Sixth Formers reflect on the lasting impact of Fords athletics

Geordy Holmes ’21 in a 15-11 win against EA on May 20, 2021- N18 Productions

Sports are an integral aspect of the Haverford experience: they encourage brotherhood, camaraderie, and discipline—the quintessential qualities Fords pride themselves on.

The spring sports athletes of the class of 2021 are a truly special group who embody these attributes central to the school. Although they faced a number of challenges—no Fifth Form season, new protocols and restrictions, and abrupt changes in schedules—they made the absolute most of every moment they spent on the field, water, or court.

“Our student-athletes have shown a tremendous amount of resilience and grit,” Director of Athletics Mr. Michael Murphy said. “I also think they’ve displayed a great attitude and appreciation.”

For Sixth Former and first-team all-Inter-Ac catcher Eric Genther, the 2021 season was unique in a number of ways.

“In the beginning of the season, it was tough,” Genther said. “We had a new dynamic among the team because a lot of the guys hadn’t played together, and we had a lot of young guys. It was a bit of an adjustment at first, but once we got everyone to really buy-in, we banded together as a group.”

While the team has had success on the field, Genther explained that some of his favorite moments occurred off the field.

Eric Genther ’21 hits a line drive into right field, March 10, 2020 – Luke Kania ’19

“I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the guys and our bus rides after a big win,” Genther said. “Just all those memories that you make as a team—as a high school athlete. It’s something that I think I’ve taken for granted before, and once the season’s over, you realize just how special those moments are.”

Similar to the baseball team, Fords Ultimate was also forced to pivot after last year’s canceled season.

“Last year, we had a lot of potential,” Sixth Form captain Drew Loughnane said. “We had a bunch of seniors who had played soccer, and I’d gotten them to come out and learn the game, but after COVID hit, they all graduated and our team lost a lot of the more athletic kids. So this year, it took a lot of—not only conditioning—but just recruiting and finding younger kids who were willing to run around and learn a sport that a lot of them didn’t know.”

Still, the team adjusted well and managed to have a successful season. Loughnane established that the lessons he learned through ultimate go far beyond the frisbee. He has played ultimate for years outside of school, but he did not join the Fords team until he was a Fourth Former. Right away, he has helped grow the program.

Drew Loughnane ’21 makes the grab in ultimate action- Mr. Jim Roese

“Being the one who has the most experience on the field has really helped me, especially with my leadership skills by putting me in a position where I’d never been in before—where I’m the one who’s running the practices and doing the drills,” Loughnane said. “Especially stepping in this year where I got to take a pretty big leadership role was something for me and I think for the team that was really nice. We had a team that listened so well and worked so well together.”

Sixth Form Trinity-bound rower Bryson Bernhardt also found his athletics experience impactful.

“Rowing for Haverford changed my life,” Bernhardt said. “It showed me a lot of things I was lacking, like discipline and hard work, and it showed me how dedication to something can result in success. I highly suggest it to anybody who wants to try it because rowing is a good long-term thing for your life . . . A lot of kids who come through the program end up continuing with it, which shows you how much people fall in love with the sport.”

Bernhardt believes the school’s rowing program will continue to flourish moving forward.

“To the juniors, I would say go after it next year—because they’re fast and can legitimately win, they need to really buckle down,” Bernhardt said. “This year, with covid and everything, it kind of set back almost every program, but next year, they have a serious opportunity to make a legacy as a really good class.”

Beau Christopher and Bryson Bernhardt ’21 grab their oars in practice – Henri Waché ’21

This theme of the Sixth Form caring not only about the success in a given year but also laying a foundation for the future is constant across every sport.

Sixth Form lacrosse midfielder Geordy Holmes said, “What we tried to do was keep that brotherhood. We lost a year of it, and since you lose a year, there are a lot of young guys that don’t really know yet what it means to be a Haverford lacrosse player, and the biggest thing about being a Haverford lacrosse player is buying into the brotherhood, loving being out there, loving your teammates and loving the game . . . granted, we lost that last game, but I would like to think that we made Haverford lacrosse better just because of that brotherhood.”

