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Nine individuals who have made outstanding contributions to interscholastic athletics were recently named recipients of the 2012 Distinguished Service Awards given by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

 

Kendra Tomsic, long-time Rowland Hall director of athletics, was among the nine from across the United States honored at an awards banquet in San Antonio, Texas, during the 43rd annual National Athletic Directors’ Conference, conducted jointly by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the NIAAA.

 

The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to individuals from within the NIAAA membership in recognition of their length of service, special accomplishments, and contributions to interscholastic athletics at the local, state, and national levels. Nominations are submitted by state athletic director associations, screened by the NIAAA Awards Committee, and selected by the NIAAA Board of Directors.

 

For the past 35 years, Kendra has been helping student athletes excel in interscholastic athletics. Following three years as the head volleyball, basketball, and softball coach at the College of Eastern Utah, she taught physical education and health at Grand County middle and high schools for 10 years, head coaching volleyball, basketball and softball as well, and winning one state volleyball championship and two softball state titles during her tenure in Moab. Kendra moved to the Salt Lake area in 1991, teaching and coaching for a year at Highland High School before being hired as the athletic director at Rowland Hall in 1992, a position she has held since that time. Kendra also serves as head volleyball and assistant softball coach for the Winged Lions.

 

Kendra has been very active in the state and national athletic director associations, serving as the first female President of the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association in 2003–2004. She served on the UIAAA Board of Directors for four years, chaired the inaugural UIAAA Strategic Plan Committee, served as NIAAA liaison and certification director, and was a member of the Athletic Directors’ Advisory Council to the UHSAA for six years. The UIAAA named her Athletic Director of the Year and also honored her with the NIAAA State Award of Merit in 2007. That same year, the National Federation of State High School Associations selected her to receive the NFHS Citation, also a national award. She has been member of the NIAAA Strategic Planning Committee, as well as currently serving on the National Athletic Director’s Advisory Committee, which plans the annual NIAAA/NFHS Conference.

 

Congratulations, Kendra, on this prestigious honor!

Athletics

Tomsic Receives Prestigious NIAAA Distinguished Service Award
Nine individuals who have made outstanding contributions to interscholastic athletics were recently named recipients of the 2012 Distinguished Service Awards given by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

 

Kendra Tomsic, long-time Rowland Hall director of athletics, was among the nine from across the United States honored at an awards banquet in San Antonio, Texas, during the 43rd annual National Athletic Directors’ Conference, conducted jointly by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the NIAAA.

 

The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to individuals from within the NIAAA membership in recognition of their length of service, special accomplishments, and contributions to interscholastic athletics at the local, state, and national levels. Nominations are submitted by state athletic director associations, screened by the NIAAA Awards Committee, and selected by the NIAAA Board of Directors.

 

For the past 35 years, Kendra has been helping student athletes excel in interscholastic athletics. Following three years as the head volleyball, basketball, and softball coach at the College of Eastern Utah, she taught physical education and health at Grand County middle and high schools for 10 years, head coaching volleyball, basketball and softball as well, and winning one state volleyball championship and two softball state titles during her tenure in Moab. Kendra moved to the Salt Lake area in 1991, teaching and coaching for a year at Highland High School before being hired as the athletic director at Rowland Hall in 1992, a position she has held since that time. Kendra also serves as head volleyball and assistant softball coach for the Winged Lions.

 

Kendra has been very active in the state and national athletic director associations, serving as the first female President of the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association in 2003–2004. She served on the UIAAA Board of Directors for four years, chaired the inaugural UIAAA Strategic Plan Committee, served as NIAAA liaison and certification director, and was a member of the Athletic Directors’ Advisory Council to the UHSAA for six years. The UIAAA named her Athletic Director of the Year and also honored her with the NIAAA State Award of Merit in 2007. That same year, the National Federation of State High School Associations selected her to receive the NFHS Citation, also a national award. She has been member of the NIAAA Strategic Planning Committee, as well as currently serving on the National Athletic Director’s Advisory Committee, which plans the annual NIAAA/NFHS Conference.

 

Congratulations, Kendra, on this prestigious honor!

