Debut of Athenian’s First Competitive Equestrian Team

Athenian launched an equestrian team this year.  They had their first horse show this past weekend and all the riders ribboned in every class.

Athenian’s equestrian team participates in Hunt Seat, a form of English riding.  Competitions include both flat and over fences for show hunters (horses) and participants are judged on the horse’s movement and form as well as the rider’s ability. Riders are placed in different classes according to ability and experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “game play” of a horse show, riders are expected to draw a different horse per class.  One of the challenges of this competition is that the riders have never ridden their horse or sat the tack until they start the competition.  Riders are given a horse list with names, height, breed, personality traits, and riding hints.  They jump two warm up jumps and then officially complete the jumps.  Each rider performs a series of “tests” drawn from the following:

  1. Asked an appropriate horsemanship question that is tailored to the rider’s ability level.
  2. Halt
  3. Sitting trot.
  4. Two point position at the walk and/or trot.
  5. Figure eight at trot, demonstrating change of diagonals.
  6. Figure eight at canter on correct lead, demonstrating simple change of lead.
  7. Change Horses
  8. Ride without stirrups.
  9. Change leads down center of ring, demonstrating simple change of lead.
  10. Canter on the counter lead. No more than eight horses may counter canter at one time.
  11. Half-turn on forehand and/or half-turn on haunches.
  12. Jump a shortened course.
  13. Trot a jump not to exceed 2’6”.

Show Results

Saturday’s show was at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville.  Although rainy, muddy, and cold, the team performed with excitement and success.

Niki drew one of the smallest horses for one of her classes, a 12.2 hand pony and Ginger drew the largest horse there, 17 hands. As one of the tallest and shortest riders respectively it was an entertaining challenge for both of them. All the riders handled their horses well and are looking forward to their next show, a home show at Iron Horse on Jaunary 19.

Class1A Varsity Open Equitation o/f 2’6″
Ali – 2nd

Class 4A Future Intermediate Equitation o/f 2′
Ginger – 6th

Class 4B Future Intermediate Equitation o/f 2′
Niki – 1st
Peyton – 4th

Class 6A Varsity Open Equitation on the flat
Ali – 2nd

Class 8A Junior Varsity Novice Equitation on the flat
Irena – 6th

Class 10A Future Intermediate Equitation on the flat
Ginger – 3rd

Class 10B Future Intermediate Equitation on the flat
Niki – 2nd
Peyton – 6th

Athenian’s Equestrian Team:

Ali Hirt ’15
Niki Hirt ’17
Peyton Freeman ’17
Ginger Freeman ’19
Irena Volkov ’16

Find Out More

Want to learn more about the relatively new school sport of horse riding?  Read the Rules and Regulations from the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, founded in 2002.  Also take a look at Wikipedia’s article on Hunt seat, which explains the various aspects of the competition.

Did You Know?

Years ago, Athenian had its own horse pasture, as shown in this picture from the 1980 view book. We assume this field is up above the current baseball field.  The aspiring historians of the school would love to hear from alumni who were here during the era of horses.  We know that Head of School Sam Elliot had his own horses from 1988-1992 but there were no student horses at that time.  If any alumni have memories of where the stables were located and what year the horses left campus, we’d appreciate your help in filling in this gap in our collective memory!  Respond in the comments below, post to Athenian’s Facebook page or send an email to

Cross Country: 6th in State!

by Philip Hadley, Cross Country Coach

Read about Philip here.

Tanner Shaw ’14 blazed his way to another piece of Athenian history as he became our first student to finish among the top 10 individuals at the California State Championship Meet in Fresno.  Shaw’s 52 second improvement from 2011 earned him 7th place among 180 of the fastest Division V runners.  Tanner’s maintenance of a 5:11 per mile pace over the 3.1 mile course was one of the five factors that also helped set a new Athenian team record as we improved from a 9th place finish in 2011 to 6th place in 2012 with a team average pace of 5:27, dropping 10 seconds from 2011.

