my sister leaves, there will probably be a loss of competition between us, and her means to motivate me will be gone, but I will always know she will support me wherever she is and that is all I need to keep swimming strong,” Kian said.

According to Kian, he and Milan used to bicker about swim times at practice but they have learned to accept their separate skills, especially because Milan swims breaststroke and Kian swims freestyle.

Likewise, Jake does not want the team to hear him calling Coach Ashby “dad.” Jake said there is a difference between when they are on the field and when they are just hanging out as a family.

“We do a good job of keeping things away from the house,” Scott said. “I played for my dad, and I played for my uncle, and we leave that all here.”

Scott said that he alternates between the fatherly role and the coach’s role to create a fair and productive environment for his sons and the other players.

“Sometimes I watch film as a dad and other times I watch it as a coach,” Scott said. “On the field I look at what I need to look at, like a coach would. I make a conscious decision to separate the two roles. When you look at [the videos] from a fan’s perspective, you’re just happy if it goes well, and from a coach’s perspective, you can always find something they could have done better.”

According to Milan, her coaches never play favorites between her and any of her siblings.

“I just like kids who listen and give their best effort, and it doesn’t matter who they are beyond that,” head swim coach Richard Contreras said.

It would be hard to prove that Scott has a favorite, but it is not hard to tell who Jake and Kyle’s favorite teammates are.

“On the drive home from one of the games he said, ‘Jake, I just had a really bad game,’ and I said, “Don’t even worry about it,” Jake said. “We have that relationship where we talk to each other right after the game, and we start to analyze the game for the other.”

Blood, sweat and tears are a big part of sports, but when it comes to the Ingwells,  Bowers and Ashbys, blood provides that extra support that every athlete needs to succeed.

Jim Abbott speaks to TPHS students

Posted: 23rd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the March issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer, and cowritten with Alex McCracken: 

The TPHS Foundation hosted former Major League Baseball player and motivation speaker Jim Abbott on March 6 in the lecture hall to benefit the TPHS baseball team.

“He’s a professional speaker now,” head varsity baseball coach Kirk McCaskill said. “He gladly donated his time to talk to us as a fundraiser for our program.”

Abbott, who was born without a right hand, had to make unique adjustments on and off the baseball diamond. During the speech Abbott devoted little time to talking about his condition, but mixed humor with sensitivity when addressing the struggles that came with it.

The speech, titled “Perserverance and Overcoming Adversity,” was focused on the word “adapt,” which Abbott used as an acronym to represent  primary elements of his speech that he said enabled him to persevere and overcome adversity: A for adjustability, D for determination, A for accountability, P for perseverance and T for trust.

Abbott stressed that “adapting” could apply to both children with disabilities and baseball players.

“I was inspired to see a man who had such a difficult obstacle to overcome, and was still able to succeed at the highest level of baseball,” varsity baseball player Christian Gange (10) said. “It made any other problem I could have seem like nothing.”

Gange feels that Abbott’s speech will help the team through their own struggles.

“I would like for people to believe in what’s possible, and I really would like to give back in the way that people gave to me as a kid,” Abbott said.

According to McCaskill, Abbott, a certified professional speaker, has spoken to numerous audiences and tailors his speeches to accommodate the perspectives of his audiences. In this case, Abbott tailored his speech to apply to the lecture hall filled with baseball players.

“I think its powerful when Jim raises his [right] hand in the air,” McCaskill said. “When he puts  it in the air, people really lock in on that. It becomes really real, and his message becomes even louder.”

Throughout the speech, Abbott referenced his close relationship with McCaskill, who is a retired baseball player himself. They first met at the Anaheim Angels winter workouts. They became closer over the next four years, when they were teammates playing for the Angels and the Chicago White Sox. Abbott came down from his home in Orange County to speak to the Falcons at McCaskill’s request.

“If I could give back … and help people [achieve] what might be possible in this world, then I feel like I’m moving toward a worthy purpose,” Abbott said.

After the speech, Abbott signed autographs for attendees, and he passed out and signed copies of his book, “Imperfect,” for those who attended the private reception following the main event.

Each ticket cost $25. Tickets to a private reception after the speech could be purchased for an additional $75.