Athletics

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Rowmark ski racer Elisabeth Bocock is one of the newest members of the US Ski Team.

Congratulations to junior Elisabeth Bocock, who this week was nominated to the US Ski Team.

Rowmark and US Ski Team ski racer Elisabeth Bocock

Elisabeth is one of 42 athletes nominated to the US Alpine Ski Team and one of three athletes who will be joining the women’s Development Team (D-Team) for the first time for the 2022–2023 competition season. (Athletes qualify for the team in the spring based on selection criteria, and the official team is announced in the fall once nominees complete physical fitness testing and medical department clearance.) She is the youngest addition to the D-Team and the only new member from the state of Utah.

“It was unreal,” said Elisabeth of the moment she received the call from US Ski Team Coach Chip Knight congratulating her on her season and confirming her place on the team. “It was what I’ve been hoping for basically my whole life.”

She’s not kidding. Thanks to her family’s love of skiing, Elisabeth has been involved with the sport for as long as she can remember: she clipped into her first pair of skis at age two, and some of her earliest memories include traveling with her family to Colorado to watch the World Cup—an experience that inspired her first dreams of joining the US Ski Team. “Seeing people on the team there was super exciting,” she remembered. “It made me want to be a part of that.”

It was unreal. It was what I’ve been hoping for basically my whole life.—Elisabeth Bocock, class of 2023, on being nominated to the US Ski Team

It also didn’t hurt that Elisabeth has three older siblings—brothers Scottie ’18 and Jimmy, and sister Mary—who were early naturals on the slopes and whose ski racing journeys inspired her own competitive drive. Elisabeth began racing for the Snowbird Ski Team at age six, and she joined Rowmark Ski Academy at age 13—a move she credits for preparing her to excel in both racing and academics, and where she’s had an exceptional career. In the 2021–2022 season alone, Elisabeth had five podium finishes in elite-level FIS races and is currently ranked first for her age in the US in slalom, giant slalom, and super-G, and second in the world in giant slalom.

“What is so impressive about Elisabeth objectively earning a spot on the US Ski Team is that her season was filled with setbacks,” said Foreste Peterson, Rowmark Ski Academy’s head women's FIS coach. “Whether it was having to quarantine from COVID exposures, or the many hard crashes she took that left her concussed, bloody, bruised, and banged up, she was knocked down time and time again. Yet, she bounced back every time, better than before, and always with a smile on her face. It was truly a pleasure to work with Elisabeth this year, and I so look forward to seeing what her future holds.”

And while Elisabeth’s riding the high of simply making the US Ski Team, she’s also enjoying an additional perk not available to every athlete in her position: the knowledge that this new experience will include her older sister (and role model), Mary, who was nominated to the US Ski Team last spring. “I’m super excited to work together in a different atmosphere,” said Elisabeth. “Mary’s been a real inspiration to me and has shown me what it takes to get to where I need to go.”

We can’t wait to see where she goes next. Congratulations, Elisabeth—we’ll be cheering you on!

Rowmark

Rowland Hall senior Briggs Ballard '22 playing lacrosse for the prestigious IMG Academy.

Ever since Briggs Ballard learned he could play lacrosse while also studying finance and business development in college, he focused on turning that goal into a reality.

“From the day I realized I could play college lacrosse, it has been my biggest dream,” he said.

That dream came true on March 4, when Briggs committed to play for Texas Christian University (TCU), a Division 1 school with a lacrosse team that competes in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. It’s an impressive step for the talented young athlete, who has been passionate about lacrosse since the age of three, when a Rowland Hall parent who moved to Utah from the East Coast created a mini lacrosse team for the community as a way to introduce students to the sport.

“I was a little too young to suit up,” Briggs said about the experience. “However, my brother [Boston Ballard ’20] played and I was always there watching and waiting for my turn. As I watched the older kids, I knew I wanted to play, and from that day on lacrosse was my sport. When I got my chance, I hit the ground running.”