Senior Cameron Taylor showed tremendous strength, poise and patience throughout his injury-riddled season but never so much today as he approached the race with a lead-by-example positive attitude to record his best time on the Woodward Park course.  A very fast first mile as the lead pack raced out in 5:05 pace, Cameron showed one of the advantages of being a 4-year senior as he ran smoothly, confidently and wisely to his own tune for that first too-fast mile (5:15 for Cameron).  Then he passed 41 (!) people on his way to a 27th placing and 31 second improvement. Cameron’s steadfast enthusiasm for the program and his insatiable desire to improve beyond the sight on our current selves has undoubtedly been one of the reasons for our success today.

That the race was much deeper this year was clear from junior Gabe Elliott’s run today as he removed a second from his best time, moved up 10 spots in the NCS ranking from last weekend, and yet finished 9 positions lower relative to his 2011 State finish.  It’s a great example to show that you cannot control anyone but yourself (and that alone is hard enough).  Elliott’s best race of the season, like a rhinoceros, he never stopped charging throughout the 3.1 mile distance.  Gabe was as aggressive passing people up Killer Hill as he was in the last 50 yards.  Given how much Gabe liked Tanner’s shiny medal, expect another Athenian to bring home the brass in 2013.

Senior Charlie Thimesch played human bowling ball near the top of Killer Hill as he tripped on an ankle (not his own) and rolled down three runners.  Up faster than the others, Charlie regained himself and sped the last 1.2 miles to lop 35 seconds from his previous Fresno outing.  Charlie has been a bedrock of consistency and Spartan toughness throughout his three years with Athenian XC.  A dual athlete with swimming, Charlie was spotted on several occasions to be running secret Saturday morning track workouts of mile repeats so as not to ‘lose’ his running shape while off swimming.

It takes a team of seven to race, and eight to show promise for the future.  Three Athenians made their Woodward Park debut in the tule fog this morning: junior Alex Ball, freshman Eric Strand, junior David Weinmann and 8th man and alternate, freshman Anthony Ottati.

Learning his lesson well from NCS last weekend, much improved harrier Alex Ball did not look behind in this race (first time this has occurred) as he became our 5th man across the line in 18:05.  This marks a 45-second improvement over our 5th man from 2011 (the 5th man is the final runner awarded a score toward team points).  Indeed, so much stronger is out depth this year that our sixth and seventh runners were also faster than our 2011 5th man.  Eric Strand set a bit of Athenian history on Saturday as he became our first freshman to run the State course.  We hope that he will become our first 4-year State senior in a few years.  Junior David Weinmann capped a spectacular late season rise to be our 7th runner, and then sped to Athenian to fulfill his other varsity obligation as an Owl basketball player.  We hope to see him on the track after scoring many points on the court.  Freshman Anthony Ottati was our official alternate, running the course on Friday paced by a trio of his teammates as he completed the course in an easy to remember 20:12.  I’m confident that Ottati will be racing around this venue in 2013.

Thank you, everyone, for a great season.  Thank you to Kim and Steve for the bagels and fruit Saturday morning and to each of the parents for dinner and lunch this weekend (Rob Shaw, Chuck Taylor, Tim and Michelle Thimesch, Kim Risedorph, Steve Elliott, Steve and Nina Strand).

Check out a video of the race here.

Remember: Athletics Banquet this Tuesday, 6:30pm.

Photos and video by Donal Pierce.

Cross Country Ends Season as League Champs

Congratulations to the Cross Country Team!

Men’s Varsity League Champions (2nd year in row)
Men’s JV League Champions (1st time in school history!)

Women’s Varsity 2nd place
Women’s JV 2nd Place

Individual Champions
Women’s Varsity: Laney Inamine
Men’s Varsity: Tanner Shaw
Men’s JV: David Weinmann

Recap of the League Championship Meet

by Phillip Hadley, Coach

Four titles were on the line this record breaking (nearly) hot afternoon at Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland, in the BCL East League Championships.  Three of those  four titles were earned by our runners: Tanner Shaw (’13) repeated as league champion as he led the boys’ varsity team to a second straight league title in defeating second place CPS, 32-56; Laney Inamine (’14) set Athenian history as she became our first league champion from the girls’ side.  In a fine display of dominance, Inamine crushed the competition as she led from start to finish and only increased her lead as the race continued.