Falcon offense falls flat to Wildcats 3-1

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the March issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

The Falcons (2-2) fell to El Camino High School (2-2) 3-1 in the Pirate/Falcon Classic preseason tournament, unable to string together offensive plays after the second inning.

Both teams managed to get runners on base in the first inning, but failed to follow through with any runs. By the second inning, TPHS earned its first and only run of the game on a fielder’s choice.

“We got [designated hitter] Mark [Detrow] (12) as our five hitter who led off [the second inning] with a hit and got us going,” left fielder Christian Gange (10) said. “Then  [catcher] John Remick (12)  had a good hit to the wall for his double, and then Henry Grow got the job done with the ground out to get just what we needed to get the run in.”

After the Wildcats had been  inactive on offense, they were able to come together in the third inning and take advantage of Falcon errors. The first runner got on base on a pass ball, followed by  two singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly for the first two runs of the game.

“It was kind of tough giving up those first two runs,” shortstop Cole Klemke (10) said. “We needed to get the momentum back in our favor, so getting a quick solid out at the end of the inning like that let us go get our bats and battle back.”

The score remained unchanged through the fifth inning for both sides, leaving the Falcons with just two innings to tie the game.

“At that time we were down 2-1, so we were just trying to get a run,” Remick said. “What the leadoff batter is probably going to try and do on that is just try and get on. Then the next guy will come up and try and move him over. It’s more of a job at that time and not a selfish play; it’s more about trying to get a run in to tie the game up.”

The Falcons first three batters all got out, on a strikeout, ground out and pop up.

“This was a big game for us, especially early in the year,” El Camino head coach Jason Schmeiser said. “We had a very confident pitcher on the mound and a very confident catcher. They both work very well together, and when you get that matchup there is a good chance we are going to be in the ball game.”

The dominant pitching in the sixth inning seemed to come at a  very inconvenient time for the surging Falcons, who did not have a strong enough offense to match the Wildcats’ defense.

“That was probably our best chance to do it [because the top of the lineup was batting], but we just couldn’t come through at the time,” Remick said. “The energy on our sideline was kind of low; there probably wasn’t a lot of confidence either, and we couldn’t execute.”

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, El Camino was still up by one run, with a man on second base, when a pop up was hit.

“It was a pretty shalllow pop up,” Gange said. “I was going for it, I had run a long way and I didn’t know if I was going to get called off by my center fielder or the shortstop.”

Gange said he did not hear from his shortstop or center fielder, so he called for the ball at the last second. Gange said he lost sight of the ball in the sun for a second and was unable to make the snag.

“I felt bad for my pitcher and that I couldn’t make a play to save a run for him,” Gange said. “[Nolan Weinberg] (12) pitched a good game and deserved not to have that run score.”

The seventh inning included a leadoff double for the Falcons, but the offensive surge was overpowered by the consistent defensive front of the Wildcats, who made several run-stopping plays,  leading to no runs being scored in the inning and a final score of 3-1 in the Wildcats’ favor.

“I think we battled, and Nolan pitched a hell of a game, and our defense played well besides a couple of slip-ups,” TPHS coach Kirk McCaskill said.

Although McCaskill praised Weinberg’s pitching, Weiberg was a lot harder on his performance.

“I was just trying to throw strikes because I knew they only had like one pretty good hitter, so I wanted them to put the ball in play,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg said that this may have been a fault in his strategy because the El Camino lineup had better hitters than he had anticipated.

TPHS traveled to Carlsbad High School on March 14 for another Pirate/Falcon Classic tournament match, after the Falconer went to press. The game had been rescheduled because a game scheduled at an earlier date was rained out.

SDUHSD holds safety walkthrough

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the February issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer, and cowritten with Alex Jen: 

Campus-wide safety walkthroughs took place Feb. 12-13 to assess TPHS’ precautions for a natural disaster or lockdown.

Principal Brett Killeen has been a strong advocate for crisis boxes — which are storage bins that contain first-aid kits, hydraulic jacks and flashlights that could be used to extricate people from dangerous locations.

