Athletic Disciplines—Work, Diet, and Motivation

By TGS track and field team members Ella Raesly (’24), Charles White (’23), and Josh McKay (’22)

Tony Ross and Gary Evans used our Geneva track and field facilities to train a number of elite Olympic athletes. Three of our varsity track and field team had the chance to interview a couple of them this summer. 

Samantha Dirks

This past summer, we had the incredible privilege of meeting a couple of professional track athletes and interviewing them. The first athlete we met was Jessica Beard. Jessica specializes in the 400-meter dash (one lap) and had a phenomenal track career at Texas A&M University, winning two NCAA titles, a pair of relay golds, and the Bowerman Award (top collegiate track athlete). We also interviewed Samantha Dirks, who represented Belize, where her mom is from, at the Olympics in the 400-meter dash. When we first met these two athletes, we already had a basic assumption that they had been training for track since youth, or at least the beginning of middle school; however, when we asked the two of them when they began, Jessica told us that she did not start until her freshman year of high school, and Samantha did not begin running until twelfth grade! Both played basketball when they were younger, and Jessica only began track because she was told that it would help her with basketball. So what does it take to become a successful athlete, even after starting late? Surprisingly, both athletes hit the same three categories.

The first part of a successful track career is work: if you don’t grind day in and day out, you can kiss your dreams goodbye. Both athletes started late, but by putting in the time and effort, they’ve risen to the top. The work is not always fun, though: after a workout, Jessica will sometimes say, “Coach, you are crazy,” but she doesn’t argue because she’s seen the results of difficult training. Jessica told us, “I think we make it look easy, ‘cause all people see is the end result, you know? They see you when you’re out there at a conference, or when you’re at a meet, but they don’t see all the hard work that you do behind the scenes, and whether it’s injuries that you’re battling and you have to overcome, or whatever the case may be, people only see the end result.”

Jessica Beard

The second important discipline for a professional athlete is diet. Samantha Dirks is a pescatarian (no, that is not a denomination), which means that she does not eat meat but does eat fish. While most of us probably love bacon too much to give up meat, Samantha understands that discipline, no matter how harsh, is necessary to hit her goals. “In terms of my diet as a whole,” Samantha told us, “I’m very conscious of what I put in my body, so I eat out as little as possible, and if I do, it’s something that I know will be fuel for my body. So that’s my number one thing: focus on fueling your body and fueling for whatever sport you’re going through.”

The last part of becoming successful is motivation. When it comes to motivating themselves, neither Jessica nor Samantha lacks enthusiasm. For Jessica, it is important to continue to have fun, whether or not a race or a practice goes well; she mentioned multiple times that she is very competitive, but she knows that she can’t let that get in the way of enjoying a sport that she loves. Samantha finds her drive in her underdog story, having started track much later than most anyone she races. Both were also motivated by their friends, family, role models, and even country. Jessica Beard and Samantha Dirks prove that you don’t have to be an immediate prodigy to excel in your field. Just stick with it, and who knows? Maybe you will represent the United States in a future Olympics.

In Praise of Sports

Dear Geneva Community:

When I talk with prospective parents about Christian classical schooling, I discuss the usual school-related topics such as philosophy of education, course of study, and programs, including athletics. Sometimes, parents have a hard time reconciling the philosophy and course of study (including Latin, grammar, logic, and rhetoric) with the desire for a competitive sports program. I imagine many picture our students in a fashion similar to a famous Monty Python skit featuring Greek and German philosophers competing against one another in a soccer match. If you watched our student athletes compete this fall, then you know better. They are dedicated and intense competitors, win or lose.

When students compete in athletics, they are recreating or creating anew their body and spirit. We call such recreation play and the event a game. These activities require knowledge and training and follow a set of rules. While sports tend to garner tremendous attention, time, and money, they are nevertheless engineered with rules created to determine winners and losers. For most athletes at the K–12 level, the engineered nature of sports includes stakes not much greater than trophies and ribbons. Recognizing that sports are engineered games does not mean they are unimportant.

Activities in athletics and the arts complement our academic program and when combined, serve to further our school’s mission to provide “an extraordinary education … that pursues goodness, truth, and beauty in all spheres of life.” Athletics provide our students with experiences that the arts and academics cannot. Specifically, they provide our students with adult-like situations that force them to make split-second decisions that often have an impact on the outcome. When compared with the classroom or the art studio, the athletic arena is unique: noisy, intense, exhausting, and unpredictable. The results in a contest are immediate and unambiguous.

For many students, sports are an essential part of their lives. For some, the prospect of playing later in the day is what gets them out the door in the morning. Academically strong schools like TGS develop athletic programs that fit our mission so that we can go with the grain of student interest and passion in order to develop them into astute, well-rounded, humble, selfless, confident, and poised young women and men.