Shaw re-wrote league history this afternoon as his winning time of 14:41 not only eclipsed his championship effort from last year of 15:00, but he also ran the 5th fastest time ever on this 2.6 mile course which dates back to 1995.

Those also contributing points to the varsity victory were Cameron Taylor (’13), 3rd place; Charlie Thimesch (’13), 4th place; Gabe Elliott (’13), 5th place; Alex Ball (’14), 19th place.  Freshman Eric Strand and senior Ryan Zlock rounded out our top 7.  Shaw, Taylor, Thimesch and Elliott all earned First Team All-League Honors for their speedy legs today.

For our girls’ team, they also rewrote the Athenian history books as they shattered our best league championship score 84-46.  Those also scoring points today were freshmen Annalise Inamine and Rebecca Elliott; Melise Knowles (’14) and freshman Jillian Freeborn.   Haley Carter (’15) and Emily Golding (’14) came across the line just two seconds apart.  Along with Laney, Annalise and Rebecca were named First Team All-League and Melise was issued Second Team All-League honors.

History was not only made by our varsity runners as the junior varsity boys’ team showed that they have a bright future as they dominated the JV race, led by junior David Weinmann as he had his best race of the season in winning the gold.  This marks the first time that an Athenian has won the JV league championship race, and the first time we have won the JV team title.  Joining David in scoring victory were freshmen Anthony Ottati, Matthew Chabala, senior David Kerns and sophomore Nick Morales; juniors Will Brown and Krishna Peri rounded up the top 7.  It is notable that of the top 9 spots in the JV race, 8 of them went to Athenian.

Of those competing at Joaquin Miller Park again, the following runners improved their personal best on this course (mm:ss): seniors Cameron Taylor (00:21) and Charlie Thimesch (00:15) juniors Alexander Ball (2:05), Tzofi Klinghoffer (1:23), Krishna Peri (00:37), Tanner Shaw (00:19), David Weinmann (00:30), William Brown (00:45), Emily Golding (00:50); sophomores Laney Inamine (1:57), Nick Morales (1:43).

For those top 9 boys and 9 girls going forward to the NCS Championships meet on November 17, and hopefully to the State Championships on November 24, they have several more workouts to attend.  The remainder of the team is welcome to train with us, but is under no obligation to do so.

Thank you to those parents that brought food and drink, but I apologize for not knowing exactly who those generous people are.

Upper School Athletics Highlights: 2011-2012

Fall Sports

Women’s volleyball had a successful season, qualifying for the second year in a row for the NCS tournament and finished 3rd in the very competitive BCL-East league.

Men’s soccer went to NCS for the sixth year in a row and finished 3rd in the league.

Cross country had a great season, placing 3rd at NCS.  The men’s team won League Title and went to State, both for the first time in school history!

Winter Sports

The wrestling team placed 2nd in the league.  Joe Zovickian and Brian Thompson, upper classmen on the team, were named League Champions and did very well at NCS.  Brian was only one win away from wrestling on the final Saturday of NCS!

The men’s varsity basketball team went to NCS for the first time in six years.  They came in 3rd in the league and Jamey Smart was awarded 1st Team All League.

Women’s basketball tied for 2nd in the leage and went to NCS for the seventh year in a row.  Allie Torru was the MVP of the league and Paige Thompson was awarded 1st Team All League.


Spring Sports

Women’s soccer had the most successful season in Athenian history, ending the season with a record of 15-6.  Allie Torru, Melise Knowles, and Rachel Morris were awarded 1st Team All League.

The swim team had a fantastic season with new coach Ian Heung.  The men finished 2nd in the league and sent five individuals to NCS.  Previously, only two swimmers had ever qualified for NCS.

Badminton is now in full stride in it’s fourth year at Athenian.  Jerry Lin represented Athenian at NCS this year.