And he’s excelled: by third grade, Briggs was playing competitive club lacrosse, and by sixth grade, club box lacrosse, and he was a member of youth teams at both Brighton High School and Corner Canyon High School, where his eighth-grade team won the state championship. In ninth grade, after a family move, Briggs began playing for Highland High School, where, as the only freshman on the varsity team, he led in goals, assists, and total points, earning him Freshman of the Year and Most Valuable Player accolades. When COVID-19 canceled his sophomore season, Briggs decided to use the time to think about how to take the skills he’d been building to the next level. “During quarantine, I decided I needed to push myself and play at the highest level of high school lacrosse,” he said. After making the team at IMG Academy, a prestigious sports training facility and boarding school in Florida, Briggs chose to spend his junior year there, where he practiced seven days a week and traveled the country playing top teams.

“It was a difficult decision to move away from my family and to leave Rowland Hall, but I decided to go for it and spent my junior year at IMG,” said Briggs. “The experience was one I will never forget; I learned so much about lacrosse and myself.”

He also learned just how much he appreciates his family and the Rowland Hall community: Briggs returned to Utah for his senior year, where he’s been enjoying time with friends, wrapping up his studies in the Upper School, playing lacrosse (of course!), and preparing for the next chapter of his story.

To celebrate Briggs’ decision to play lacrosse for TCU, we asked him to share more about his athletic journey. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


You're a Rowland Hall student who has pursued the sport you love (but one that's not offered by the school) alongside your studies. How have you juggled both responsibilities?

Juggling the rigor of Rowland Hall and the intensity of my lacrosse schedule has been challenging. I've had to learn to manage my time and plan ahead. I've done a lot of homework and studied on planes while flying home from tournaments. Even though Rowland Hall does not have a lacrosse program, the school and teachers have been very supportive and have always worked with me. Along with the challenges, playing for other schools has also been a blessing in many ways. It has enabled me to meet and socialize with kids outside of Rowland Hall and it's really expanded my social circle.

Can you briefly describe how you connected with the TCU team and how you made your decision to join them?

The lacrosse recruiting experience has been both awesome and stressful. I've had to really consider what level of lacrosse I want to play and balance that with the kind of college experience I want. My options were all over the board, from D1 schools to some smaller D3 schools, and several club options. Ultimately, I was heavily recruited by TCU, which happens to be where my brother goes to school. My brother has several friends currently on the TCU lacrosse team and because he knew I would love TCU, he had them reach out to me and from there the coach reached out. I fell in love with everything TCU has to offer, including their D1 lacrosse program. In addition to the lacrosse program, TCU checks all of the academic boxes for me and I can't wait to be a Horned Frog!

Rowland Hall student Briggs Ballard to study at and play lacrosse for Texas Christian University (TCU).

How did you feel when you officially committed to play for TCU?

I felt proud of myself and like all of my hard work paid off. I felt like I had finally done it and was relieved to have made a decision. The feeling of finally committing is a feeling I will never experience again and I am so grateful for how everything worked out.

What are your top memories from your lacrosse career (so far)?

My top memories of my lacrosse career so far are traveling all over the country with my parents and my best friends/teammates. I have played with several of the same kids since we were in the first grade and they have truly become some of my best friends. The summer tournaments are always memories; staying together as a team and playing the sport we love are memories I will never forget. Finally, last year, my IMG team traveled to Indiana, where we played Culver Academy, one of the best teams in the country. While we did not come away with the win, playing in front of so many people, and in a nationally televised game, is a very cool experience and a major memory for me. 

Tell us about the skills you built at Rowland Hall that you'll be taking with you to TCU.

I strongly believe Rowland Hall has set me up to succeed at TCU both academically and socially. Rowland Hall has taught me how to learn, how to be a critical thinker, and how to manage my time. Rowland Hall is a one-of-a-kind school and I cherish my time here and the education I’ve received. I know I will be a strong writer and contribute to the TCU community because of my Rowland Hall experience.

Is there anything else you want our community to know about your athletic and academic journey?

Just that I am beyond grateful for everyone who has supported me and helped me on my journey. My Rowland Hall friends have always been so supportive and encouraged me to keep on with lacrosse. From the teachers and staff to my friends, family, and coaches, I will forever be thankful for all of you. 

