Athlete of the Year

Project by Eugene DeCosse, Spencer Tu, Naoki Nomura, William Tronsen, Alex Repeta

The Class of 2017 has continuously amazed the SMIS school community with their athletic endeavors. From cross country to wrestling, St. Mary’s Titans have made their mark not just within the school, but throughout the Kanto Plains, and even internationally. With this success being so across the board, the choice of athlete of the year has been incredibly difficult to pick. Before the Diplomat introduces its “athlete of the year”, here is a short introduction on the candidates for the DIPLOMAT Athlete of the Year award. The candidates are Thomas Wood in basketball, Yuta Fukaya in track and field, Joshua Brown in swimming, Chang Young Lee in wrestling, and Thomas Richter in cross country and swimming.

Thomas Carter Wood, Basketball

Thomas Wood

Brief Background

Thomas started playing basketball since he was five years old and he has been in love with the game since day one. In high school, with extreme diligence and incredible talent, he soon became one of the core members in SMIS basketball team. During freshmen year, he lead the JV team to the finals of the Kanto tournament and was named the best defensive player. From sophomore, he played as a varsity member and had many accomplishments. He led the team to be the Kanto Plain Champion in 2016 and throughout his varsity career, he received many awards such as MVP (2 times), Far East all star (2 times), and HK tournament all star (2 times). He also holds several school records such as most rebounds in a season, most points in a season, and most threes in the season. He is definitely a strong candidate for this year’s Athlete of the year award.

Questions

Greatest accomplishment?

Being chosen as the 2017 All Far East Tournament team

Advice for future athletes?

Trust the process, work your hardest, and never give up.

How much do you attribute your success to your training regime?

I attribute all of my success to my training regime. I believe that hard work and consistency are the keys to success. Also “Trust the process.” by Joel Embiid is my favorite quote.

Quotes from Team Mates

Ross Sheng: He is the kind of the player that you can rely on making a game-winning shot with 1 second left on the clock. He is a combination of a talented scorer, a brilliant passer, and a tough defender.

Spencer Tu: During practice, he always pushes himself to the limit. He is always the one who finishes first in a sprint or a suicide. ”

Yuta “Drizzy” Fukaya, Track and Field

Yuta “Drizzy” Fukaya

Brief Background

Yuta Fukaya joined Track and Field in sophomore year and made varsity in his first season. Since then he has left behind a trail of success few athletes at SMIS can rival. He has lettered in every season, competed internationally, finished in the top ten at Far East, and frequently run in the final heat at Kanto Plains meets. He also left his mark on the SMIS record books with the fifth fastest 100m of all time, eighth fastest 200m of all time, and the fourth fastest 4x100m relay of all time. I could continue to list his many accomplishments but that would be redundant. Yuta not only excels individually but provides invaluable leadership to his teammates through his role as a team captain. Yuta competes in a plethora of events including, but not limited to: the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100m relay, and 4x400m relay.

Questions

Greatest accomplishment?

Receiving offers from division one schools will have to be the greatest accomplishment in my track career. I always dreamed about being a part of a division one program since middle school and it is a dream come true.

Advice for future athletes?

First things first, remember that you are a student athlete and make sure to manage your time wisely. Have good time management and don’t procrastinate in order to fulfill your responsibilities with being both a student and an athlete. In terms of advice for doing the actual sport, don’t be afraid of a challenge and always push yourself as hard as you can. Understand that you are the only one in control of how much work or effort you put into the sport, and that ultimately no one else has the ability to push you to your full potential and that in the end it is your choice to do so or not. Furthermore, acknowledge your failures and use them as a tool to become a better athlete. Don’t bring yourself down if you don’t succeed in every single thing you do, instead, maintain a healthy mindset to keep both yourself and your teammates motivated and continue to work harder towards your goals.

How much to do you attribute your success to your training regimen?