“I think the safety boxes are necessary,” Simon Ilko (10) said. “If something happened, like an earthquake which could easily hit San Diego, we could be trapped in our classrooms without any food or water. So it’s good to spend money on those.”

According to Killeen, some batteries stored within the crisis boxes had “exploded” recently, and other materials were in poor condition. All damaged equipment has been replaced.

“[Previously], the boxes were in one location, but it made more sense to spread them out to one per building area,” Killeen said.

Assistant Principal Rob Coppo, who is in charge of safety at TPHS this year, said there are four crisis boxes on campus: in the health technician’s office, custodial services, the World Languages building and the administration building.

“[The crisis boxes] were actually the idea of a previous assistant principal, and we didn’t know they need restocking until custodial services told us recently,” Coppo said.

According to Killeen, TPHS still needs a portable water supply on campus, along with foods with long shelf lives, in the case of a water line break or other emergency.

“When the water line broke in September, we were waiting for bottled water, but something like [the water tanks] could have dispensed, emptied and refilled the water so it was fresh.”

World Languages Department Chair Leonor Youngblood said water tanks spread around campus are ideal.

“I think it makes very good sense to know that we have a central location for water,” Youngblood said. “It makes sense to have a huge container of water in the case of an emergency.”

In addition to supplies in case of an emergency, TPHS has also considered fortifying security around and inside the campus. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, other schools across the United States have put more measures in place to discourage future school shootings, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Some students do seem to think that more security, although not necessary, certainly would not hurt.

“I think our security now is good, but you can always do a little extra, like with the bins, or maybe adding more security,” Natalie Aroeste (10) said.

However, Killeen believes such intimidating additions to safety would have negative effects.

“It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Killeen said. “The more you make the school look like a prison, the more dangerous it becomes. The safer schools are more spread out, more trusting, more accommodating, like TPHS.”

Indeed, no students have expressed serious concerns about security to the school administration despite recent shootings like that at Sandy Hook.

“I feel pretty safe at school,” Ilko said. “There is always a cop at school during lunch. So if anything ever happened you could just go to them, and I’ve never needed to go to them, so that’s good.”

According to Killeen, Southern California is more susceptible to fires and earthquakes than a shooter situation.

With the Northwestern Division of the San Diego Police Department just one mile away on El Camino Real and Fire Station 24 a couple hundred yards from campus, TPHS is, according to Killeen, in “a very good geographic location,” and has all the resources necessary for fire or other natural disasters.

In case of a situation similar to Sandy Hook, Killeen said the police would take control almost immediately, and the administration would be responsible for communication.

“Assuming everyone gets in safely and the police are pursing the suspect, we’re sending out alerts to our parents via ConnectED and our staff through mobile devices so they get updates from us,” Killeen said.

Killeen’s belief that the school would be prepared for natural disasters resonates with his students.

“This school is secure and we would know what to do if an actual situation went down,” Aroeste said.

This year, Coppo said a new lockdown drill will be implemented. The drill will simulate an emergency in which staff members would have to get students safely back inside.

“During a lockdown, that’s when the water tanks really come into play,” Coppo said. “When you’re locked in for six hours, you’re going to get thirsty. We need some sort of at least baseline minimum for water.”

Before coming to TPHS, Killeen was the principal of “a [school] where the neighborhood was much more dangerous … surrounded by walls, had seven Kevlar-vested security guards, 50 cameras [and] some pan-tilt zooms.”

“But I felt much more unsafe there, and part of that was because the community had gangs as part of their everyday lives,” Killeen said. “Safety in that environment was always on my mind. We’re lucky, statistically, to live in a super safe place.”

Additionally, Coppo said TPHS has the benefit of having three ways to leave campus and, after the school is locked down during an emergency, there would be an organized evacuation to ensure everyone can get out.


Lady Falcons come up short 2-1 to Titans

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the February issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

The Lady Falcons (9-8-1) came up short against Poway High School (8-7-2) on Feb.8, 2-1, in a back-and-forth affair that challenged both teams.

Neither team managed to score in the opening minutes, until Poway threaded the ball through the right side of the field. Ultimately, the ball deflected off center back Bailey Sayin (12) and rolled out of bounds, giving Poway a corner kick. But the Lady Falcons managed to clear the ball as soon as it was in play, eliminating Poway’s chance at scoring.