Lastly, GO FROGS!

Athletics

Two-time Utah state wrestling champion Drew Lang competing against Westlake's Jacob Finlinson.

When you realize that Rowland Hall senior Drew Lang grew up in a family filled with passionate and successful wrestlers—including two adored older brothers—it’s not surprising that he became intrigued by the sport at an early age.

When asked when Drew first showed an interest in wrestling, his mom, Jill Lang, shared an especially sweet memory: at a wrestling tournament for the family’s two oldest boys, Will and Jack, then in elementary school, where she discovered the then-toddler Drew attempting to change out of his training pants and into a wrestling singlet.

“I said, ‘Oh no, honey, it’s a little too soon,’” she said, chuckling at the memory.

Luckily for that determined toddler, the wait didn’t last much longer: Drew stepped on the mat for the first time at age three. And he hasn’t stopped wrestling since.

Though Drew’s initial interest in wrestling can be traced to simply wanting to do what his big brothers were doing, a deep personal connection to the sport has kept him going for more than 15 years. It’s clear when talking to Drew that wrestling—a sport that, though organized by teams, is very individual—speaks to his innate drive for excellence. He said he remembers enjoying the repetition of early training sessions, which allowed him to slowly hone his skills, as well as benefiting from exposure to a variety of styles shared by the array of families that made up the first wrestling club the Lang family joined after moving to Utah, Team Legacy. He believes these early experiences set a foundation for success.

Wrestling is very much a sport where what you put in, you get out. The feeling of putting in so much time and effort and sacrifice, and then at the end of the day receiving the results you want, it’s very satisfying and worth it for me.—Drew Lang, class of 2022

“A lot of wrestling is knowing what to do in certain positions, and the only way you can really know that is by wrestling in all sorts of positions,” explained Drew. “You pick up on different things when you learn to wrestle against different types of kids.”

And even though Drew was one of the youngest kids in Team Legacy when he got started, his mom said he wasn’t scared to challenge himself. “From a very early age, he has never, ever been afraid of anything,” said Jill. “It wasn’t that he always thought he was going to win, necessarily, but he always was confident in his ability and he was always willing to try things.” It was an approach that worked: around age five, Drew began to place in, and even win, national tournaments, and that taste of victory marked a turning point.

“The feeling of winning is really what sparked my passion for this sport,” Drew remembered. “Wrestling is very much a sport where what you put in, you get out. The feeling of putting in so much time and effort and sacrifice, and then at the end of the day receiving the results you want, it’s very satisfying and worth it for me.”

Since those first wins, Drew has continued to amass an impressive list of achievements, both in national competitions as a now-member of the Sanderson Wrestling Academy and on the West High School wrestling team (although Drew attends Rowland Hall, he is one of its students who plays a sport not offered by the school at another local high school). In January alone, the two-time 6A state wrestling champion finished in eighth place at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in California (”arguably the toughest high school tournament in the country attracting the nation’s top high school wrestlers,” said Jill), first place at the Utah All-Star Duals, and first place at the Rockwell Rumble. On January 19, he was ranked the number-one Utah wrestler, pound for pound, by the Beehive Top 25. And to top it all off, he’s inching his way toward becoming the winningest wrestler in West High School history, a title currently held by his brother Jack Lang ’19 (who, by the way, won it from the oldest Lang brother, Will, in 2019); Drew should take the title by the time the 2022 state tournament wraps later this month. As Drew heads into the final phase of his high school wrestling career, his chances of additional victories, including a third state championship, are promising indeed—especially when you factor in the impressive mental fitness, refined alongside his physical strength, that the young athlete will tap into as he faces his last high school opponents. It’s a kind of fitness that, at such an elite level of wrestling, can truly mean the difference between victory and defeat.

“Once you get to a certain point,” Drew explained, “mindset is almost more important than the physical aspect, just because everyone is so good. But the people that are the best are mentally strong.”

6A Utah State Wrestling Champion Drew Lang, Rowland Hall senior.