Holmes reflected on his emotions after the Inter-Ac championship.

“After that last game, you turn around and you’re just defeated. And then you see all those younger guys crying and coming up to you and hugging you and thanking you—it’s a special thing because you feel that you made it better than how you found it,” Holmes said.

Overall, Holmes believes lacrosse has had a tremendous impact on his life.

“This year, the biggest thing for me was just being grateful for having a season and being able to just go out every day and practice and do what I love with the guys that I love.”

Geordy Holmes ’21

“This year, the biggest thing for me was just being grateful for having a season and being able to just go out every day and practice and do what I love with the guys that I love,” Holmes said. “Over the past four years, I’ve just learned so much and I’ve become such a better person through Haverford lacrosse. There are so many life lessons that I’ve learned—not to say that I haven’t learned in the classroom—but I just don’t think I would have learned as much without lacrosse.”

Unlike the lacrosse team, the track and field squad was relatively small this season. However, Sixth Form jumper Chris Sims explained that he viewed this as a positive.

“We had our own little family,” Sims said, “and we really just stuck together. It benefited us in the end because we all got to know each other really well. With all the training that we were doing, it made it very easy to just talk and have fun.”

Chris Sims ’21 during a track meet – Courtesy of Chris Sims ’21

Still, the season did not come without its challenges.

“With COVID, it was a lot more training than anything,” Sims said. “For me, I had to take every day and push myself to make sure I was getting the experience that I wanted, so when it did come time for meets, I was ready to go.”

Similar to the other Sixth Form athletes, Sims affirmed that athletics has been a fundamental part of his upper school experience.

“I’m really grateful that the track program pushed me to be who I am today, and I’ll always remember that the track team is really what pushed me to make myself better.”

Chris Sims ’21

“The last four years have been unforgettable,” Sims said. “Starting off freshman year and not knowing if I wanted to run track at all, to by the end of the season being a guy who scored at Inter-Acs—to my senior year being one of the leaders for the jumpers—it really just came full circle for me. I’m really grateful that the track program pushed me to be who I am today, and I’ll always remember that the track team is really what pushed me to make myself better.”

For Fords tennis—another tightly-knit team—this spring season was special. In late May, they secured their eleventh straight Inter-Ac title, a feat that Sixth Former George Laveran credits largely to senior leadership and head coach Mr. Antonio Fink.

“In the fall, we came back and Mr. Fink was able to get us back in the tennis zone,” Laveran said. “Everyone was a bit rusty, but being able to play and be with the team in the fall was very beneficial because by spring, everyone knew who was on the team and we’d already gotten back into it a little bit.”

George Laveran ’21 in the Fords Inter-Ac Championship win- Mr. William Crowder

Laveran reflected on his Fords tennis journey.

“Even last year, I hadn’t really grown yet and I was pretty small, but Mr. Fink gave me some opportunities to play on varsity as a junior before Covid struck. I used to play a lot of tennis when I was younger, and the program at Haverford got me back into it,” Laveran said. “And honestly, with the leadership and camaraderie, I liked this year’s tennis team the best of all the teams I’ve ever played on.”

Mr. Murphy had high praise for the class of 2021.

“Leadership starts at the top with them,” Mr. Murphy said. “The way that they’ve handled everything, with the grace that they did and the resiliency to say, ‘we’re going to make the best out of this,’ that carried all the way through the school. They’ve had an incredible attitude to go out and capitalize on the chances they had to compete, so I’m really impressed with that group.”

Author: Mitav Nayak '22

Mitav Nayak has contributed to The Index since 2018. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief. Mitav won the fall 2019 Pennsylvania School Press Association (PSPA) Philadelphia-area Student Journalism Competition for Newspaper Sports Story Writing and was to compete for the state title in the spring of 2020 (canceled due to COVID).