“I was worried because last time we played them they got a lot of corners and throw-ins and we did not deal with them well,” Sayin said. “So I was worried that this was going to be like the first time we played them, and we would have to be defending the whole time.”

After five minutes, the game grew more aggresive and both sides made a series of free kicks and through balls.

Abigail Palkowitz (12) made a promising attack. However, Poway intercepted the ball back and sent it downfield to its forward Jamie McCandless for a one-on-one scoring opportunity. TPHS goalkeeper Taylor Getz (12) charged off the goal line. McCandless was able to dribble around Getz and lofted a shot past Sayin, who was trailing Getz, for the game’s first score.

“After they scored first, we realized we needed to pick up our game,” outside left midfielder Eva Buechler (10) said.

Eleven minutes later, the Lady Falcons pieced together an offensive attack. A Lady Titan disrupted the pursuit with a hard slide, tackling Palkowitz in the box, and giving TPHS a penalty kick. Midfielder Anissa Dadkhah (10) converted to tie the game at one apiece.

Off a corner kick in the last few minutes of the first half, Poway midfielder Jill Godfrey crossed the ball and defender Maura Duggan headed it past goalie Getz for a 2-1 lead.

“I feel the defense played well, but we got unorganized at times because they were playing long ball, so they were able to get on the attack quicker, and we weren’t really able to get back in time,” Dadkhah said.

The disorganization led to the Lady Titans’ second goal and affected the Lady Falcons’ shape on the offensive half, according to Buechler.

“After we scored we were getting into our groove, but then they scored and after that I think we all kind of let down a little bit,” Buechler said.

Midfielder Erin Donnelly (12) nearly scored off a corner kick by Buechler, but the ball sailed just over the crossbar on what looked to be a promising header.

“I just wanted them to get in the box so we had a chance,” Donnelly said. “It was just kind of a bummer when the whole game was over because that was like our last big chance to tie the game up again.”

After a back-and-forth five minutes that included multiple shots on goal by both teams, the Lady Falcons were awarded a free kick and a potential scoring opportunity, but ended up being cleared away by the Titans.

“I think the team could’ve played a lot better,” Dadkah said. “Like getting the ball on the ground and playing our game, like passing the ball and not getting so frantic.”

After two strong offensive efforts by the Lady Falcons, the ball constantly switched between the TPHS and Poway sides of the field. With time waning, the Lady Falcons began to play more aggressively and received two yellow cards.

“It affected the players that got [the yellow cards] the most,” Sayin said. “And everyone was kind of frustrated with the referee.”

Although players were frustrated with the referee, TPHS head coach Martyn Hansford had a more sophisticated reason for the loss.

“It was just a contrasting style of play,” Hansford said. “They’re just booting the ball, long balls, big throw-ins and stuff, and we’re trying to get it down and play but it just wasn’t connected enough. … I’m not terribly disappointed, but we can definitely play a lot better than that.”

Ranked number three in their division, the Lady Falcons and Hansford agree that there is a lot to work on going into the final stretch of the season.

“We need to [continue to work on] connecting,” Hansford said. “We’ll do a little bit of work on how to deal with adversity, but I don’t think it’s a problem; it’s not like we are mentally weak. I mean we’re a tough team with a lot of character in there.”

The Lady Falcons played at Rancho Benardo High School on Feb. 13, after the Falconer went to press.

Brett’s BBQ

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the January issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

Brett’s BBQ appears to be the stereotypical Southern barbeque restaurant. With wooden chairs, bricks on the walls and aged wall decor, this eatery has the look of a barbeque joint, but it doesn’t have the old, smoky feel to make it authentic.

We ordered at the cash register, and then quickly took our seats. My half order of ribs and chicken, a root beer and sides of macaroni and cheese, a corn bread muffin, french fries, and sweet potato fries cost about $25 and came to our table in 15 minutes.