Nowhere is this more evident for Drew than when he revisits opponents who have previously bested him on the mat: his 2021 6A state championship win, for instance, came against Westlake High School’s Jacob Finlinson, who wrestled the state title away from Drew in 2020, and this year’s win against Juab High School’s Channing Warner at the Utah All-Star Duals was revenge for Channing’s one-point victory over Drew at the same event in 2021.

“I think that’s what’s really helped propel him to do so well in this sport,” Jill said. “He’s never made excuses. He’s accepted what has happened, win or lose, and if he does lose then he immediately goes into the mindset, ‘OK, how do I need to train differently? What would I have done differently in this match if I had a rematch?’”

It’s a mindset that Drew has also applied in the classroom: while the young athlete said he doesn’t often view himself as the top student, his years of wrestling have taught him that he is one of the hardest working. “I think having that work ethic at such a young age really helped me,” he said.

It certainly made a difference in his college search. In middle school, Drew told his parents that he wanted to wrestle for an Ivy League school, and it became a goal that he dedicated himself to with the same energy that he brings to the mat—and with similar results. This fall, he’ll be heading to Princeton University, where he hopes to reach new wrestling heights (he’d like to be a starter by his sophomore year as well as an All-American) and make connections toward a fulfilling career. “The academic growth I’ll have there,” he said, “I think is going to set me up for the rest of my life.”

I think the skills from this sport—learning how to be a good winner, learning how to be a gracious loser, time management, accountability, not being afraid of taking risks—are so beneficial.—Jill Lang, parent

Because when it comes down to it, Drew explained, few people go on to wrestle professionally—but that doesn’t mean the sport doesn’t continue to shape them. “There’s a quote about wrestling: ‘Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy,’” he said. “I think there’s some truth behind that, just because wrestling is the same as everything else: you’re going to fail at times, you’re going to be successful at times.”

Jill agreed. “Drew’s not going to be a wrestler his entire life,” she said, “but I think the skills from this sport—learning how to be a good winner, learning how to be a gracious loser, time management, accountability, not being afraid of taking risks—are so beneficial, whatever he decides to do.”

The sport has also shown him, and those around him, the power of family and community, all of which came together to support Drew’s dreams. While much of this credit goes to Jill and her husband, Dave, as well as to Drew’s favorite role models, Jack and Will, and his coaches, Jill also took time to express gratitude to Rowland Hall for playing an important role in Drew’s journey.

“I’ve been so blown away by how accommodating the school has been; that’s helped Drew be where he is today,” she said. “Middle School Spanish teacher Bill Shann literally has watched more matches of Drew’s than I could ever tell you—away matches, home matches, matches online. He’s just been so supportive. The teachers have been so accommodating, as I’m sure they are with other kids that have interests they want to pursue. That’s been such a blessing for our family, to have such a supportive network.”

And no matter what happens on the mat this month, Drew will end his high school wrestling career surrounded by those who love him most.

“This is Drew’s moment, and I’m so grateful I get to share in it,” said Jill. “I just want him to go out there, and do his best, and enjoy that moment, and just know, whatever place he takes, we’re right up there watching him, as we always are.”

Lang family

The Lang family; from left: Drew, Jill, Jack, Will, and Dave.


Update February 7, 2022: Drew won the 6A Boys Division Tournament, held February 4–5, and will be the #1 seed going into the 6A Boys State Tournament, which begins on February 18.

Update February 19, 2022: Drew has ended his high school wrestling career with a third state championship; read more about his victory in the Deseret News. Congratulations, Drew!

Athletics

Rowland Hall soccer player Summer Connery commits to play NCAA D1 soccer.

Summer Connery first played soccer at six years old, but she didn’t expect to like it.

“When my dad asked me if I wanted to start playing soccer, I was lukewarm to the idea,” she remembered. “Despite this, I still ended up joining a rec team that my dad coached—and I had a blast. From the first day, I loved it.”