Baseball had an excellent season.  Cameron Cotton, a junior, has been offered a scholarship to Cal Poly and was named 1st Team All League.  Jamey Smart had an amazing season, finishing the season with a batting average of .600 and was named 1st Team All League!  Brian Thompson, Andrew Reckers, and Tyler Huntington were all named 2nd Team.  The team went to NCS for the 3rd time and two years in a row.  They won a shutout first round game, winning 17-0 against Upper Lake and lost 4-2 to Head Royce in the second round after a five-inning no hitter.

The softball team tied for 4th in the league and finished only one game away from going to NCS.  Lauren Santo-Dominguez earned 1st Team All League.

The golf team placed 3rd in the league; Ian Gaffney went to NCS as an individual player.

Men’s tennis won the League Title for the second year in a row!  They won the singles and doubles league tournament.  Ryan Zlock went to NCS in Fortuna for tennis singles and Sam Berg and Nikhil Kotecha played doubles.

Track and field had a strong season.  The men placed 3rd in the league and the women placed 5th.  Many of our students went to NCS this year: AJ Udom for discus; Cameron Taylor, Tanner Shaw and Gabe Elliot for both the mile and two mile; and Laney Inamine for the mile.  Tanner and Gabe both ran the 2 mile at the Meet of Champions and Tanner broke 10 minutes, finishing at 9:57!

Athenian’s sailing team is one of the top twenty in the state.  The eight sailors started in the Silver Division but raced in the Gold.  Learn more here.

What to Look for Next Year

Athenian will have its very first Equestrian team.  There are currently about 12 members signed up to practice at the Hirt Stables in Danville.  If you’d like to join the team, talk to Darek Cliff.

Cross country has become huge at Athenian!  There are currently 52 runners on the team which is more than 15% of the school.

The school will be improving the softball field this summer, installing a safety net between the baseball and softball fields, among other things.

Athenian’s Sailing Team Overcomes Rough Conditions in Treasure Island Regatta

Athenian’s sailing team competed in the Pacific Coast Championships on Treasure Island this past weekend.  Despite being without their team captain, this group (including one rookie who’d never sailed before!) held their own in an intense race.

Thanks to Sailing Coach Andrew Nelson of the Encinal Yacht Club for supporting our students and reporting back with this exciting review:

We had quite a regatta at Treasure Island this weekend, with 20 teams from California attending the Pacific Coast Championships. The PCC’s are the final regatta of the year and the top five teams advance to compete for the Mallory Cup in Seattle this May. For many sailors this was their last regatta, and some had spent an entire high school career trying to reach the High School National Championships. Athenian High School was invited to participate, and managed to field a team despite the fact that their team captain and “A” skipper Haley Kardek is currently studying abroad in India. Senior Parker Hamren stepped up to the plate to fill in for Haley. It was a tall order, considering he had never been in a race before. His crew Tyler Huntington had even less experience, with just 3 days of sailing under his belt… total. Having done some dinghy sailing in the past, Parker and I went through an INTENSIVE 3 day crash course on racing last week here at the club. He spent about 8 hours over three consecutive days with me learning basic rules, roll tacking, starting etc. I was nervous to say the least going into this weekend. It was a big deal for Athenian to be invited to such a prestigious event, and I wanted to have a good showing. We set goals of getting around the course without delaying races, not committing any egregious fouls, and staying safe. I told them it was highly unlikely they’d beat any other boats, since they were sailing against the best talent on the West Coast in the biggest regatta of the year.