The mac and cheese, a gob of questionably orange cheese  mashed in a plastic container, looked pitiful at first glance, but it was surprisingly rich and velvety. The fries were soggy and lacked any sort of special seasoning or sauce. The crumbling mound of cornbread was tasty, and surprisingly large for a single serving, but it was the sweet potato fries that took stood out in the entire meal. They were hot and tender, melting in my mouth and coating my taste buds in a savory flavor that I had never experienced with sweet potato fries before. The entrees were the next journey we embarked on after ravaging the sides. The chicken proved to be a delectable choice with its smooth texture and moistness, along with a little kick of heat at the end that left me wanting more. Then came the long-awaited ribs.

Before the first bite, I readied myself for the main course by drowning the ribs in sauce. With a creamy consistency, the sauce lived up to the promise of its tantalizing blood-red hue, typical for decent barbeque sauce. However, when I tried to take a bite with little to no sauce, the ribs were … eh. Rather than a tender, fall-off-the-bone consistency, the meat had a bizarre crunch. It was not flavorful at all without the sauce to acompany it, always an indicator that it is not the ribs that are good, but the sauce.

The restaurant’s disappointing appearance was only emphasized by the subpar food. All around, Brett’s came up short.

Admission Ticket

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the December issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer, and cowritten with Michelle Oberman

Seventy-seven percent of TPHS graduates go on to four-year universities each year. Yet stress, parental pressure and competition all too often permeate that rarified population, as some TPHS students spend all of high school thinking about college.

“It was the same when I went here,” head counselor Brennan Dean said. “I graduated in ‘99, and there was an extreme focus on college then.”

Dean said most of the pressure stems from the home and community environment.

“The community has, for the last 10 or 15 years, had that focus,” Dean said. “We have a community with well-educated parents … what we’ve seen is kids who have been raised with the expectation that they will go to four-year colleges.”

Yet college admissions have become much more competitive over the past decade. Christopher Hamilton, president and CEO of Summa Education, which offers test preparation courses and college counseling, attributes this trend to demographics.

“Ivy Leagues, as recently as a decade ago, had 10,000 applicants; now they get 35,000.
UCLA used to get 35,000 applications; now they get 72,000,” Hamilton said.

Rachel*, who hopes to attend a prestigious university, said that the pressure she feels is “a combination of everything,” but comes mainly from friends and family.

The pressure is double-sided. While Dean said it is “great” that parents expect their children to attend college, as a result of these expectations, “some students put pressure on themselves to get into schools that may not be realistic.”

Hamilton said “a lot of students have crazy ideas about college.”

“They think they want to major in medicine, which is not possible in American schools, or [they think that] a good college list would be seven Ivies,” Hamilton said. “Students are very skeptical about colleges they’ve never heard of, but they’ve only heard of eight or nine schools.”

Michelle Martinelli (12), who was recruited to play water polo by Harvard University, said before she was recruited the college process was “overwhelming.”

“I didn’t know where I wanted to go, where was realistic, where was a reach school,” Martinelli said. “Deciding I wanted to play water polo in college really helped me.”

Much of the hype surrounding “good” colleges comes from the colleges themselves.

“Colleges spend millions of dollars marketing and advertising to high school students,” Hamilton said. “Colleges market to students for reasons that are idealistic and also cynical.”

According to Hamilton, in order to improve selectivity and thus their position on U.S. News annual rankings, colleges want more students to apply because they more rejections make them look more exclusive.

Watching her classmates excel under the pressure of getting into college has driven Rachel to pursue success.

“You see everyone else excelling at so many different things. You have to excel, too to be competitive,” Rachel said.
Many students would admit  they feel pushed sometimes, and Rachel is no exception. On a 10-point scale, she usually ranks her stress as a six or seven, though it “fluctuates” from a five to a 10.

Unlike Rachel, who thinks about college “all the time,” John Stucky (10) is only “somewhat” concerned about college at this point, even though he wants to end up at Stanford University.

“I am not very stressed. I get enough sleep, and I am not too overwhelmed by homework,” Stucky said.

Still, Stucky does believe that “grades are crucial to a successful future,” and he feels pressure to do well academically because of his family’s expectations and goals for the future.

While many students share Stucky’s sentiment, others disagree about just how important high school grades are.

