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Young & Ballin’

Underclassmen athletes looking like vets

Sav'ell Smalls

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Possessing one of the richest histories of athletics in Washington State history, some pretty phenomenal athletes have come through Garfield High School. Brandon Roy, Deandre Coleman, Joyce Walker, the list goes on and on. Garfield’s network of impressive alumni have helped Garfield attain such a rich athletic history. Fast forward to today and you will see the younger generation of Bulldogs hungry to join their ancestors in the record books. These underclassmen are already competing at the top level, all of which ooze with athletic potential.
One of these athletes is sophomore baseball player Oscar Kopischke. Being a utility player, Kopischke plays multiple positions on the diamond, including 2nd and 3rd base, plus shortstop. After the departure of Kopischke’s older brother Zubin, a former captain, Oscar has been tasked with keeping the family name alive.
“There’s been a little pressure to live up to my brother,” Kopischke said. “But in my opinion I’m definitely overcoming his standards and what he did.”
But even if he thinks he’s on his way to passing his brother, he doesn’t discredit him.
“I started playing baseball when I was around five or six years old,” Kopischke said. “[As a child] my brother, dad, and I would always play catch, so I started playing little league and I just fell in love with it.”
With his brother’s absence, some of the upperclassmen on the team have stepped up and have acted as a mentor to young Kopischke.
“I’ve become really good friends with a lot of the varsity players. There was never any intimidation,” Kopischke said. “From the start the upperclassmen were really helpful and supportive.”
Given his teammates supportiveness, Kopischke feels a sense of duty to fulfill their expectations.
“Being one of the only underclassmen on varsity, you don’t get as much playing time as the upperclassmen,” Kopischke said. “But I try to do everything I can for the team to help us win games. Whether it’s diving on the dirt to make plays or hitting very efficiently, I’m going to do everything in my power to produce.’’
On a upperclassmen heavy team, Kopischke definitely has the tools, and the mindset to not only take his game to a high level, but contribute to the success of the team as well.
Another underclassmen star in the making is track star Jyotkia Chung. Being one of the faster athletes on the team regardless of grade, Chung participates in the sprints, the one hundred and two hundred meter dash.
“I started track in middle school when I was in sixth grade at Mercer Middle school,” Chung said. “My mom, dad, and grandpa all did track when they were younger, so from them there was some motivation to start.”
Although Chung’s parents and a grandparents participated in track, the competition in the family comes from a different branch in the family tree.
“My dad did the four hundred meter dash and my grandpa did the triple jump and long jump, so there was a little competition but not much,” Chung said. “But my older brother Avi is on Garfield’s track team, so we’re always looking to see who had better meets.”
With a lot of family that has history with track, one would assume that the speedster would want to keep things going beyond high school.
“My grandpa actually had the national record in triple jump for awhile, but I’m not sure if I want to do it in college or after yet.” Chung said.
For now, she’s just enjoying the sport.
“I just want to continue meeting new people and improving my times. At the end of the day I just want to have fun,”
At Garfield we’ve become accustomed to seeing the Garfield dance team hype us up with their moves at assemblies and games. One of these dancers that has become a student favorite is freshman Aziza Alabe.
“I started dancing when I was younger,” Alabe said. “I did drill team for a long time, and dancing seemed fun so I wanted to try it.
But Alabe’s first stint with dancing wasn’t with the Garfield team.
“When I first started dancing I was apart of a dance group called Remix,” Alabe said. “It was my moms old dance team that was brought back, so I started with them.”
Through her involvement on the Remix dance team early on, Alabe got experience with dancing in front of big crowds.
“We danced at this really big dance competition held in every state called the World of Dance,” Alabe said. “We didn’t do that good, but we got to go up against a lot of good teams and the experience was super fun.”
Being on the Remix dance team is a big part of why Alabe is so skilled today.
“On Remix we basically did every type of dancing in our routines, and after those I’d be so tired.”
After Remix, she didn’t dance again until being on the Garfield team.
“Being on Garfield has been really fun,” Alabe said. “I like dancing in front of big crowds so the assemblies are probably my favorite thing, but our performances outside of school are pretty fun too.”
At the next performances, be on the lookout for Aziza Alabe!
The lone underclassmen on the Garfield boys soccer team is sophomore midfielder Ezana Hagos.
“I’m real happy to be on varsity,” Hagos said. “Sometimes I have to carry the water bottles and the cones and all that but I’m real happy to be apart of it.”
When you’re a younger player on one of the best teams in the state, a team that has been to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship each of the last three years, you have to find different ways to help the team besides playing.
