Amaris Harrison is Changing the Baseball Culture at Muir

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

There’s something magical about the number 37 for Amaris Harrison. The senior second baseman for Muir’s varsity baseball squad led the team with 37 hits, 37 runs and 37 stolen bases last season.

Harrison led Muir to an 18-8 record last year and helped the school end a 30 year playoff drought. Muir played three games in the postseason, including a wild card berth, losing in the second round.

“It was a tough season. There were a lot of ups and downs. It was like a roller coaster almost,” Harrison said. “There were a lot of family problems throughout the whole team, but we rebounded from that and finished off strong. We needed a lot of luck to get into the playoffs, but we made it and that’s all we care about.”

Harrison said he and his fellow seniors worked hard to change the baseball culture at Muir, from a struggling program to a winning one.

“It’s been good, just a little different, being the under dog. I’ve played for a lot of winning teams so coming into Muir my freshman year was different,” Harrison said. “The team is going to be young this year, but with the few seniors we have, we plan on teaching them how we played over the past few years. We want them to get that same mentality and we’re hoping to make the playoffs again this year.”

A big incentive to succeed on the field looms in the hallways of Muir in the form of Jackie Robinson, one of the most famous baseball players and athletes of all time, the man who broke the color barrier in professional baseball and changed sports culture forever.

“He inspires me a lot,” Harrison said. “It’s a really good feeling to go to his school. He’s up in the hallways and we have his number up on our scoreboard. It’s good because it gives us something to prove everyday. It’s a lot on our back, but we’ve learned to play with it and it’s a nice feeling.”

While his team goal is to get Muir back to the playoffs and hopefully grab a title, Harrison has some lofty personal goals as well.

“Last year I had 37 hits, 37 runs and 37 stolen bases. This year I want to have 50 hits, 50 runs and 50 stolen bases,” Harrison said. “I want to be better each year than I was the year before.”

While 37 hits might not sound like much to the average baseball fan, it is important to remember that the high school schedule is about one-seventh of the professional schedule. Harrison’s 37 hits translated to a .457 BA, a .564 OBP and a 1.083 OPS, all team highs and seriously high stats.

Harrison has grown into the player he is today after 13 years of practice through little league, club, and now his fourth year on varsity. He plans to continue to play ball in college, although he isn’t sure where at yet. He does know he wants to stay in Southern California to keep close to family.

After college, Harrison aims to play professional baseball, maybe for the Atlanta Braves, his favorite team. He compared his play to Ozzie Albies, the Braves’ second baseman who has a similar stature at 5-foot-8. However, after some reflection, Harrison changed his answer.

“My all time favorite player from the past that I see in myself is Adonis Harrison. He was a very flashy infielder that hits left-handed and throws right-handed just like me and displayed excitement to the crowd,” Harrison said. “I’m hoping to be like him one day.”

Player Profile: Polytechnic Runner Evan Hayes

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Until his freshman year at Polytechnic, Evan Hayes had never been into running. Then he joined the cross country team and discovered a new passion.

“When I started, I was kind of reluctant to run a lot,” Hayes said. “But the past couple summers I got into running every day, running longer distances and having really structured workout plans … Overall, I think I’ve become a lot more invested in running.”

Hayes, who is entering his senior year, never looked back. He finished the season last year as one of Poly’s top runners. Hayes finished fifth in the league and qualified for CIF prelims, then CIF finals. 

“Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the state meet, but hopefully this year I can finish highly at CIF finals and qualify for the state meet,” Hayes said. 

Besides going to state, Hayes said his big goal for this season is for the whole team to qualify for CIF. He believes the team can do this because they have a lot of talented underclassmen.

Hayes also runs for Poly’s track team, participating in the 800-meter, the mile and the two mile races.

Although the season doesn’t start for several weeks, Hayes is already training.

“After track ended, I took a two week rest period before training,” Hayes said. “My coach and I set up a workout plan for the summer with weekly mileage targets. I’ve been running in the high 30s and low 40s (miles per week) over the summer. By the end of summer, I hope to be running in the 50s or maybe even 60s to hit those goals of qualifying for state.”

After this year, Hayes plans to go to a small liberal arts school out of state.