“I’m in between [caring and not caring] about school. I get decent grades; I’m just not a straight-A student or a bad student,” Uri Bialostozky (11) said. “It’s not that big of a concern to me where I go for my first two years of college because your first two years in college are general studies, anyway.”

Along with having good grades, selective colleges also expect students to be well-rounded, as admissions officers look to build a class of passionate, interesting people. While well-intended, this attitude often backfires, as some students participate in extracurricular activities solely because they think it will help them get into college.

“I continued the Spanglish club that my friend started last year purely for college reasons,” Bialostozky said. “I also do a leadership program on Saturdays … where I am a counselor, and that looks very good for college because I get a ton of community service hours out of it. That’s why I do it.”

Yet some believe that students who work to have the best possible test scores or the longest list of extracurriculars miss the big picture.

“University of Chicago received 300 applications with perfect SATs and rejected 60 percent.
To me, that’s not a bad thing,” Hamilton said.
“Colleges don’t really care about perfect scores and grades. [Colleges] are really looking for true contributors and leaders … [and] are getting better and better about seeing who is an amazing person and not just trying to impress colleges.”

According to an admissions officer at a selective California college, who asked that neither he nor the school be identified, schools seek out enthusiastic students. Though it can be difficult to tell who does their activities just for college, the admissions officer said that college essays can help them determine how genuine the applicant is.

“We prefer people that are actually passionate about their activities, although it is difficult to see who is and who isn’t,” the admissions officer said.

Though Rachel said she knows many people who do activities just to attract colleges, she is not one of them.

“I got started in a lot of things for college, [but] I stopped doing it for college when I [actually] started enjoying it,” Rachel said.

Some people are just happy that students are involved in the community at all, no matter what their reasons.

Stucky said that, although some students may do activities for the wrong reasons, “at least they are getting involved.”

As the statistics indicate, getting into college is not likely to get easier. The only possibility for change is how students react under the pressure, perhaps learning that life, not college applications, should come first.

*Name changed at interviewee’s request

Falcon Tries: Ballet

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the November issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

It was a good day, and I had been in a great mood. So of course, when I was asked to try ballet, I thought it would be very humorous and I obliged. But as the ballet class approached, reality set in.

Like I said, my initial thought was that doing ballet would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but then I realized what I had signed up for: I had agreed to go to a dance studio and partake in a one-hour Beginning Ballet class of mostly 8-year-old girls.

The only thing I knew about ballet was based on what I had seen my girlfriend, Savanna, do at her recital months before. Even then, as I noticed the shocked stares fixed upon me, I did not think ballet would be that difficult. The girls did have a grace about them, but what I pondered was: Would it really be that hard to learn the basics? I knew I would not be anywhere near my girlfriend’s level, but I thought I could get a good sense of the rigor in one class and not make a complete ass of myself. I was wrong.

On the way to class Saturday morning, I tried to be as masculine as I could. I blasted some Dubsteb music to look tough while texting my girlfriend. However, I soon realized what was really going on: I was a 15-year-old boy being driven by his mom to a ballet class, while rocking out in the car. I was about to endure an emasculating experience, and I would just have to come to terms with that.

As I got out of the car, reality struck me. All I could see were 7-and 8-year-olds in their ballet attire. I introduced myself to the teacher, was shown where to stand, and the experience began.

Some simple side-to-side movements started off the class, including a move called releve, which incorporates standing on your tippy toes and a couple of easy foot formations. I felt pretty confident and began to wonder why I had been so worried in the first place.

As the girls began to take notice that next to their tiny friends was a 6-foot tall boy, the teacher, Ronin Kohler, addressed the class.

“Fernando will be joining us today, and he’s going to try his very best to keep up with us,” Kohler said.

I thought to myself how embarrassing it would be for me not to be able to keep up with 8-year-old dancers, and I chuckled.

That was when things started to go poorly. Music was implemented, and we began more complicated movements. All the terminology was in French — needless to say I did not understand any of it — but all the girls knew what it meant. I was not only being schooled by their dancing abilities, but also by their foreign language skills. I felt compelled to express that I was fluent in Spanish, but I realized that it would be a little bit weird to brag to a bunch of 8-year-olds. It seemed as if I was being emasculated on two levels.

