Bates in Brief Sports: Scorned runners, Lewiston baseball players
The men’s track team worked hard for its big wins in 2012, including the program’s second-ever NESCAC outdoor championship in April and first-ever New England and ECAC indoor titles last winter.
For one element of the team, however, the grueling work was motivated by a painful snub two years ago that left them shut out of an NCAA championship meet.
Rewind to November 2010. Bates’ cross-country runners have gathered at the home of head coach Al Fereshetian.
“One of the worst days of my coaching life.”
Huddled around his computer, they’re waiting for the NCAA to announce the at-large bids to the Division III championship meet. They refresh the browser maybe a hundred times before the crushing news appears: Bates has not received a bid.
To the runners, it looks like the selection committee has unfairly tried to balance the field by inviting more teams from outside the college-rich New England region.
The snub “was one of the worst days of my coaching life,” Fereshetian says.
Partly to prove a point to the NCAA, Fereshetian schedules an out-of-region meet at St. Lawrence University for fall 2011. The move is a masterstroke. The Bobcats, then ranked 22nd in the nation, soundly beat St. Lawrence and SUNY–Geneseo, two teams ranked higher in the polls.
The point is made: New England has both quantity and quality, and deserves to be well represented. In November, Bates is among five NESCAC teams to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA meet (only three were selected in 2010). All five finish in the top 15, and Fereshetian wins NESCAC Coach of the Year laurels, partly because his barnstorming trip to St. Lawrence elevated the conference’s fortunes.
Since then, the distance runners who felt the snub in November 2010 have used that frustration to focus their efforts in cross country and, during the winter and spring, for Fereshetian’s track and field program.
Not that they really need more reason to push themselves. In fact, the runners “love the pain” of intense competition, both against other teams and among themselves, says 17-year assistant coach Todd Goewey. “It may sound weird, but it’s true. They love getting the most out of each other.”
So while the great thrower David Pless ’13 was the most prominent athlete during the Bobcats’ recent triumphs, the distance runners stepped up with big efforts.
The harriers who’ve kindled fire for the track team include John Stansel ’15 of Newburyport, Mass.; Noah Graboys ’14 of Glencoe, Ill.; Tully Hannan ’14 of West Hartford, Conn.; James LePage ’13 of Cumberland, Maine; Andrew Wortham ’13 of Newton, Mass.; Ben Chebot ’12 of Newton, Mass.; Mike Martin ’14 of Slatersville, R.I.; and Ken Whitney ’13 of West Hartford.
Fereshetian has no doubt that the snub of the cross-country team in 2010 got everything moving forward. “It was the genesis.”
Men’s outdoor track performers won 20 All-NESCAC honors in 2012.
In one week in April 2012, Leah Maciejewski ’12 won a Fulbright to teach in Poland while batting .750.
Campus Pride says Bates athletics is a U.S. model for inclusion and friendliness to LGBT students.
Swimmer Gabrielle Sergi ’14 has an edge: Her family owns a pool company.
Nessrine Ariffin ’15 Is Best Fast
In her debut, squash player Nessrine Ariffin ’15 confirmed she could be Bates’ best female player yet.
In her first college match in November, she beat Trinity’s top player, Catalina Pelaez, ranked 187th in the world.
From Penang, Malaysia, Ariffin finished the year 23–4, earned Second Team All-America honors and joined Aisha Shah ’02 and Ricky Weisskopf ’08 as Bates squash All-Americans.
Next fall, Ahmed Abdel Khalek ’16 — an Egyptian by way of Westminster School in Connecticut, the two-time defending U.S. junior champion and the sixth-ranked junior in the world — will join the men’s team.
Squash is perhaps the most internationally diverse of all collegiate sports, and head coach Pat Cosquer ’98 keeps his team doubly diverse by recruiting students from the StreetSquash and SquashBuster programs in New York City and Boston, respectively.
“They all want to be Bates students,” he says. “They don’t want to go where they’re known primarily as squash players.”
At least in recent memory, first-year teammates Mekae Hyde and Alex Parker are the first Lewiston residents to play baseball at Bates.
Baseball insiders like assistant coach Bob Flynn and equipment manager Jim Taylor can recall no others, and the college’s alumni database turns up nada.
While they’re rare specimens, Hyde says the decision to attend Bates was, in the end, a “no-doubter” — the baseball term for a blast that leaves the park, no doubt about it.
A catcher, Hyde did initially balked at attending Bates. “I really wanted to get away” and play Division I ball somewhere. But after a visit, he “just fell in love with Bates.” Parker, too, was on the “anywhere but Maine” trajectory. But like Hyde, a campus visit sold him.
Hyde played for Lewiston High School, a Class A program, while Parker attended smaller St. Dominic High School in Auburn, a Class C power.
Both locals came to Bates for the “right reasons,” says head coach Mike Leonard: a potent blend of academics and athletics. “They both work extremely hard. And they both want to help the team,” Leonard says.
“It’s every little kid’s dream to play Division I, but you have to look at what’s better for you in the long term. Education is going to trump athletics every day.” — Mekae Hyde ’15, baseball player from Lewiston