She’s good at it too: since those early days on the field, Summer has played on a variety of teams, including the Utah Avalanche (club soccer), the Utah Olympic Development Program (ODP) state team, and the 2020 ODP West Region Costa Rica team. During her four-year career as a Winged Lion, Summer helped the Rowland Hall girls soccer team claim four Region Championships and three State Championships, set a school record of 112 career goals, and amassed an impressive list of achievements, including 2021 Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Academic All-State, 2020 Deseret News 2A MVP, a 2019 KUTV Prep of the Week, 2019 UHSAA 2A Leading Scorer, 2018 UHSAA State Assist Leader (all classifications), three-time MaxPreps Player of the Week, three-time member of First Team All-State, and a member of the 2021 West Girls All-America Game team. And though her high school soccer career is ending, Summer isn’t yet done with her journey as a student-athlete: on November 10, she signed the National Letter of Intent to play Division 1 soccer at Colgate University, one of her top college picks.

Soccer player Summer Connery signing her NCAA National Letter of Intent.


“It was a dream come true to know that a school I loved wanted me to come play soccer for them,” said Summer.

Division 1 schools offer the highest level of intercollegiate sports sanctioned by the NCAA, which will challenge Summer in new and exciting ways. 

“Summer is a competitor; she will never settle or coast,” said Colette Smith, Rowland Hall girls soccer head coach. “Summer has been the type of player that works hard on her own and is constantly rallying her teammates to work with her. She evolved so much the past two years as a leader and as a soccer player. I am truly so excited to see what she does at the collegiate level. I know the attributes she shows on the soccer field will also help her in her future endeavors.”

To celebrate her decision to play at Colgate, we asked Summer to answer a few questions about her love of soccer and what she’s looking forward to as a D1 college athlete. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Colgate was one of your top college choices, and not only because of its fantastic soccer program. Tell us about your interest in the school.

I always knew that I wanted to play D1 soccer in college, but equally important to me was finding an institution that valued academics just as much. I had a pool of schools I was interested in, and Colgate stood out as the perfect fit.

How did it feel to commit to playing D1 soccer at Colgate next year?

It was an incredible feeling because it was me officially signing to do what I love, in a place that I love, for the next four years. It was so amazing to think about all that I have gone through to get to this point, and it was a very rewarding feeling and celebration.

You’ve played soccer since you were six years old, and you mentioned that you loved it from day one. Is there a moment that especially stands out in your relationship with the sport?

I think I really, truly fell in soccer when my club team at the time, Black Diamond Soccer Club, won the Sparta Cup in 2013. We started off the tournament with a bad 7-2 loss to a team called Chaos. We got better as the tournament went on and came to meet Chaos again, this time in the finals. We then beat Chaos 4-2 in the finals and we got what I called “the biggest trophy ever.” I remember feeling such great happiness and pride knowing that we worked so hard as a team to overcome the hurdles we faced early in the tournament. It was a great team reward and win in our first tournament as a team.

You've had a successful career at Rowland Hall, including winning three state championships and being recognized as a Prep of the Week in 2019 and the state 2A MVP in 2020. What moment as a Winged Lion are you most proud of?

The moment as a Winged Lion that I am most proud of was in the 2019 finals, when we beat Real Salt Lake Academy in PKs [penalty kicks]. We were down 0-1 at the half, but we knew we weren’t out of it. I scored the tying goal and the winning PK, but it was so much bigger of an accomplishment than any two goals. I was so proud of our team and of our comeback. We could all feel that we were playing well and showed such grit on the field, and then, of course, the shootout required us all to be calm under pressure. It was a roller coaster of emotions throughout the game but I wouldn’t have it any other way because it made the victory that much sweeter.

Tell us about the skills you built at Rowland Hall, both on and off the field, that you'll be taking with you to Colgate.

In terms of off the field, the academics and teachers at Rowland Hall are so incredible and I know that organization and analytical skills I am learning will aid my academic journey at a place like Colgate. In terms of on the field, I have learned so many leadership skills from upperclassmen and coaches, and I am excited to contribute those to the Colgate soccer team and community.

Soccer player Summer Connery with her family on National Signing Day.

Summer with her biggest fans: dad Brook, sister Paige, and mom Sherri.


Congratulations, Summer!

Athletics

You Belong at Rowland Hall