As the exercises became more complex, the girls began to take more notice of me. They would glance in my direction and giggle. Some seemed to laugh right in my face, except for one girl.

She was not like the other girls; she did not laugh, but simply observed me. When we were told to go into fifth position, which entails having the heel touching the opposite foot’s toe, she aided me.

“Other foot,” she whispered.

Eventually, I started to get the hang of the routine we had been doing for five minutes.

“Very good,” the teacher said.

I never thought I would hear those two words in a ballet class.

As we moved into more complicated exercises like the plie, in which we bent down to our knees, the giggles became eruptions of laughter.

The girls were blatantly laughing out loud. One girl even had the audacity to point at me. I was not mad, but embarrassed. I was getting laughed at by 8-year-old ballerinas. Thankfully, the little girl continued to help me through it.

“Are you going to be here every Saturday?” she asked with an excited look on her face.

“Nope,” I said contently.

I was being laughed at, but the little girl still wanted me to come to classes. Maybe I was just a form of entertainment.

As the class continued, the humiliation did not cease. From the corner of my eye all I saw was my mom laughing and taking pictures, little girls laughing at me, and very confused parents.

Moves became more difficult as we executed the difficult twirls, leaps and toe touches, all to the music’s rhythm.

The class finally ended. I said goodbye to my little friend after taking a group picture with the class, and I was on my way.

I left with a newfound respect for ballet, and reluctantly sent a text to my girlfriend.

“Ballet is a lot harder than I thought.”

Falcons fall to Bulldogs 38-24

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the November issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

The Falcons (4-5) struggled to keep up with Ramona High School (5-4) after a lackluster first quarter, and lost 38-24 on Oct. 26.

After the Falcons were forced to punt on the opening drive, Ramona capitalized with a 14-yard touchdown run.

“They started off with the momentum and we knew our offense would have to answer back,” center Jake Ashby (12) said.

At the end of a five minute drive in the start of the second quarter, the Falcons attempted a 49-yard field goal. This was the kicker Collin Brown’s longest attempt in his life.

“I felt relieved and surprised that I made it,” Brown said. “And at the time, I thought that [the field goal] would be the beginning of our momentum.”

The Bulldogs went on an unsuccessful drive and had to punt. The Falcons responded with a 66-yard drive capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by Cole Jazcko (12).

“The offensive line did a great job opening up a hole,” Jazcko said. “I saw a guy standing in the end zone and thought, ‘There is no way I am being stopped.”

Following the score, Ramona went three-and-out and punted. Ramona retained possession on the punt after a Falcon penalty and scored a touchdown. Once again, the Falcons were unable to score and punted the ball away. Ramona responded with a field goal and led 24-10 at the half.

On the opening drive of the second half, Peter Hollen (11) took an interception 67 yards for a touchdown.

“I knew the receiver was running a 10-yard out route, so I jumped it,” Hollen said.

TPHS trailed 24-17 with five minutes left in the third quarter. As the Falcons opened up their pass game, they were able to manufacture an 80-yard drive, resulting in a touchdown run by Chase Pickwell (12).

Tied at 24-24, TPHS kicked off with just over three minutes left in the game. The return was downed at the 38-yard line, and Ramona broke away with a 62-yard touchdown run on the first play of the drive to seal the Bulldogs 38-24 lead with just over three minutes left.

The Falcons fumbled on their final drive, and Ramona recovered. Ramona ran the ball on several plays to end the game.

“I knew it was going to be an incredibly physical game,” Ashby said. “The Ramona offensive and defensive line is the driving force behind their team, and we knew how the two lines played would decide the game.”

The Falcons take on rival La Costa Canyon (7-2) today at 7 p.m. at Ed Burke Stadium.

Great Sexpectations

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the November issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer, and was cowritten with Cory Lomberg: 

In movies and TV shows, middle school realtionships are always lighthearted. A string of awkward interactions and text messages hold the relationship together, while the mature subject of sex is rarely discussed. At 14, Dana* did not expect sex to play a monumental role in her first relationship. Dana said that after dating for six months, sexual tension threatened her relationship, and the couple thought just having sex might relieve the pressure.