“I kind of just want to get out of California,” Hayes said. “I love California, but I think it would be a good experience to get out for four years because I’ve lived in Southern California for my entire life. I think seeing a different part of the country would definitely be a good experience.”

Hayes doesn’t plan to run in college. He isn’t sure what he’s going to study yet, but he’s leaning towards history or economics because those are his favorite subjects at Poly.

For now though, Hayes is focused on training for this season. His summer will revolve around his running schedule.

“Most people don’t know how time consuming and how much energy you have to put into running long distance. They don’t understand the work I put into it,” Hayes said. “If you miss one workout, one run, that can have a big effect. You really have to watch the way you eat too. It does dominate your life a bit. It’s very taxing on your body. People don’t know how much time it takes to stay in shape for a runner.”

Thomas McConnell Aims to Break More Records for Poly Football

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Thomas McConnell has high expectations for Polytechnic High School’s football team this year. A record breaking linebacker, McConnell brings veteran leadership as a senior with 11 years of football under his belt.

McConnell thinks the team will fare much better than last year when they won eight games, but lost in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs. He projects the team will go deeper because they moved down two divisions, from Division 10 to Division 12, to play schools of comparable size, and because the team won’t face the same initial struggles they did last year.

“We lost a ton of really talented seniors before last season. We only have seven total seniors on the team. We initially dealt with a lot of behavior our coach was not a fan of,” McConnell said. “But we came together a lot toward the end of the year.”

McConnell recalled the highlight of the season, when Poly beat their rival, Rio Hondo Prep.

“That was where our season culminated. We really dominated that game,” McConnell said. “It was a good experience to come together as a team after working for the whole season to achieve our goal of beating our rival. That was a goal we had set for ourselves on the first day of camp. All our work paid off that day.”

Although Poly will start the season off with some harder games, McConnell thinks these will bring beneficial experience when the team goes to the postseason tournament. McConnell said the ultimate team goal is to win CIF; however, he is focusing on some personal goals for the time being.

“I improved a lot from sophomore year to junior year and I want to do the same this year. Last year I broke the school record for tackles in the season with around 112. This year, I want to tie or break my brother’s record for most tackles in a single game (18),” McConnell said.

After high school, McConnell plans to go to a top notch academic school. He currently has a 4.29 weighted GPA. McConnell said he might play football in college, but academics come first and he won’t sacrifice the academic experience for the athletic one.

When McConnell is not playing football, he enjoys hanging out with his friends, wakeboarding and shopping at thrift stores.

Although the season doesn’t start for more than a month, McConnell is already putting in the work to have another record breaking year.

Profile: Poly Golfer Maddy Kwei

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Maddy Kwei loves golfing. The Polytechnic junior has golfed for nearly a decade, and she’s only 15 years old.

Kwei began playing golf at seven. Her mom enrolled her in a class and she instantly loved the sport and decided to stick with it. She started competing at 10-years-old.

During the school year, Kwei competes for Poly and in two other tours, the Southern California Professional Golfer’s Association (SCPGA) Junior Tour and the Future Champions Tour. She plays a tournament or two per month for the other tours during the school year, but the competition load ramps up immensely during the summer. Last week alone, she played in five tournaments.

Although it’s very time consuming, Kwei enjoys the tournaments.

“Golf is really great because unlike any other sport, you really get to know these people you play with for five or six hours every single tournament. Since you’re stuck with them the whole day, you kind of have to get to know them, talk to them,” Kwei said. “I know people from all around the world on a more personal level. That’s not something you find in any other sport.”

Most of the tournaments are within an hour’s distance, but some are farther. Kwei recently qualified for a three-day tournament in Palm Springs.

Kwei played in all 10 tournaments with Poly’s team last year, averaging a score of 38 on a nine-hole course. Although she did well, the team struggled at times.

“I definitely improved from last year,” Kwei said. “This year we lost a senior who was a big part of getting our scores, so that was different for our team. We had just enough players to play. But I’m glad the girls on the team are dedicated to high school golf. I think the team did pretty well considering we only had five players, so all of us had to always be there.”

This year, Kwei plans on recruiting a lot of freshman, so the team has more than five players.