People tell me that in the sport of track, 70% of your performance is based on genetics, but I believe that it is the hard work that determines the performance. My training is split into two; sprint based workouts and endurance based workouts. During the offseason, I workout with Coach Granger who works on my endurance to keep me fit and healthy during the offseason. When the season arrives, I work on sprint based workouts with my school coach, Coach Ichikawa. It is the training that put me where I am right now. In order for me to improve, I had to sacrifice many things in life. I sacrificed my social life and dedicated myself to track. I never had the chance to really experience going out on Friday nights and enjoying that high school life but I believe it is worth it now. Training is not the only aspect that contributed to my success. Sleeping and eating right played a huge role as well. In order to take my training to the next level, I had to eat right and sleep longer which showed up dramatically in my workouts.

Quotes from Team Mates

Leonardo A’de Lima: Yuta is one of the most hard working athletes I know in this school. He (has) sacrificed so much in order to be the best he could possibly be in track and was a captain that everyone looked up to and admired. He inspired me to work harder than I have ever done for anything in my life, and constantly pushed and motivated me during practice so that I could also reach my potential like he did. He will definitely be missed next year but the effort and time he put into helping the team grow and develop will always be remembered.

Tatsu Matsumoto: Last year when Yuta was a junior, we only had one captain for Track and Field (Albert Tamura was the only captain and he was in long distance) so Yuta led the Short Distance group. And this year, being appointed as one of the three Captains (For short distance) he has significantly lead the team. Being the only senior in short distance, it must have been hard to keep control of the big team, but he always shows 100% commitment during practice and strengthens the team atmosphere. He’s not the type of leader that looks after individuals, but by showing how effort pays off: always placing first in the 100m event (in SMIS), he gives confidence and makes us push ourselves.

Tenyu Kuboya: Yuta Fukaya is definitely the most intelligent dedicated member in the team. He has always been training during (the) off season and even went to a track meet in Boston to compete with other sprinters from different schools in the US. During practice he is our role model. He does every everything perfectly and motivates the team to keep up with the harsh practice. I have never seen him being negative and pessimistic. He is always positive and looks for improvement. Without him, the team could not have improved this much this year.

Adam Tanifuji: He has been an inspiration to me, both in track and in my social life. The three years we’ve spent in track were truly amazing. The amount of effort and dedication you put in for the team is something that Sakura and I, as well as the whole team will carry on. Thank you so much for a great season. You’re the best senpai.

Joshua “Muscle” Brown, Swimming

Joshua “Muscle” Brown

Brief Background

With his final race in the 2017 March Age Group Championships at St. Mary’s, the Buccaneers legend Joshua Brown ended his flawless high school swimming career with a splash. During the past four years Joshua has accomplished multiple feats, carving his name into the record books of the St. Mary’s Swim Team. He began this 4 year stint with an impressive freshman year by winning the 50 meters freestyle, and carrying his relay team to the finals at Junior Nationals. Joshua would then go on to break multiple team records in events ranging from the freestyles to the breaststrokes. His intense daily workouts, and powerful strokes earned him the nickname “Muscle”, making him an icon in Japanese age group swimming. During the past few months Joshua has brought his talents to the international stage, competing in the FINA Swimming World Cup, finishing in the top 25 among professional swimmers. With a combination of strength and willpower, Joshua has not only transformed into the beast he is now, but became a global influence to many age group swimmers. The diplomat had the opportunity to catch up with Joshua.

 

Questions

Greatest accomplishment?

From a broader perspective, my greatest achievement has probably been being able to stick with swimming all these years! I’ve gone through some rough seasons over the past couple of years, so I am proud that I’ve never really lost the love I have had for the sport when I initially started swimming. However, the best season I’ve ever had so far would be my freshmen year. It was a wonderful season from the beginning to the end, when I came 5th in the relay and 1st in the 50m freestyle at national age group champs. That has pretty much been one of my only big accomplishments at national-level meets, as I haven’t performed as well at such meets since then!

Advice for future athletes?

Personally, I don’t think I am in a position to give words of wisdom just yet. I am only a senior in high school, and still have many things to learn about this sport over the coming years. However, the one thing I would like to say is that you cannot lose the love for your sport. I think that this is the most important thing about being an athlete, not the accomplishments and successes. I don’t want younger athletes to get too overwhelmed by the pressure (to succeed) they put on themselves, or others put on them, and lose what made them want to play the sport in the first place. While it would be a lie if I said showing up to practice did not become a chore at some points in time, I’ve always enjoyed swimming itself. The moment I lose the joy I receive from swimming is probably the moment I think about quitting.