As with anything that is good, athletics require safeguards to ensure they maintain their proper place. The Greek poet Hesiod stated it well when it comes to making sure good things such as athletics remain so: “observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.” While I don’t propose that we put “All Things in Moderation” above the entrance to our gym or over our athletic fields, I do suggest it can serve as a guiding principle for making sure our student athletes are well-served and excel as both students and athletes.

REGIONAL CHAMPS!

Varsity Volleyball Update

The TGS varsity volleyball program has been a model of consistency the last ten years. Head coach Hollie Benjumea took over the program in 2006 and has led the program to the regional playoffs all fifteen seasons and is currently on a ten year streak of claiming district championships. This is a remarkable feat and was recognized recently by the Orlando Sentinel.

The team won the regional final match against Victory Christian Academy last Saturday, October 31, with a score of 25–11, 29–27, 22–25, 26–24. The team faces St. John Paul II (Tallahassee) in the state semifinal tomorrow (Saturday, November 7). The game will take place at TGS at 2 pm. It will also be livestreamed on the TGS YouTube page. The winner of the match will play next Saturday in the state final in Fort Myers. Click HERE to access the tournament bracket.

Go Knights!

Brad Ryden
Head of School

TGS Introduces Julia Ingler – New Girls Basketball Coach

Julia Ingler started playing basketball at the age of five in Coral Springs, Florida. Upon moving to St. Cloud, Florida, she attended a basketball camp and was asked to join the Central Florida Blazers’ AAU Team. At Narcoossee Middle School, Julia played multiple sports including track, soccer, and basketball (where she was the leading scorer and MVP in consecutive seasons). Entering Harmony High School, her passion was basketball, but she also excelled at flag football. During her senior year of high school, thanks to amazing teammates and great teamwork, Julia’s flag football and basketball teams both finished second place in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) State Championship and Julia received the MVP award. Julia received several other athletic awards throughout high school, including two-time All-District Basketball Player of the Year, Osceola County Brighthouse Basketball Player of the Year, and Osceola Gazette Basketball Co-Player of the Year.

Julia received multiple scholarship offers to play college basketball and ultimately decided to attend and play for Rollins College in Winter Park. The atmosphere and small class sizes were the best fit academically, and it also had a top-notch basketball program. While at college, Julia developed strong leadership skills as a starting guard and captain. The team made great strides and was the NCAA South Region All-Tournament Team in 2017. Throughout college, Julia continued to rack up the awards and achievements, including All Newcomer Team as a freshman and NCAA Sunshine State Conference Honor Roll, while also scoring over 1,200 points throughout her college career (which was limited by a broken foot during her senior season). Julia is also proud to hold the record for the most career three-pointers (224) in Rollins’ basketball history.

Each summer while at Rollins, Julia enjoyed being fully engaged with multiple basketball camps where she made great lifelong friends. After graduating with a degree in communications and a minor in business, Julia accepted a contract to play professional basketball in Ireland while also pursuing her master’s degree in international business management at Griffith College. Being in Dublin from August 2018–May 2019 was a wonderful international experience that sparked Julia’s vision and drive to become a coach. Shortly after returning to Florida, Julia realized that coaching and helping others was her passion and calling, just like the great coaches that had helped her succeed in the sport and imparted valuable life lessons through the game. Basketball and other team sports teach you to learn from and listen to others and also require you to be accountable to others.

Julia is beyond excited to share her passion for basketball and athletics with the students at Geneva. She firmly believes that dedication, hard work, and having an excitement for a sport can take you to some amazing places!

TGS Introduces Bill Cashman (New Track & Field Coach)

Coach Cash, as a lot of kids call him, joins Geneva’s coaching staff as the varsity track and field coach. He started his career in coaching while still in high school, coaching baseball and football, and adopted the role of pole vault coach for his track team when they didn’t have a coach. His mentor and coach, Ron Evans, recruited him to coach a few years later, and together they won ten state championships. Since that time, Coach Cashman has coached over 70 state champions, 11 state record holders, 7 national champions, and well over 100 All American athletes. Prior to coming to TGS, he spent five years at Lake Mary High School where his Rams set 30 school records, won 3 straight conference and district titles, and were runners up twice at regionals.

Coach Cashman is a Level I and II certified coach through USA Track and Field. He also went back to school, earning a BS in Exercise Physiology and Sport Science at UCF. He studied strength and conditioning under Frank Costello while coaching at the University of Maryland, as well as biomechanics under Roger Eckard, formerly of Arkansas State University.

A couple of key phrases that set Coach Cashman apart as a coach:

▪ “I love you enough to tell you the truth … even if it hurts a little.”
▪ “Are you better today than you were yesterday, and did you do enough to be better tomorrow?”
▪ “Let the height of your desire and the depth of your resolve be the measure of your success.”

Coach Cashman, along with his wife, Lisa, and stepson, Griffin, live in Casselberry and attend St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Oviedo.

Find out more about Geneva’s Track and Field program HERE.