“I get a good amount of playing time, but when you’re not on the field you got to be on the bench hyping up your teammates,” Hagos said. “Coach does what’s best for the team and you have to deal with it.”
Being the lone young gun on the team can be overwhelming, but the captains have made sure that isn’t the case for Hagos.
“Josh, Peyton and Jasper are the captains, and they’ve really took me under their wing.” Hagos said. “They’re not afraid to coach you up, tell you what you’re doing wrong and tell you what you need to do better so that’s been helpful.”
The captains that are leading Hagos and the rest of the team, were among many that were a part of the team that was defeated by Roosevelt High School in the 2017 class 3A semifinals, the school Hagos transferred from over a year ago.
“I got friends over at Roosevelt off the field, but once we get on that field there are no friends,” Hagos said. “I want to beat those guys. As soon as I transferred I was no longer a Rider, I’m a Bulldog and that’s that.”
Representing cheer is sophomore Lanisa Powell, who has some pretty impressive accolades under her belt
“I used to do competitive cheering for a team called South Elite,” Powell said. “There’s a lot more traveling involved than high school cheer and we do a lot of competitions.”
One of these competitions is considered as one of the biggest of youth competitive cheering.
“In 2015 my team and I went to the UCA nationals for a three day tournament,” Powell said. “There were a ton of teams and a lot of competition but we ended up winning.”
To do something like win a national championship in any sport requires a lot of hard work and experience, all of which Powell has.
“I started competitive cheer when I was six because I had a lot of energy so my mom put me in it,” Powell said. “I stopped after we won the championship because I lost interest in it.”
Years after winning a national championship, Powell has developed a newfound interest in the sport.
“Garfield cheer is a different environment,” Powell said. “It’s really fun because I get to travel to all the different games and I get to interact with the school more.”
Be sure to catch national champion Lanisa Powell and the rest of the Garfield cheer squad when it kicks back up this fall.
Last but not least in our bunch of phenomenal underclassmen athletes is three star ranked sophomore tennis player, Andrew Suver.
“I started playing tennis when I was seven,” Suver said. “My grandpa grew up playing in Texas and at one point was the best player in the state and he went on to play at Texas A&M. He was the first person to introduce me to the game of tennis and I just kept playing since then.”
In his nine years of playing, Suver has racked up a lot of accomplishments, and plans to keep them coming in.
“When I was eleven I went nationals in Austin, Texas” Suver said. “After that I’ve been to other big tournaments around the state, and this year I beat the 2017 state champion, so I hope to keep the momentum going and get a run at state.”
Playing tennis outside at Garfield definitely prepared him for metro play.
“High school tennis is way more laid back and more about getting your team to win,” Suver said. “But in the league I usually play in, it’s super competitive because people are fighting for [college] looks and births to national championships.”
Suver also says he wants to follow in the footsteps of his grampa.
“I definitely want to go play D-1 tennis,” Suver said. “My top school is UCLA, and I really like the other California schools, but my goal is to just go play college tennis.”
Another underclassmen who’s enjoyed her share of early success is Gabbi Hughes from the currently undefeated softball team. Hughes, a catcher, gave praise to her elder teammates.
“A lot of the upperclassmen have really helped me with more than just softball,” Hughes said. “They help me with school, sports, and just life in general, so it’s really cool to have those connections with other kids.”
But Hughes is used to this type of mentorship, specifically found in her relationship with her sisters.
“Both my older sisters started playing softball way before I did. I started going to games when I was a baby,” Hughes said. “I just saw them playing so when I was around seven I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps by playing.”
But just because she’s young, doesn’t mean Hughes hasn’t been producing on the class 3A top ten ranked Bulldogs.
“Our starting catcher was the only catcher on the team, so she had to catch every game which isn’t good for your body,” Hughes said. “But now with me coming in I’m able to alleviate some pressure from her.”
For now Hughes just wants the trend to continue.
“I just want to keep having fun,” Hughes said. “We’ve been running through teams and we’ve had a lot of fun and got closer while doing it. We’ve really became a family and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Being a young athlete isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially when you’re at a competitive school like Garfeild, where phenomenal athletes are littered throughout the school. Seeing alumni like Jalyen Nowell, Aaron Kovar, Debbie Armstrong and many more can be a daunting task to live up to. But the seven of these young athletes have stepped up to the plate and delievered thus far.
With so many outstanding athletes walking through the Garfield halls, it’s guaranteed that the rich athletic history will be continued for years to come.
Whether it’s a cheerleader or a runner, Garfield always has, and always will have the legacy.

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Young & Ballin’