How much to do you attribute your success to your training regimen?

I think only about half of my success can be attributed to my training regimen. Nonetheless it is without a doubt that without a consistent effort throughout the season, there would be a limit to how much I would improve. Nonetheless, there are so many other things that factor into my successful races. The people I surround myself with has a huge impact on my success. I think I am the collective effort of everyone who supports me, so I cannot attribute my success to my efforts alone. Without the great coaches I’ve had the privilege of working with, the supportive family and friends, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Without their words of encouragement, I wouldn’t have been able to push myself just that much further, whether that be during a hard set at practice, or the last 10 meters of a race. Furthermore, the mental aspect beyond the traditional training regimen also plays a huge role in my success. There is an extremely visible disparity in my performance between when I am confident in myself and when I am not. My last season with the team here couldn’t a better example of this. Controlling my mindset can be a struggle sometimes, especially when I don’t see myself improve even when I’m training harder than ever before. While my training is definitely a significant part of my success, my psychological mindset and the people that support me also play an equally important role in my success.

Hardest opponent?

I’ve had my fair share of different rivals, each of whom have helped me push myself, and have had great races with. However although very cliche, the past few years have taught me that the hardest opponent is myself. Opponents come and go, and you usually only race them at competitions. On the other hand, you essentially meet yourself every day, every practice. If I am in a slump, ignoring the negative thoughts that enter my mind, ignoring the distractions that face me day to day, not losing focus of the long-term goal becomes excruciatingly hard. My self-doubting mindset has been the hardest opponent I have come across when swimming.

 

Quotes from Team Mates

Eugene Decosse: Joshua has been a person everybody on the swim team, from first graders to high schoolers can look up to. Of course, his swimming speaks for itself. But even more than that, his ceaseless work ethic and leadership have been invaluable to the team. Anyone that walks onto the pool deck before practice will notice Josh doing dryland before anybody, and that has definitely inspired many on the team to follow suit. Furthermore, despite his success Joshua has never been someone that is hard to approach, and everyone has benefited from his willingness to help others. Personally, I have been able to learn a lot from him, not just in swimming but also about high school in general. Being able to swim with Josh has been one of my most enjoyable experiences at SMIS, and the swim team will definitely miss his presence next year.

Naoki Nomura: Josh has by far been the most self disciplined teammate I have ever swum with. From his pre workout dryland to his post workout stretching routines, he was always the first one in the pool and last one out. Despite being extremely self reserved he left a huge impact on the swim team both inside and outside the pool. His work ethic and passion towards the sport has been contagious, inspiring us and making us the competitive team we are today.

Chang Young Lee, Wrestling

Chang Young Lee

Brief Background

Coming into high school as a freshman, Chang Young surprisingly won all his matches in the 101 lbs weight class. Then, he went into his sophomore year as 108lbs and won all of his matches there as well. In his junior year, he struggled the most in his career. He lost to a wrestler in Kinnick: Jianni Labato, who he says was his hardest opponent during his highschool career. The reason his junior year was so tough was because he did not know how to handle that loss. But his teammates encouraged him to bounce back and was able to beat Jianni Labato in his consequent matches. During his senior year he was undefeated.

Surprisingly, Chang Young thinks of himself as an unusal student. He has made a lot of friends coming into high school and has enjoyed his time with other people. It may sound strange, but Chang Young thinks that watching anime in high school had impacted him greatly. It really changed him into a positive thinker, challenger, and a competitor, and it has motivated and inspired him to push through hardships.

Questions

Greatest accomplishment?

I think my greatest accomplishment was winning four Far East titles and not missing a single practice during (the) seasons.

 

Advice for future athletes?

Have fun in what you do and always strive to be the best. Always challenge yourself and things will come together.

 

Athlete-Coach relationship?