TGS Introduces New Boys Varsity Soccer Coach

Eddie Jimenez grew up in Miami, Florida, playing for Kendall Soccer Club where he won three state Florida Youth Soccer Association (FYSA) championships and the world-renowned youth international tournament The Dallas Cup in 2006. He was part of the Florida Olympic Development Program (ODP) from age twelve to fifteen, representing the state of Florida in the ODP regional and national tournaments. At fifteen, Eddie began his international career when he was invited to represent his country of Puerto Rico at the U-17 World Cup qualifiers held in Trinidad and Tobago. Upon graduation from high school, he was offered a soccer scholarship to Villanova University just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After one year at Villanova, Eddie decided he wanted to be closer to home and transferred to the University of Central Florida where he became a starter in the midfield for the Knights. As an integral part of the UCF squad, he was able to achieve great success, reaching two consecutive second round NCAA tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011.

After graduating from UCF with a degree in interpersonal communications, Eddie was offered a contract to begin his professional soccer career with the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League. After about six months into his career, he was called up to the full senior Puerto Rican national team to compete in the Concacaf Gold Cup qualifiers.

After his playing career, Eddie came back to Orlando and began his coaching career at Florida Kraze Krush. He has a strong passion for developing players of all ages and really understands the work it takes to become an elite level soccer player. His philosophy on player development is simple: players who want to improve have to understand that only through hard work and dedication can one be successful in this sport. As a coach, he sees it is his job to create a performance environment where players feel challenged and are pushed to improve daily. Eddie is a strong advocate of developing a strong fundamental base of personal technique and skill so that as players mature and the game becomes faster, they are able to better adapt to any game situation thrown their way.

Eddie is excited to be a part of The Geneva School coaching team, to continue to mature as a coach, and to have the opportunity to work for a prestigious institution that shares his moral and religious values and virtues.

State Champs … Third Time’s A Charm

By Ryleigh Wallace, Class of 2020

Yearbook managing editor & Geneva Gazette staff writer

“Third time’s a charm” says Coach Hollie Benjumea concerning the Lady Knight’s volleyball victory at the State Championship in Fort Myers on Thursday. While the team had traveled two years previously to the Championship only to come home with the title State-Runner Up, their hardwork and dedication has finally paid off; between their defensive plays, dedicated spirit, and supportive attitude, the team received a new title, State Champions, making Geneva School history.

Emmalise Dunnavan said, “[Throughout the game] Maggie did a great job of keeping of keeping us confident … that’s what we really needed.” The Lady Knights played strongly and encouraged each other through it all. Lily Weir and Rylee Thomas had defensive blocks, Frances Aguayo and Emmalise Dunnavan had powerful digs, Connelly Renfrow had many kills, and Maggie Segarra had great serves, ending two of the three winning sets. Coach Benjumea said about the third set, “We had confidence going into the first two games, and in that third set maybe overconfidence … so it helped that we’d already beat them in two sets and a game before.” No doubt, the Geneva volleyball team worked hard and ought to be so proud of the game they played.


Even when the game was difficult, the girls’ hard work was evident, as was their teamwork and encouragement. Junior Captain, Connelly Renfrow, said, concerning their trouble in the third game, “My teammates help[ed] me get back up.” The team worked together and pulled through to win the game in three sets, 25-18, 25-17, and 25-22. When asked how the team fosters such a supportive relationship, Maggie Segarra said, “We’ve all been very good friends since we were younger and we have all been playing with each other for such a long time. That has made us such a strong team together. We are friends in and out of season, and that has really made a difference.”

In fact, Coach Benjumea said “It’s been great to watch them grow on and off the court. They really care about each other and respect each other. They accept each other for who they are … and that is a really beautiful thing to see.” And, after such a great season, how could one not wonder what the future volleyball seasons hold? Coach Benjumea has promised that there is “lots of fun to come from Geneva!”

District CHAMPS!

The Geneva varsity girls soccer team won their first ever district championship on Friday. The win capped off a great season for the girls, who were undefeated in the district. Their record led to the first place seeding heading into the district playoffs and a first-round bye. The girls played Circle Christian in the semifinals in a hotly contested game that ended with a 2 – 0 Geneva win. The girls then earned a 2 – 0 win against International Community School in the finals on Friday night. The game was intensely close, and we had a large excited crowd on hand to help cheer our girls to victory. This was a great team effort, and we are proud of all the girls who helped make the team successful.

Also of note, we had six girls placed on our all-district teams. First team selections were Clara Miller (12th), Taylor Talesnick (10th) and Anna Foreman (9th). Second team selections were Emily Costar (10th), Raquel Smith (11th) and Ellie Shafer (10th).

The girls play the regional quarterfinals on Tuesday, February 6, at the Geneva athletic campus at 6:00 pm. As district winners, the girls will host Orangewood Christian. Come out and support your Geneva Knight girls soccer team!

The Geneva School
The Geneva School
May 22, 2024
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