“I know now that I really wasn’t mature enough,” Dana said. “I don’t even know what [my boyfriend and I] were thinking when we made the decision to have sex. Either we both thought we were ready, or we just weren’t thinking at all.”

According to Dr. Francine Martinez, a San Diego-based psychologist who specializes in peer relationships, the effects of sex on a couple depend on the stability of the relationship itself.

“[Sex] can be a learning experience of how intimacy is not just physical,” Martinez said. “Intimacy is trust, and in order for a relationship to be solid, there has to be communication and trust on multiple levels.”

While Dana and her boyfriend decided suddenly to have sex, Jill’s* foray into sexual activity was carefully planned. Jill became sexually active with her long-distance boyfriend at the age of 15. She believed sex would compensate for their geographical distance, and does not regret the experience, especially since she said she and her boyfriend were in love.

“My mom always told me that whoever you have sex with for the first time, you should love deeply,” Jill said. “So, I’m glad it was him.”

Both Dana and Jill chose to have sex to stregthen their emotional connections with their partners. Despite their efforts, their attempts proved that sex can negatively affect relationships just as easily as it can improve them.

“Sex was not the only reason [my boyfriend and I] broke up, but it was definitely a contributing factor,” Dana said. “Because having sex was such a big step, I thought it would change our relationship for the better, but it actually ended up changing it in a negative way. Having sex made us fight more, and we didn’t even know why. Even at times when it brought us closer, it seemed to add stress to the relationship.”

Two months after first having sex, the couple broke up. As they entered high school, the pair struggled to mend ties, according to Dana. While they wanted to stay friends, their past stood in the way of a casual friendship and of their new relationships.

“After that relationship ended, I had another boyfriend,” Dana said. “Even though I had ended the other relationship months before, I always compared the two. In the end that’s why I couldn’t move on [and broke up with my second boyfriend] … I haven’t had sex with anyone since.”

Chad* was in a relationship for about eight months when he and his girlfriend decided to have sex.

“At first, it did not quite strengthen or weaken my connection with my partner,” Chad said. “It was not a very big development in our relationship. The whole thing is hyped-up a bunch and then when it happens, it’s like: ‘That’s it?’ In the short window of [our relationship after this], maybe four months after it happened … there was not a significant change in my emotional attachment to her. It was more like a check off of the bucket list. It was something she wanted to do because of curiosity or whatever.”

Martinez maintains that all relationships, even those of high school students, can thrive without sex.

“Other than peer pressure or other feelings of guilt, if both people really believe that they want to maintain abstinence, then the relationship will support and will hold,” Martinez said.

Victor Hakim (12) believes that teenagers in relationships should wait to engage in sexual activity until they reach adulthood.

“There’s a big difference between teenage years and adulthood,” Hakim said. “The blatant difference is a dramatic shift into an independent lifestyle. I don’t think we can justifiably expect two 16-year-olds to mutually exchange something this awesome and then just go home in the domain of their own parents, separated from each other by familial expectations and curfew laws.”

While some couples choose to engage in sexual activity, there are obvious precautions that need to be considered. Dr. Alfredo Ratniewski, Chief Medical Officer of the Borrego Community Health Foundation, offered some words of caution about engaging in sexual activity at a young age.

“Many people get anxious or nervous or worried, and [regret] what they did,” Ratniewski said. “Sometimes as a teenager, you are not mature enough to take precautions that would preclude you from contracting a specific disease, like sexually transmitted infections,” Ratniewski said. “You might not take precautions and end up with an unwanted pregnancy. If some people are not mature enough [to take the necessary precautions], it might have psychological effects.”

Ratniewski also believes that some of the most common contraception tactics are not the most effective. While many high school couples exclusively use condoms as protection against pregnancy and STIs, other forms of contraception, including birth control pills, yield better protection results. Ratniewski recommends using two separate contraception techniques at once.

Despite the potential consequences of sexual activity, Dana and Jill believe that the emotional and physical tensions that came along with becoming sexually active helped them mature. From middle school relationships to relationships approaching adulthood, sex is an unavoidable topic and not at all like in the movies.

*name changed to protect identity