Sports Standouts: 10.21.15

[team player]
Madison Walsh earned All Metro and MWAA All Conference honors in 2014, has played for the Junior Olympics team through USA Field Hockey and already has quite the stats this season (nine goals and three game-winning goals when we spoke). The skills of the Whitfield School junior are even more impressive when you find out she started playing only four years ago.

“When I came to Whitfield in middle school, I had never heard of field hockey before, which sparked my interest,” Walsh says. She started playing in eighth grade both for school and her club team, AIM Field Hockey. Walsh had grown up on the soccer field and says since the two sports have a lot of similarities, she was able to catch on quickly. “I think I’m much better with my hand/eye coordination than with my feet, so that makes a difference,” she says. “It’s a hard sport to pick up, but the more I liked it, the better I got.”

The 16-year-old thrives on the competition and appreciates participating on a team. “We’re all really close, and it’s great to see the progress of the younger girls, especially those who have never played before,” she says. “It’s fun watching them get better throughout the season.” Whitfield field hockey coach Maggie Young says the team respects Walsh’s skills and understanding of the game. “Her teammates voted her junior captain, in addition to two senior captains. They value her for being a competitive individual,” Young says. “I have seen a lot of growth from Madison this season regarding her leadership abilities.”

Her confidence and skills were strengthened last summer during the USA Field Hockey’s Futures program. The organization, not associated with school or club teams, selects players for Regionals and then its National Futures Championship. From there, Walsh was chosen along with about 110 girls for its Junior Olympics program. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had playing field hockey,” Walsh says. “The skill level was incredible, and it made me better just playing with these girls. And I definitely got more confident on the field because I was able to keep up with them!”

Walsh says the Whitfield team hopes to make it further than last year in Districts, and the state championship is a big goal. She will play soccer for Whitfield in the spring, and continue field hockey through the school year and summer with her club team. “My AIM team will leave for Festival in California, a huge tournament with hundreds of teams around the country, right after the school season ends,” she says. Walsh has a lot to look forward to as an athlete, recently committing to the University of Louisville. “They saw me play at the Disney Showcase last year and kept track of me, and it just evolved from that!”

[strong starter]
SS-Chris-StahlSt. Louis University High School senior Chris Stahl had always wanted to play football, but he waited until high school to start. “My mom never wanted me to play until I was older, so I played soccer growing up,” Stahl says. “My friends always told me I should play because of my size, and I just thought it would be fun.” He tried out for the soccer team his freshman year but ultimately decided to use those skills on the football field. “The coaches didn’t put me on the line right away,” he says. “I started as a kicker my first few games, and I actually kicked a touchback my very first game.”

Now he plays defensive tackle. “I’m big, so I’m the ideal size for the position,” Stahl notes. “Also, it was good for me at the beginning, because I started out with very little knowledge about what I was supposed to do on the line. At this position, I didn’t need to know a ton about the game; my job was to get through the gap and go for the guy with the ball—pretty simple!” Stahl caught on quickly and picked up more than just the basics. He made honorable mention All Conference his sophomore year—a big deal, he notes, since it was only his second year playing football and first year on varsity His junior year, he made first team All Conference and All District, and now he serves as one of the varsity team captains.

Another proud accomplishment that is a nod to Stahl’s physical endurance is making the 1,200-pound Club, which means his max outs for bench press, squats and hang cleans total more than 1,200 pounds. Stahl hopes to use his strength on the football field at the collegiate level. “Right now, I’m just focused on practicing and giving it my all. You get out of it what you put into it.”

talk to… emily stevenson
SS-Emily-StevensonEmily Stevenson, a senior at Westminster Christian Academy, picked up tennis just a few years ago, but she’s definitely leaving her mark on the court. She recently defeated a top-ranked player to put her team in the District title match against MICDS. Although her team ended up losing, Stevenson says it’s been a
great year.

Q| When did you start playing tennis?
A| In the seventh grade. My dad and grandma both played a little, so I decided to try it out and just got really interested.

Q| Do you play outside of school?
A| I play year-round. Our high school season started in early August. After that’s over, I play with my club team through Creve Coeur Racquet Club, where I take lessons with Dan Batchelor throughout the year. I also play individually at various USTA tournaments.

Q| What is it you love about the sport?
A| I especially love the mental game and having that one-on-one competition. I enjoy being able to be really aggressive and go all-out with my strokes and have fun with it!

Q| What is your tournament schedule like at Westminster?
A| Matches are usually during the week, sometimes three to four a week. When we get into Districts at the end of the season, we do team competition first (I’ll play both singles and doubles) and then individual competition.

Q| Any major accomplishments throughout your high school career?
A| My sophomore year, we won Districts and got to move onto Sectionals, which was great. I’ve had a great season this year. I’m 5-1 in the Metro Conference, which is a really competitive conference in St. Louis. I had two big wins over the No. 1 players at both Burroughs and MICDS, so those are the highlights of the season so far.

Q| Do you hope to play in college?
A| Yes, I’m talking with some coaches and planning on visiting a few campuses soon.