Abby Kardek and Gabby Rigby went out for their first ever Gold Fleet race in the light morning breeze. Gold Fleet is a lot tougher than silver fleet, as Abby and Gabby quickly realized. There is no room for error when sailing against some of the best in the county. Everyone sails fast and there are no stragglers to catch after a bad start. Simply put there is no margin for error and no playing catch up. I wasn’t too worried about the girls holding their own, and by the end of the day the girls had posted some mid-fleet finishes. Abby has plenty of experience sailing in tough fleets and their boat speed was comparable to that of the leaders on day one. I was pretty nervous as the boys got in the boat for their first “B” division race. It took the boys about 2 minutes to get off the line and up to speed. I couldn’t watch them crash and burn, so I went to go stand in line for lunch. When I came back they were being lapped, so I turned around and got seconds. I was seriously thinking about pulling the plug on their day, however in the second race they showed a bit of improvement. As the breeze built and the day went on they closed the gap between the boats in front of them. They were still finishing a minute or two behind, but each time they were learning from their mistakes. Once they got off the water they stood with me on the wharf and we watched the other races. Like sponges they were quickly soaking up valuable bits of sailing knowledge though observation and inquiry. Each race was better than the last, and soon I had a bet going that they’d beat a boat by the end of the regatta. They won the pin end of the line towards the end of the day on Saturday, and I was sure this was their race. Quickly the other boats caught up to them, but they proved to themselves they could hang with the pack even if it was for less than a minute.

Sunday was a new day, with a fresh westerly wind of 12 knots in the morning which built to near 20 knots by late afternoon. Considering they were the lightest boat in their division, Abby and Gabby went out and did surprisingly well in the breezy conditions. The boys still looked exhausted from the 8 races they had sailed on Saturday, but they didn’t complain one bit and got right back in the saddle. After watching the first race I was sure that any progress we had made on Saturday was lost. I started looking for the taco truck, so I’d have an excuse to turn away from the action, but to no avail. Then on their second race of the day they were right back on the heels of the fleet. With the breeze building to over 15 knots I was just glad they made it around the course. At least we were still on track with our original goals. In between sets we talked about the importance of staying in a full hike and using the mainsheet to balance the boat while going up wind. Parker was also footing a lot, which made it hard to keep the boat flat. In A fleet the girls were getting severely over-powered. Their combined 200lbs was not enough to keep the boat manageable. They appeared to be sailing in survival instead of race mode, while the bigger pairs put their weight to work on the upwind legs. After a capsize it appeared the girls were done for the day. Both were cold and exhausted, and without any alternates we had no subs to put in. Watching boats capsize in A fleet must have been unnerving for the boys, but once again they went right back out. On the downwind leg they soon found themselves swimming. I was surprised how quickly they were back up and going considering we hadn’t had time to do a refresher talk on capsizing. Still they completed both races and were hanging tight. The wind continued to build, with gusts near 20 knots by 2pm. The boys, undaunted, headed out for their last set. They had the best start of any boat and went out left with pretty good speed. Their boat was moving and pointing like all the others. They were hiking hard and putting their weight to work. They beat 3 boats to the weather mark, but their lead was shrinking. They were passed by all three on the second beat, but they were still in the hunt as the fleet headed for the downwind finish. Five places in front of them a boat capsized, then a second boat went over a bit further down the course. If the boys could stay upright they’d beat at least one boat. With their bailer long since lost, they were in danger of submarining. They quickly overtook both capsized boats, but with gallons of water in the boat and only a couple inches of freeboard, they were dangerously unstable. They held on and crossed the finish line in 18th place, promptly death rolling five seconds later.

By this time most of the sailors and spectators on the wharf knew their story. There were cheers from several people on other teams as they crossed the finish. I personally don’t think I’ve ever been as ecstatic about an 18th place finish. They went from being a joke, to being an underdog, to being heroes. It was quite an event to make one’s racing debut, but I was really blown away at how the boys handled everything. Attitude is everything and the boys reminded me of that this weekend. Make goals, set your mind to it, put in the effort and don’t back down. One of the other coaches, who never gives compliments, told me with complete sincerity how blown away he was by their progress, composure, and performance. This was definitely one of those regattas where the final score doesn’t reflect how you feel at its conclusion. Athenian finished dead last, but I’m still grinning like an idiot; proud of the way the WHOLE team sailed.

Results should be posted soon on the PCISA website. Kudos to Branson High School for qualifying for nationals. It’s been a while since we’ve had a NorCal team in the running for the Mallory Cup, so wish them luck and cheer on your district.