Kwei plans on playing collegiate golf, although she doesn’t know where yet.

“California has great weather for golf, so I would love to stay here, but moving to the East Coast or the Northwest would be great too,” she said.

Kwei is interested in many fields, including international relations, communications, science and French. She isn’t sure which one she is going to major in yet, but she aims to minor in French because she loves French culture.

When she’s not golfing or at school, Kwei enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also loves to volunteer. Kwei volunteers at Fuller’s Family Daycare, where she has helped out over the summer since she was in seventh grade. Kwei also serves as the assistant lifestyle editor for Poly’s newspaper, Pawprint.

“People don’t know how hard working I am,” Kwei said. “I have goals and I’ll do anything it takes to reach them.”

Zoey and Ella Mao Look to Continue Polytechnic Volleyball Success

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Polytechnic’s girl’s volleyball team is led by a pair of star players who have built their chemistry on the court for more than seven years. Identical twin sisters Ella and Zoey Mao enter their senior year with high expectations for the team and for themselves.

The sisters, originally from Los Angeles, began playing volleyball in fourth grade and never looked back. Zoey said they tried a few other sports before, including soccer and swimming, but they both fell in love with volleyball. They started playing club volleyball one year later with the San Gabriel Valley Elite Volleyball Club, where they still play in Poly’s offseason.

Both sisters are committed to play at the University of Chicago next year. They accepted offers from the school earlier this year, although that wasn’t always the plan.

“I definitely didn’t want to go to the same college at first,” Zoey said. “I wanted to branch out, be more independent, but I’m excited now. I’m sure we’re going to have a great four years together.”

Zoey said the swinging factor was that both of their parents went to the University of Chicago, so they already had strong attachments to the school.

Both Ella and Zoey said they are very excited for the new season to begin. Poly’s team made it to the CIF-SS Division 4 finals last year, where they lost to Garces Memorial.

“We only lost two seniors, so the team is pretty much the same,” Ella said. “But we also moved up a division, so I know it’s going to be tougher. I want to win our division and win the Prep League.”

Although these are high expectations, Ella and Zoey are the two players most equipped to take the team deep into the CIF postseason again. Both have been stars on Poly’s varsity team since their freshman year. Both have played club volleyball for the better part of a decade. 

“We don’t really know anything different,” Ella said. “We’ve played together for so long and we’ll continue this year and for another four years after.”

Pasadena Spring Sports Recap

This article originally appeared in the Pasadena Independent.

Spring sports have officially come to a close in Pasadena with strong showings by Polytechnic School and John Muir High School.

Poly made it to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section (CIF-SS) Division 5 baseball championship, but fell just short, dropping the final game against Xavier College Preparatory High School 0-3 on May 18. Prior to that, Poly had a dominant season, going 19-4 on the year with a +92 run differential.

Muir also had a solid baseball season, going 18-8 on the year before falling to Canyon Springs High School in the second round of the CIF-SS D4 championships. Muir played on and off throughout the season, notching three win streaks of four or more games, with a three game losing streak. They outscored their opponents by 87 runs on the season.

On the women’s side, Poly made it to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS D6 softball championships before falling to Nordhoff High School. The team went 15-5 on the season with a nearly perfect league record of 9-1. They also put together a 12-game win streak spanning from the end of February until mid-April.

Muir’s varsity softball team struggled this year, piecing together a 5-17-1 season.

Pasadena High School saw similar struggles on the field. Their baseball team went 11-14 and softball went 6-14 on the season.

Off the field, Poly had strong performances from the varsity boys’ tennis and coed badminton team. The tennis squad was a flawless 19-0 on the season, before falling to Calabasas High School I. the CIF-SS D2 finals. They dominated teams all season including three shutouts.

The badminton team posted a 10-4 record but dropped their match against Westminster High School in the first round of the CIF-SS Open Division championships.

Both Poly and Muir’s boys’ volleyball teams struggled, posting 2-13 and 5-16-1 records on the season, respectively.

Poly sent both the girls and boys swimming teams to the CIF-SS finals, finishing 17th and 24th, respectively.

Check back soon for more coverage of Pasadena sports.