By Guy Mermelstein
As MVPs and nationally ranked champions, a handful of Beacon’s finest athletes have built resumes that are nearly flawless — yet underneath all of their evident success, there were countless hours dedicated to enhancing their craft, social events and academic opportunities missed, and the agony of defeat and rejection. In some cases, their years of hard work resulted in opportunities to play the sport they love at the highest level they can: the college varsity stage. Each athlete showcased in this edition of The Beacon Beat reached their goal of playing their respective sport at the university level and each has had a unique experience when it came to their individual recruiting process. Some of these athletes shared stories of first receiving interest when they were as young as eighth graders, while others explained that they are still working tirelessly to keep acquiring additional offers with higher profile competition.
From being first recruited to a Division I soccer program as a thirteen-year-old, becoming the top ranked freshman goalkeeper in the the country, to prevailing over Real Madrid’s U17 Academy, Stanford University commit Alexander Rando has made an incredible soccer career for himself thus far. Despite having never played a game for the Beacon Blue Demons due to his commitment to his Development Academy team, Rando has spent his academic career at Beacon, and managed to maintain outstanding grades along with an undying commitment to his soccer club, which runs eleven months per year. Rando detailed that he realized that college soccer was in his future when in eighth grade, Stanford first reached out to him personally after a strong tournament performance in Northern California, and encouraged him to keep playing the sport he loved at the highest possible level. Alex described that despite getting enticing offers from Wake Forest and Georgetown, he ultimately decided to sign with Stanford at the end of his junior year because it was important to him to continue his “academic advancement as well as his athletic advancement.”
Playing for the Beacon Blue Demons since her freshman year, Tufts University commit Hayley Bernstein has always felt at home on the soccer field. She described that the girls soccer team as family, and always felt like the team was a “community I could count on.” Bernstein explained that she first realized that she had the potential to play college soccer during her freshman year, when she started attending recruiting camps, also known as ID camps, outside of school, and playing in high level tournaments with her travel teams. Despite later signing with Tufts, Bernstein had at first given up on the school when she heard that the girls soccer team already had three goalies in their rotation. She was forced to reluctantly move on and continue to attend ID camps at different universities in an effort to keep gaining interest and offers. No other university she heard back from was as ideal of a fit for her. By chance, on a tour at Tufts with her twin brother, she happened to be placed in a group led by a senior who played for the girls soccer team. Hayley approached her after the session, and asked if there were any updates regarding the goalie situation, and shockingly, there were two new open spots for that position. She immediately started getting into contact with the coach, and after submitting her transcript and application, received an offer to play for their varsity team. She committed in October of her senior year, and is “extremely excited” and “ready to work hard” to earn minutes on the field.
Since first picking up a basketball and beginning to play seriously in fourth grade, the court had always been a sanctuary for Skidmore University commit Raven Ennis. As a rotational point guard for the Beacon Blue Demons for all four years of his high school career, Ennis witnessed Beacon’s basketball program transform from a low ranking team in the A Division to a powerhouse that was in competition for the city championship. Due to his experience playing high level basketball for the entirety of his middle and high school years, Ennis claimed that “playing basketball at the college level had always been an aspiration of [his].” He mentioned that his dreams started to become realized when he earned his first set of college offers as a junior at an ID camp, and that’s when he said his confidence truly soared. According to Raven, what set Skidmore apart from the others schools that were recruiting him was that “their coach put a lot of effort in [him]” and along with their academics and ideal size, “it felt like the right decision.” Ennis committed to the university midway through his senior year, and explained that he is, “very excited to head right in and start working hard for playing time.”
As co-captain of the Blue Demon Boys Soccer team, the soccer field has always been a place for SUNY Cortland commit Alex Ferrara to create bonds with new people. Ferrara explained that as a result of practicing every day with the soccer team, he developed close connections with all of his teammates and added that he met some of his closest friends while playing for Beacon. In addition, he detailed that since he started to play significant minutes during his sophomore year, “playing college ball became a goal of [his].” According to Ferrara, the majority of schools that recruited him either identified him from his play at Beacon, or from his relentless attempts to get in contact with their coaches. After receiving a total of four offers throughout his four years of high school, he ultimately decided on Cortland because of the personal relationship he sustained with the team’s coach, and the accessibility of the school to its students. Alex is “extremely stoked” to start playing for the Red Dragons, and also said that he, “really looks forward to working hard and proving myself” on the college stage.
Uncommitted track star Jack Craven described his four years as a member of Beacon’s track teams as an “evolution,” and a “journey I will never forget.” Craven explained that every year he spent doing track, the better he performed, saying that when he came in as a freshman, he “felt some pressure running with the upperclassmen,” but eventually “blew up” by the time he was a senior. Craven detailed that he realized that running track on the collegiate level was a possibility for him at the end of his sophomore season, and after bolstering his aspirations with a strong junior campaign, he started to get contacted by various Division III programs, such as Fordham. He stated that, “I unofficially decided to commit to Fordham in the beginning of my senior year, but after a strong indoor season, higher level doors opened up… and I reconsidered.” Knowing that Fordham was always still an option, Craven decided that he wanted to run track for a Division I program, and as a result, is taking a gap year to, “keep training, and allow for more opportunities to show themselves.” However, Jack is no stranger to daunting tasks. As a senior, he “broke the school record while placing fourth in cities in 25 degree weather on top of a 103 degree fever.” Craven explained that moments like those are, “all part of the process when you’re chasing your dream.”
Ultimately, the experiences Beacon’s scholar-athletes had at this school will serve as a backbone to any situation they may find themselves in. Lessons such as those regarding selflessness, the virtues of hard work, and how to win and lose with dignity were all built upon during these athletes’ tenure as a Blue Demon, and are all imperative traits when it comes to finding success. The stories they shared with The Beacon Beat have encapsulated what it means to achieve a goal through the utilization of these traits, and despite their differences, each athlete exemplified how they arrived at the point they did. Hopefully, these athletes continue on the path they are on, and never forget that the harder they work, the farther they will go.