I have a great relationship with Coach Yabui, Coach Harlow, and assistant coaches. They’re all great people that are always willing to help me. Coaches have taught me a lot of life lessons and made me the person I am today. I am very thankful to all coaches.

 

Quotes from Team Mates

Samin Hoque: One of his hobbies is to watch anime and he says that his life is filled with influential quotes from anime such as Naruto Shippuden. With these quotes he can encourage, influence you, and be the most admirable person.

Rio Lemkuil: I’ve known Chang Young for five years from 6th grade till now, and he has always been a role model to me. He is always the hardest working person on the mat, extremely dedicated to the sport, and undoubtedly one of the main reasons why I have been able to come this far in wrestling. Off the mat, he is a fun person to hang around, always positive and overall a good guy. I will definitely miss him a lot.

Thomas Richter, Cross Country, Swimming, Track and Field

Thomas swimming

Thomas running

Brief Background

Out of the most athletically gifted class to graduate, perhaps Thomas Richter tops them all. What we have in him is a combination of mental toughness, physical prowess, and sheer durability that is unrivaled by any sportsman across the Kanto plains. Richter has competed at the varsity level in two sports of cross country and swimming since his freshman year and this year has upped his game adding a third in track and field. To excel in one sport is a challenge but to dominate three is unheard of. Yet Thomas has managed to turn heads every which way. Even those in different athletic disciplines can still comprehend and admire the near impossible feat that he has accomplished. A junior in varsity tennis express his thoughts on the athletic marvel saying that, “[Richter’s] gotta have some weird genes. What else can explain his performances?” In cross country, with individual feats of placing first at Far East as well as Kanto Plains, he led the team to a Far East victory, an honor not seen by St. Mary’s since the early 90s. In swimming he has seen great success in breaststroke and individual medley events, consistently battling for first in his best event of 100m breast. In addition, he was awarded the prestigious Stars and Stripes Athlete of the Year award for his athletic excellence.

Questions

Greatest accomplishment?

I have several notable accomplishments in my XC career. From the time that I took four consecutive Far East titles, and the Kanto and Far East wins this season would be my top accomplishments as a XC runner.

 

Advice for future athletes?

Creating the winning mentality is the best advice I could give to future athletes. It all boils down to how bad you want to achieve your goal.

 

How much to do you attribute your success to your training regimen?

I do give credit to my training regimen, practicing two sports in a season was the key to establish my core. However, I equally value my rivals that have pushed me to reach as far as I have.

 

Quotes from Team Mates

Tyson Wang: Thomas has been somebody that I have always looked up to in swimming. His dedication to swimming is something to be admired, as he would always do extra exercise outside of the pool to boost performance. Even when he didn’t achieve the results he wanted, he never thought about quitting, and instead always worked harder. Furthermore, he was always very willing to help others with their technique. Although I believe that we regarded each other as rivals from time to time, he was always willing to lend a helping hand, and the competition between us was always amiable. Thomas is someone who always brought both a committed and genial attitude to the swim team, I believe I speak for more than just myself when I say that his departure will be a huge loss for the team.

Jino Arai: Our captain Thomas was generally quiet but inspired us by placing himself within top five ever since his sophomore year. Since he was the fastest runner in the team, it motivated us teammates to train harder to beat his time. For the past three years, I really did enjoy running with him and was amazed when he finished first in both Far East and Kanto Finals.

The Decision

YUTA “DRIZZY” FUKAYA

After lengthy discussions among our panel at the Diplomat, we have come to a conclusion. Yuta “Drizzy” Fukaya has been chosen as the Class of 2017 Diplomat Athlete of the Year. While this year’s crop of candidates were all outstandingly successful in their respective sports, Yuta Fukaya’s unparalleled impact on the Track and Field team as a whole was hard for the Diplomat to ignore. Yuta Fukaya’s desire to lead by example has propelled and inspired the Track and Field team as a whole to newfound success. In Yuta’s first year, SMIS finished last in the Kanto Plains, last year they finished second. While, this change is not to be attributed solely to Yuta, his teammates have been emphatic about his role in changing the culture of the team as a whole, and that undoubtedly played a large role in the turnaround of the track and field program.